February calendar with a red heart drawn around the 14th

5 Inexpensive Date Ideas for College Students on Valentine's Day

When you want to do something special for Valentine's Day but your wallet disagrees, check out these student budget–friendly date ideas.

Your SO deserves the world! We’re talking flowers, chocolates, stuffed animals, jewelry, dinner at the fanciest restaurant in town, fireworks spelling their name in the sky—everything anyone could want on Valentine’s Day. And you want to give them all of that…but you currently have $5.11 in your bank account. How can you make Heart Day memorable on a college student’s budget? Here are five low-cost but heartfelt ideas.

1. The standard

Everyone’s favorite date night in: Set up your favorite show or movie on Netflix, order delivery, sit on the couch, and watch said show or movie. Done. It’s a standard because it works. Try to jazz it up a bit though. Decorate your room for the holiday. Construction paper is cheap, and we all learned how to cut paper hearts in kindergarten. Confetti is not recommended because the cleanup is a bear, but if you don’t mind it, go for it. Instead of watching from the couch, make an awesome blanket fort for the two of you to chill out in. Dorm-approved flameless tea lights are relatively inexpensive, and you can reuse them. Buy a package and set them up as “mood lighting.”

Related: The Best On-Campus Dates

2. The game is afoot

Puzzles, riddles, trivia—and, oh, did we mention adventure? Yeah. Who wouldn’t want to go on an adventure for a special Valentine’s date? If you’re super creative and have the mind for it, you can come up with a special scavenger hunt for your significant other. Couples who’ve been together for a while may want to take a stroll down memory lane with riddles leading to different places around town that mean something to you. New couples might consider places you haven’t had the chance to go but keep saying you want to.

For those of us who lack the foresight for something that elaborate, there’s an app for that. Check out Let’s Roam, Munzee, or Pokémon Go and get hunting. Some hunts cost money to join, but the rates are relatively low, especially compared to other Valentine’s Day activities. Are scavenger hunts a bit too involved for you? Try out geocaching; it’s pretty much the same thing, only with more of a searching-for-buried-treasure vibe than a puzzle-solving one.

3. Ssh—it’s a date

Take your date to a library and read books, listen to music, play board games, or nap in cozy chairs. Investment: $0. Original: highly. Makes you look smart: absolutely. Activity options include:

  • Find a book of short stories or poems by a writer one or both of you love and take turns (quietly) reading your favorites aloud to each other.
  • Pick a book for each other to read. Take this in one of two directions: Swap favorites or pick one out that you think they’d enjoy based on their interests.
  • Grab two random periodicals, magazines, or books on something you know little or nothing about, then swap fun facts as you read.
  • Walk through the stacks picking up random books and talking about them. Seriously, it works.
  • Libraries do free events all the time, so join in and do the thing. And bookstores work just as well.

Related: Have a Heart This Valentine's Day

4. Order up!

If there’s a kitchen in your dorm or you live in an apartment, don’t underestimate home cooking. You don’t have to be Iron Chef qualified to do this either. Beginners are encouraged to take on the challenge of cooking! You can even make a day out of it. Scroll through Pinterest with your partner and decide what you’ll eat. Go to the grocery store and pick up the ingredients you’ll need. Then when you get back, turn on some music and get cooking. You don’t have to worry about dinner not being ready when they arrive or cooking something they don’t like, and the final product is something you can both be proud of—plus it’s an excuse to spend tons of time with your partner. And you get food at the end! The only downside is having to clean all those dishes…but that’s just even more quality time you get to spend with your boo.

5. College as a wingman

There’s a lot of free and discounted stuff happening on campus literally every day of the week. A lot of clubs use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to host events, so see what’s happening and check it out. Some colleges even provide free or discounted events specifically for the holiday, like an on-campus movie night or a field trip to the local cinema with vouchers for tickets and/or concessions. You can also see what’s going on around town. Some venues host themed comedy shows or concerts where there’s a low cover charge or a drink minimum. A lot of these events might be 21+, but check the venue’s website before you write them off, and check other venues like coffee shops that don’t typically have age restrictions.

And don’t forget about the doors your student ID opens. Check your school’s website or talk to someone in charge of Student Life to see what discounts you can get around town. Local partnerships can get you into concerts, theater shows, and other events for ridiculously low prices. You can even check online or call ahead and ask management if student discounts exist. Take advantage of these money-saving opportunities now before those same dates cost three times as much.

Related: The Best Student Discounts: Food, Clothes, and More

These ideas work if you're flying solo too. Invite some friends over to share in your love (or hate) of this Hallmark holiday. Have fun, friends!

Looking for other ways to celebrate throughout the year? Check out the great blogs under our "holidays" tag

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