Can’t Buy Me Love: Budget Date Ideas For Valentine’s Day

Want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but worried about your budget? It’s true, the holiday can get expensive — just look at our infographic on the cost of dating in Manila.

Thankfully for your budget, with a little imagination and effort, you can make Valentine’s Day special for your sweetheart without breaking the bank. A light wallet doesn’t mean you can’t be romantic. Check out our budget date ideas below, and enjoy a day to remember with your Valentine:

Romantic dinner for two — at home.

romantic dinner at home

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Just make sure you don’t cut yourself while prepping.

Eating out in Manila can get pricey, with Valentine’s Day menus costing upwards of P2,000. And since it’s a popular time of the year for restaurants, it’ll be hard to get a reservation. Plus, food can be overpriced on Valentine’s Day. “Restaurants know you are willing to pay the extra cash for something that seems extra special on Valentine’s day, even when it’s not worth the price,” writes a former maître d’ for The Kitchn blog, advising lovebirds to skip the fancy dinner out on Valentine’s.

That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a sumptuous dinner anyway — making your own romantic dinner at home is the perfect budget date idea. Not only will making your own dinner be cheaper, but you’ll have full control over your menu, and you and your loved one can bond while prepping and cooking the food. To make this dinner even more budget-friendly, check out our tips on how to save big at the supermarket.

Take advantage of discounts with your credit card.

credit card discounts

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 Definitely classier than using coupons on a date.

Lots of credit cards offer discounts for Valentine’s-related activities, so put your card to work for you to help you with your date. Your Citibank Platinum credit card can get you a free wine buffet for two at Gambrinus bar, so you and your date can sample fine wines and bond over a lovely dinner. With a Citibank Premier Miles credit card, you can get 50% off on up to two companion tickets on Cathay, perfect for a Valentine’s romantic getaway for less.

Don’t have them yet? Apply for Citibank credit cards right now and get a free roundtrip ticket to Hong Kong.

Skip the movie; check out a museum instead.

couple at a museum

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To impress your date, read the Wiki on the artist you’re seeing.

What’s so romantic about looking at a cinema screen for two hours? Museums are underrated date spots. This Valentine’s Day, take this opportunity to bond and soak up some art. Ayala Museum is having an “Art to Heart” event on the 14th — you can enjoy cupcakes, sweets, love-themed tours, and cupcakes. There’s also a great bonsai and suiseki exhibition running until February 15, so you can relax and admire nature and artistry. You can also check out the whole art collection and impress your significant other with how cultured you are. You can’t put a price on that (except for the P150 entrance fee, which is still cheaper than a movie ticket!).

Plan a trip together.

travel planning

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But who’s going to ask for directions?

Just because you can’t afford a trip right now doesn’t mean you can’t dream about it. Make it a date, get some wine, and start planning your ideal trip with your Valentine. This planning session might be the kick in the pants you need to finally start saving up for your perfect European vacation or South American adventure. If you need a little help, you can read our step-by-step guide to achieving your financial goals.

Stay in and hold a board game night.

board game pieces

 Photo credit: Shutterstock

If you’re super-competitive, you may wanna try something else.

Staying in for Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you can’t do anything fun. Invite your other couple friends over, pick up a board game like Settlers of Catan, Scrabble, Bananagrams, or whatever tickles your fancy, open a bottle of wine, and play to your heart’s content. You and your date can team up against the other couples for a bit of friendly competition. Ask the guests to bring a snack of their choice to make it a potluck (and to cut down on your expenses).

Go to a bar with live music.

live music

 Photo credit: SplitShire

Beats having to listen to your neighbor do drunk karaoke.

Given the Filipino talent for singing, there’s no shortage of cool bands performing at bars here in Manila. After your romantic dinner at home, head out with your Valentine to a low-key bar, have a couple of beers, and dance or sing along to the great music. You’ll have a lot of fun without spending too much. Unless you like to drink a lot, but hopefully you’ve budgeted for that.

Take lessons together.

couple dancing

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Learning can be romantic too!

Bonding over a shared activity is one of the more unusual budget date ideas. For example, you can sign yourself and your Valentine up for a painting lesson at Sip and Gogh, an arts and drinks studio in Quezon City where you can paint while sipping on your favorite tipple. (Your first drink is on the house, and you can bring your own.) With couples painting classes, you and your partner can try to recreate famous works of art or paint your own scene, which you can then take home as a memory of your date.

You could also check out Trade School Manila’s schedule for activities they may have for Valentine’s Day. Or take some dancing lessons, if you have two left feet.

Have a picnic.

The Picnic, Thomas COle

 Photo credit: Wikipedia

Watch out for ants.

When was the last time you went out on a picnic? Prepare a basket for you and your date filled with your favorite food and drink, lay out a blanket on the grass, and bask in the outdoors. Lots of gardens and parks in Manila are perfect for picnics, like Ayala Triangle Gardens, Salcedo Park, the UP Sunken Garden, and Quezon Memorial Circle. Your own neighborhood or subdivision may even have a little park you can go to. Picnics are also great if you’ve got kids, as they can run around and play while you and your loved one sit together, sip your drinks, and enjoy the view.


Romance isn’t about how much money you spend. So even if you can’t afford to splash that much this Valentine’s Day, just spend some quality time with your loved one. It will be worth more than anything. As Oscar Wilde wrote, “Who, being loved, is poor?”

You can save even more on Valentine’s Day by taking advantage of credit card promos for February.

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