Last year on Valentine’s Day, I remember being touched by the number of befuddled-looking men wandering around town after work with flowers and other such red-and-pink-hued gifts. But while these last-minute gestures were (hopefully) appreciated, a teddy bear is a teddy bear is a teddy bar; it doesn’t add much value to your relationship.
Instead of focusing on gifts this year—or in addition to the present portion of the program—why not devise a date-night (or V-Day weekend) plan that will bring you closer to your partner?
And seeing as it’s 2018 and you’re a modern lady, there’s no reason this romance-stoking idea can’t come from you. Rather than waiting for the imaginary Prince-Charming version of your partner to materialize and create a plan that only The Bachelorette‘s producer could devise IRL, take the initiative and suggest some version of one or more of the 10 budget-friendly ideas below.
Scroll down to plan an actually memorable V-Day date this year.
Cook for each other…
Cooking is one of the most effortless ways to bond with someone: You’re in close quarters and working as a team as things literally get steamy. Whip up your favorite meal (maybe recreate an entree from the restaurant where you had your first date) or something that feels especially appropriate for Valentine’s Day—e.g. an aphrodisiac-rich signature dish, a beloved dessert (low-sugar lemon bars, anyone?), or even this home-brewed “love potion wine.”
If neither of you is skilled in the culinary arts, meal kits—e.g. Sun Basket—can offer a nice workaround. Whatever you choose, the key is to do it together and—though this may go without saying—avoid making heavy dishes unless your idea of a romantic night involves rubbing each other’s swollen bellies (raises both hands).
The act of mixing with other couples has been shown to strengthen relationships, so you may want to opt for a group get-together on Valentine’s Day instead of a one-on-one date. To keep costs low, encourage a potluck menu and stick to simple candle-and-crystal-based centerpieces and decor. Then, plan for after-dinner games that can be played in teams of two.
Take a bath
Though you may have claimed the bathroom as your self-care domain, the intimacy your tub affords makes it the perfect destination for a special date night. A shared soak can stand in as an affordable alternative to a couples’ spa treatment, with all of the same benefits plus a little NC-17 action if the mood strikes. Everything that happens beneath the bubbles can be considered foreplay—from the simple act of underwater spooning in the nude to actual sensual touching—which can really help to heat things up towards the night’s climax. Use already-owned crystals, candles, salts, and such to enhance the luxury vibes of the bath, and don’t hesitate to deflower your V-Day bouquet to add its petals to the pool, too.
Can’t coax your boy (or babe) into the tub? Showers can be just as sexy. Try upping the ante by stocking up on these shower-specific products and then formally invite your significant other to join you via a notecard, a text, or even a full-on, steamy save-the-date.
What better way to bond than to join in on each other’s favorite fitness activities? Ask your boo to join you at the barre and, in turn, find out why he or she’s so crazy about the rock climbing gym. It’ll be fun (and likely hilarious) to show one another the ropes and, perhaps, lead to joint sessions in the future. Plus, novel experiences release dopamine in the brain, which can make these dates feel more exciting than the usual.
Rent tandem bikes
Share with your partner the endorphin rush of your favorite indoor cycling class by engaging in this adorably Instagram-worthy activity. The Washington Post asserts that tandem cycling can be viewed as one long trust exercise which requires excellent communication between partners, making it a great tool for strengthening a relationship. To mix things up a bit, if you’re the person in the relationship who generally likes to take the reins, volunteer instead to give up control with a backseat position (and vice versa).
If volunteering engenders resilience in individuals, it follows that the act might help make your relationship hardier, too. Pick something you’re both passionate about—helping the homeless, walking abandoned dogs, cleaning up the coastline—and you’ll carry the positive emotions aroused by these generous deeds into your interactions with one other.
Create a joint vision board
If your guy or gal is game, this can become your go-to V-Day tradition. Discovering where your hopes for the future differ (or don’t) can engender constructive conversation; however, to keep this activity light, you can also opt to specify a certain life bucket, e.g. travel, the home, or “our seventies,” instead. Follow these four steps to create your joint vision board—and choose analog materials to keep your night tech-free.
In an over-scheduled world, finding a day you can wake up sans alarm is difficult. If you think back to the last time it was regularly possible (vacation? college?), however, you may remember how incredibly romantic it can be. Sleepy foreplay has a different, more organic feel than its nighttime counterpart, but (real talk) even the act of sleeping late can feel naughty and indulgent in a sexy way.
If you can’t take the morning off or, better yet, play hooky for the whole day, plan your V-Day celebration for the following weekend instead. Add breakfast in bed to keep the between-the-sheets action going for as long as possible.
Visit a cheap fortune teller
You know the type of psychic with a storefront on a random street with a neon sign reading “$40?” That’s the type of fortune-telling I mean. Skip the super-legit (and expensive) intuitive who works with big name celebrities and look instead for the campiest clairvoyant you can find. Ask for a joint session—you can likely bargain to make it happen—and then spend the rest of the night obsessing over the things foretold for your future together.
Netflix and (do not) chill
This one’s simple and requires far less effort than any of the others on this list. In fact, it barely requires that you deviate from your typical date-night go-to, AKA Netflix, at all. But instead of binge-watching seven episodes of the latest real-life murder mystery series, hit play on something significantly steamier. Think Gaspar Noé’s Love, Blue Is the Warmest Color, Sex and Lucia, Y Tu Mamá También, or even something sillier—but still sexy—like 1998’s Wild Things. Your taste is personal—what you find sexy, another may not—but a simple litmus test for your film selection is whether watching it with anyone other than your significant other would make you blush.