How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day on a Budget (Plus 10 Gift Ideas)

portrait of Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Published on February 11, 2022 · Updated on February 23, 2022

Edited by Will Baker
Share this Article

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day on a Budget (Plus 10 Gift Ideas)


Advertising Disclosure: Our team independently selected these products. If you purchase a product through one of our links, we may collect compensation. Pricing and availability are accurate at the time of publication.


Lots of college students have a tight budget. But that doesn't mean you need to cancel your Valentine's Day plans and stay home alone. College students can celebrate Valentine's Day on a budget.

Consider a 2021 survey of Michigan State University students. Around 72% of students planned to spend less than $50 celebrating Valentine's Day.

If you're wondering how to make Valentine's Day special on a budget, stick around for budget-friendly activities and gift ideas.

How to Make Valentine's Day Special in College

Celebrating Valentine's Day on a budget doesn't mean sacrificing fun or romance. In fact, you can make Valentine's Day special while sticking to a budget. Here are our recommendations for making Feb. 14 a special day in college.

Do a Fun Activity

College towns are brimming with fun activities that don't cost too much. Find an inexpensive activity that you're both interested in, like going to an open mic night, farmers market, or arts walk. You could also explore the outdoors by taking a hike, visiting the beach, or having a picnic.

If the outdoors aren't your thing, consider indoor activities like bowling, a movie night, or a game night.

Plan a Surprise

Planning ahead shows your date that you really care. So consider a surprise, like a day trip off campus, a visit to a museum, or a reservation at their favorite restaurant. You can also plan a surprise gift, such as a photo album full of pictures from times you've spent together.

Make It Romantic

Valentine's Day is the most romantic holiday, so lean into the romance theme. Fortunately, it's easy to create romance on a budget. Set up candles, put up decorations, or turn on a romantic playlist. Make movie night romantic by picking their favorite rom-com. Or plan a romantic dinner for two.

8 Romantic Valentine's Day Activities on a College Budget

College students have an array of activities to choose from for Valentine's Day. Here are some of the most popular (and romantic) ones to take part in.

1. Go on a Picnic

If the weather cooperates, why not plan a Valentine's picnic? Picnics are a great way to connect with nature, enjoy some food, and share quality time together. And many campuses have quads or greens perfect for picnicking. You can also consider nearby parks and combine your picnic with a walk or hike.

2. Cook a Meal Together

Cooking a meal is a great way to bond — plus, you get a built-in date when you enjoy the meal. Take your time picking a recipe and going shopping together. Then, put on some music and test out your cooking chops. Whether you whip up a deluxe meal or it flops, you'll share some great memories.

3. Make a Romantic Playlist

Set the mood for your Valentine's Day by making a romantic playlist with your date. Music is a great way to connect, so come up with a theme and add songs to your playlist. While putting together the perfect playlist, you can also plan the next activity for your Valentine's Day.

4. Have a Movie Night at Home

You don't have to go out to have a great Valentine's Day. Instead, consider a movie night at home. When planning your romantic movie night, make sure to pick the right kind of film and set the mood with candles or decorations. You can even pick up some inexpensive movie snacks to upgrade the experience.

5. Go to the Museum

Museums are a great way to have a memorable experience at a low cost. Whether you're interested in art, natural history, or science, there's a museum out there for you. And many college campuses feature museums free for students.

If you venture off campus, research museums with student discounts. You might even find museums with special Valentine's Day events.

6. Go Bowling

Bowling is fun, easy, and affordable, making it a great date choice for Valentine's Day. Keep it light and fun as you pick out cool bowling shoes and enjoy some time on the lanes. Bowling is also a great Valentine's Day college event idea for a group.

7. Go on a Hike or Visit the Beach

Planning an outdoor adventure is a great way to celebrate Valentine's Day on a budget. Whether you're in a warm climate where a beach visit might require shorts or a wintry state where you might need snowshoes, you can bond in a natural setting.

8. Have a Board Game Night

Board games are a great way to connect and have fun without running up a huge bill. Consider cooperative games for Valentine's Day. Alternatively, you can challenge your best couple friends to a board game showdown. Get creative and unwind while making time to connect with your date.

3 Romantic Valentine's Day Activities for Long-Distance Couples

Many college students maintain long-distance relationships with people in other states and at different schools. Here are some activities you can still do with your significant other, even when miles away.

1. Have a Virtual Movie Night

Plan a virtual movie night for your long-distance partner. Start by picking a romantic movie. You can even plan to share the same movie snacks while you watch.

Instead of simply hitting play at the same time, consider apps like Teleparty or Watch Netflix Together to make it even easier to share an experience virtually.

2. Complete a Virtual Escape Room

Long-distance couples need to get creative when it comes to connecting. A virtual escape room is a unique, fun, and relatively inexpensive way to connect. Flex your problem-solving and teamwork skills by booking a virtual escape room for Valentine's Day.

3. Arrange a Virtual Dinner Date

Lots of couples celebrate Valentine's Day with a dinner date — and long-distance couples can also connect over a shared meal. Consider finding a recipe to cook together virtually. Or you could plan a takeout meal you can share in different cities. Virtual platforms make it easier than ever to share a romantic meal, no matter where you are.

10 Valentine's Day Gift Ideas for College Students on a Budget

Instead of skipping gifts for Valentine's Day, college students on a budget can consider some affordable yet touching options like a photo album, chocolates, or perfume or cologne. Even better, everything on our list comes in at under $30.

true Price Legend

$ = Under $15 | $$ = $15-$30

1. Photo Album


Our Recommendation: Fabric Frame Photo Album

When it comes to thoughtful gifts on a budget, photo albums rank near the top. Fill an inexpensive photo album with meaningful pictures for a heartwarming Valentine's gift. You can even leave room to add more photos in the future.

2. Couple's Throw Blanket


Our Recommendation: Chanasya Love Throw Blanket

Picture Valentine's Day wrapped up in a blanket with your date — snowstorm optional. Our pick for the best couple's throw blanket even comes with loving messages written on the ultra soft blanket.

3. Scented Candle


Our Recommendation: Chesapeake Bay Love + Passion Candle

Nothing sets the mood like a scented candle. Plus, candles are a great option when you're on a budget. Our pick combines grapefruit and mango in a "love + passion" blend.

4. Massage Oil


Our Recommendation: Cosmetasa Sore Muscle Massage Oil w/ Ball Roller

Massage oil makes a great and affordable gift for your Valentine. Plus, the gift comes with a built-in activity. So if you're stumped figuring out things to do for Valentine's Day in 2022, plan a massage date for your partner.

5. Board Game


Our Recommendation: Codenames Duet

If you're a board game couple, why not gift a new game for Valentine's Day? Two-player, cooperative games like Codenames Duet are a great way to connect and have fun for Valentine's Day.

6. Perfume


Our Recommendation: Vera Wang Princess for Women

Perfume is a lux option for Valentine's Day — but it might not be the first option that comes to mind if you're figuring out how to make Valentine's Day special on a budget. We turned to Vera Wang for an affordable yet luxurious option.

7. Cologne


Our Recommendation: Nautica Voyage for Men

Good cologne doesn't have to break the bank. Nautica Voyage for Men gives that luxury feel at a lower price point. Check out our pick for an affordable, crisp, and adventurous scent.

8. Bath Bomb


Our Recommendation: Pur Scentum Bath Bombs Set

Turn Valentine's Day into a self-care spa retreat with a set of bath bombs. Our pick offers essential oils and luxurious ingredients in a mega size perfect for love birds.

9. Box of Chocolates


Our Recommendation: Ferrero Rocher Collection

There's nothing quite like chocolates for Valentine's Day. Instead of grabbing a budget box at the grocery store, consider something a step up like the Ferrero Rocher Collection, which comes with a variety of options.

10. Wine Glasses


Our Recommendation: JBHO Burgundy Glasses - Pair

Wine glasses are a great way to celebrate Valentine's Day on a budget. And our pick comes in a gift box. To upgrade the gift, pair it with a bottle of wine and some high-quality chocolate.

Feature Image: Halfpoint Images / Moment / Getty Images

Check out our guide to the best Christmas gifts on the market for the college student in your life. Looking for a gift for the student in your life that won't break the bank? Check out our guide of inexpensive present ideas. Use this guide to prepare for college dorm life! Incoming students can get tips from this comprehensive list of college and dorm essentials.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.