The following post is from staff writer Melissa Batai

One year early in our marriage, my husband and I made the mistake of going to Red Lobster to celebrate Valentine’s Day. We waited three hours for our table. By the time we were finally seated, we were so hungry and grumpy, well, let’s just say it wasn’t a very good Valentine’s Day.

After that, we swore off going out to eat on Valentine’s Day and instead have found romantic, cost-effective ways to celebrate the holiday at home. Here are some of the things we have done in past years:

Make a fancy meal at home. Lucky for us, my husband and I both like to cook, so we had several Valentine’s Day meals that we made at home. We either made fancy Chinese meals, or cooked up seafood, or had risotto. The point was to make something we usually didn’t splurge on (like crab legs) or that we didn’t usually have time to make (like risotto).

If you have older kids, you could have them make you a fancy meal and act as the restaurant servers. Even better if you promise them a good tip at the end of the meal.

Sure, you’re spending money, but not nearly as much as you’d be spending at most restaurants.

Send the kids away for the night. If you have relatives nearby, why not see if they can watch the kids for the night so you can have time away without the expense of a hotel room? Take the day and explore some place in your hometown that isn’t necessarily child-friendly like an art museum or go to the new play in town. Then spend some time walking through the city or strolling along the lake.

What you do doesn’t have to be expensive. The point is to spend time together without kids and without distractions.

Make a grateful or special memories list. Valentine’s Day, besides being an advertiser’s dream holiday, is really about reconnecting with your loved one. You can do this easily by each separately making a list of the ten things you’re most grateful for in your partner. Have your partner do the same thing, and then you can share the lists.

Another idea is to make a list of the five or ten best memories you have from your relationship. Again, do this separately and then share the lists. This not only helps you remember the good times, but it helps you reconnect and reminisce.

Dance together. When’s the last time you danced with your spouse? Why not dim the lights, turn on some music, get dressed up, and dance together in the living room? Chances are you’ll enjoy yourself more than you would have thought.

Play a board game for couples. There are plenty of board games for couples to reignite the spark. They range from relatively innocent like Conversation Starters for Husbands and Wives with cards that are designed to help get you talking to one another to more risqué games like The Bedroom Game where you draw a card and perform the activity on the card.

What are your favorite ways to celebrate a frugal but romantic Valentine’s Day?


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