Yes you can be romantic on a budget. Here are some ideas for affordable romantic things and cheap dates that are thoughtful and creative.
For more general advice on how to do relationships read the Brief Guide to Relationships. All of this is relevant if you want to do something romantic for someone – but that person doesn’t have to be a romantic partner. They could be (and should be) a friend or someone else close to you. You could also do these things for yourself.
Make a mixtape
Making and listening to a mixtape that someone has made especially for you can be amazingly romantic. Listening to new music can be great, even listening to tracks you know in a different order or mixed next to something you don’t know can be exciting. People put together tracks because they think you will like them, or because the songs mean a lot to them, or because the songs say something to them about you both. It takes time and effort and so is an incredibly generous and thoughtful thing to do.
Mixtapes can be really really special and something people treasure for years
Take your time, it’s something that people agonise over. Have you got a tune that you both know (many couples have ‘a song’)? If there are particular lyrics that you want your Valentine to notice you might want to write them somewhere or make them obvious. Also think about tagging them as an album so that it’s easier to rip and play as an MP3. Maybe create some cover art for it? You could do this with a computer, or just do a drawing and take a picture of it.
We used to actually make tapes back in the day, which was just better. So yes you could just make a playlist, but can you think of ways to make it feel more special? So you could make it private to just them, or make a nice card with the URL of the playlist.
If it’s Valentine’s or an anniversary then buying a Valentine’s card for someone that thousands of other people have also bought can be romantic I guess. But isn’t it better to give someone something that no-one else will get?
If you’ve got a computer you could make your own graphic. All the graphics and illustrations on this site are done by me, I’m no illustrator or designer but I just have a go. The more you practise the better you get. I work in Inkscape, which is a totally free open source, legal, program similar to Adobe Illustrator. I love it as it’s so simple. You can draw your own images or paste images that you find online and do something with them (very simple idea – get a picture of Eros and write a message around it). Use fonts creatively (download a cool font at dafont). Use different colours and shapes. The great thing about using a program like this is that you can always hit the back button if it goes wrong.
If you’re more of a craft paper and pritt stick person then make your own actual card. Collages rock. Find images that your Valentine is into and cut them up. Cut quotes or headlines out of magazines or newspapers that have some relevance to you or your Valentine. Collage not your thing? Try making a pop up heart card. There are loads of vids on YouTube about how to do this.
Or if this sounds a bit much you could buy a crap generic card and and change it up. Print something on top of it, or cut old ones up and use them in a collage.
Roses are red, this poem is crap
Feel more poetic than arty? You could perhaps share your favourite poem with someone. Old school is good, Shakespeare, Yeats etc. Or you could try Audre Lorde, or John Hegley, or Benjamin Zephaniah. You could share it by reading it, or copying it out as a card or recording a daft video of yourself reading it out.
Maybe try writing one yourself? I’d avoid Roses are red/Violets are blue unless you have something particularly brilliant to say. If you’re short on time limit yourself by the form – just try a Haiku or limerick for instance. Think of some key words or images that you want and then think about how you can put them together in a way that sounds good (it doesn’t have to rhyme).
If you’re musical or have great flow, try doing a song/rap. You could record it on a computer if you are embarrassed about doing it in front of them.
You don’t have to have a posh dinner
If you want to go out for dinner with someone there are cheaper places. It doesn’t have to be posh to be romantic – a choose a nice cosy Maccy Ds, KFC or pizza place (other restaurants are available). If you’re both short on cash talk about splitting the bill before hand. Or avoid going out for ‘dinner’ at all (better option in my view). You could make dinner, or have a romantic picnic in a nice spot.
Share a pizza, or a candlelit fried chicken dinner …
Sharing a pizza or a tub of ice cream sitting next to each other on a sofa or in your bedroom (if your parents allow that kind of thing). Even fried chicken dinners can be romantic if you put your mind to it. Sharing. Licking each other’s fingers. Feeding each other chips. Dim the lights, light a candle, put some nice tunes on ….
Can you recommend cheap alternatives to a posh dinner?
You could go on a day trip, by yourself or with someone, and that really doesn’t have to cost very much at all. Going for a walk together somewhere nice can be great: a park, a river walk, going to a lake, sitting by the sea, woodlands. Notice what wildlife you can see together. Take selfies, smell the blossom. It’s all about having experiences that become memories: so think about what you can see, what you can hear, what you can smell, what the weather was like.
If you’re more of a city/town type person then try an art gallery. For a lot of people modern art can be more interesting because you don’t really have to know a lot about art history to have an opinion about it. You could go into a gallery room and ask each other ‘if you could have just one of these, which would you like?’ Museums can be a lot of fun with someone too, finding out more about how things work, or about where you’re from.
Take a nice packed lunch or a picnic with you and you can have a nice day out.
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© Justin Hancock, 2022
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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. He’s a member of the World Association for Sexual Health.