One of my favourite romantic gestures comes from a scene in the 2003 romantic comedy Love Actually. Mark (Andrew Lincoln) is completely smitten with Juliet (Keira Knightley), but is not in a position to confess his love for her. Finally, he musters up the courage and pours his heart out in what is easily one of the most romantic movie scenes ever, simply by writing his feelings on big white placards.
In The Wedding Singer, Adam Sandler’s character declares his love by writing a song, Julia Stiles writes a poem in Ten things I Hate About You and Richard Gere overcomes his fear of heights in the final scenes of Pretty Woman.
Some of the most romantic gestures are not only cheap, they are free.
Here are 11 ways you can celebrate the day of love without breaking your budget:
1. Remember, love don’t cost a thing.
Don’t let the creative marketing campaigns run by the retail giants convince you that you have to spend thousands to prove your love. The first thing you need to do is to remind yourself that love is not something that can be bought:
Valentine’s Day is about acknowledging the one you love and making sure they know how special they are.
2. Less can be more
You don’t have to buy a bunch of roses, just buy one. Instead of having flowers delivered at the office, leave it somewhere romantic, like in a lunch bag or on the dashboard of your loved one’s car.
Swop the expensive chocolates for colourful sweets that you stack in the form of a heart on his or her pillow.
Even a fruit with the right message can be just as romantic, if not more, than an expensive box of chocolates.
3. Make it yourself
Something made is always more special than something bought. From a card to a romantic meal, with a little effort you can make everything yourself. And no, you don’t need to be an artist to make a creative card or be a chef to cook a decent meal.
Think about your partner and your life together and try to think of a special moment in your relationship. Now, try to make something that will remind your partner of that special moment. If you had a special date at the beach, prepare a seafood menu. If you fell in love at a concert, make a card with the lyrics of a song that played that night, or a mix cd with all the songs you both love.
4. Corny can be fun
Valentine’s Day is the one day that you don’t have to be scared of being “overly” corny or cheesy. This day is built on a solid foundation of clichés. Embracing it will take the pressure off and help to spare your budget.
Rose petals on the floor, candles in the bathroom, Rod Steward on the radio, sandwiches in the shape of hearts or a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs Lady and the Tramp-style are all ways to treat your special someone.
If it has a special meaning and is in good taste, it doesn’t matter if it is a little clichéd.
5. Vouchers do not need a monetary value
Everyone loves receiving a voucher: something you can spoil yourself with when you feel you deserve it.
Vouchers do not have to cost money. You can give a voucher as a sign of commitment or as a promise. Promise to wash the dishes for a week, to spend more time at home, or give a voucher your partner can use to demand a massage or a cup of coffee.
If you want to have some fun, make vouchers with challenges. Your partner can use these vouchers to dare you to complete the fun tasks offered.
6. Time is more important
Some might argue that time is the most precious commodity we have. The most romantic thing you can do on Valentine’s Day is to spend time with the one you love. No amount of money can beat the value of time spent together.
7. Use what nature gave us
Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, which makes it perfect for some cheap outdoor fun. Have a picnic in the garden, take a romantic walk at sunset or lie on the grass and gaze at the stars. You don’t have to max out your credit card on fancy bouquets, just pause for second and smell the roses while holding your Valentine’s hand.
8. Dig up old photos
There is no better day for a trip down memory lane. Put a blanket on the floor or under the stars and bring out old photo albums, your wedding video or that box with sentimental souvenirs from trips you’ve taken together.
If your relationship doesn’t have that much history yet, spend time dreaming about your future together. Make a bucket list of things you still want to do as a couple.
Remembering happy moments from the past and dreaming of future adventures are both romantic and totally free.
9. Use what you’ve got
Before you buy anything, take a good look around and see if you don’t already have anything you can use. Before shopping for a romantic meal, for example, see what you have in the kitchen that you might be able to use.
Instead of buying a gift, look around and see if your partner doesn’t already have something they love that might simply need bit of a renovation or makeover.
10. Do something for someone else
Valentine’s Day is about kindness and love. There are so many people out there who can do with some kindness and love in their lives. Instead of buying expensive gifts, why not spend your Valentines sharing acts of kindness.
Visit an old age home, go play with the animals at a shelter or take some food to those who are hungry. There is nothing that stirs the heartstrings more than doing good deeds together.
11. Be children again for a day
On Valentine’s Day we get permission to forget about the real world and spend a day with our prince or princess in the enchanted forest.
You can spend the entire day feeling as crazy and youthful as you like. Build sandcastles, draw pictures, have tea and cookies in a treehouse, run through some water sprinklers or eat candyfloss on a Ferris wheel.
With a bit of creativity it’s possible to spoil your Valentine without draining your bank account.