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Valentine’s Day on the cheap (without looking cheap)

Published Wednesday, 11 February, 2015 by Beth Bradshaw

Most couples nowadays have to limit the amount they spend on each other for birthdays, Christmas and day to day activities. For student couples, this can be even more difficult. So when it comes to Valentine’s Day, as much as you might want to splash out and treat your loved one to an outlandish evening out (pretending not to worry about the mounting bill) your bank account may not agree. Valentine’s Day can often mean bars and restaurants bump up the prices and restaurants will no doubt be heaving.

Valentine’s Day can often put a lot of pressure on couples to fork out and spend an arm and a leg just because it’s Valentine’s Day – but surely, it doesn’t matter what you do or how much you spend, as long as you spend some quality time just the two of you - that’s all the counts, right? Here are a few ideas to make an occasion this Valentine’s Day, without breaking the bank:

  • Weather permitting, find somewhere the both of you can take a stroll. It will be something refreshing and new to do – either search the Internet for local walks, parks and trails or be spontaneous and go for a wander. Exercise is great for releasing endorphins which improves our mood.

  • Switch it up – rather than going out for an expensive evening meal, try going out for breakfast/brunch. There’s no need to get up at the crack of dawn, as breakfast is often served up till 12pm and it’s usually cheaper and less formal than dining out in the evening. Have a look at some restaurant reviews and menus online to be sure you’ve got the right place. Or serve up breakfast in bed – croissants, pain au chocolat, omelettes, bucks fizz etc.

  • Thoughtful gifts/ideas: Even if you both decide not to give presents, it would be a nice idea to present your boy/girlfriend with a small, thoughtful or homemade gift or plan. You don’t need to spend a fortune to express your feelings!

    • Personalised cards: there are so many websites now where you can personalise Valentine’s Day cards with names, pictures and quotes. They are surprisingly cheap too – plus you can send them directly to your boy/girlfriends house which will be a nice surprise to come through the post. If you aren’t good with words, a card is your trump card to really express how you feel.

    • Photographs: if you’ve got a special picture of the both of you together, get it printed and frame it. You can get some really nice yet affordable frames nowadays from home outlets.

    • Pick your boy/girlfriends favourite box set – whether it’s a TV series or trilogy, set up the room as a movie den with popcorn, cushions and blankets so you can get comfy and slouch out to your favourite films.

    • If you want to buy a small present, a nice idea would be a set of cosy pyjamas! Primark and Matalan, for example, sell some great comfy trousers for men and sets of pjs for women often for under £10.

    • If you’re feeling soppy, and I’m talking to the boys here, write a list of your top favourite moments, dates or reasons why you love them. Anything that shows you’ve gone to the effort of thinking back on your time together, she will love.

    • Compile their favourite songs onto a playlist or album and decorate a plastic case and on the back write the tracklist and explain why you chose each song.

    • Flowers: whilst they are cliché, it will make your girlfriend feel very special as it’s not something they are bought often (well, not unless you’re the perfect boyfriend and buy them every week). There’s no need to splash out on a massive bouquet of expensive flowers, a single rose would make me very happy. Rather than ordering online or buying from an independent florist, look in supermarkets or high street stalls which can often be a lot cheaper.

Student Valentine’s Day Dine in for Two:

If you’ve decided to make the sensible money decision of staying in for Valentine’s Day, then there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the luxury you might experience in restaurants, even if you aren’t the best cook in the world. Set up a mini cocktail bar in the living room and get experimenting with different spirits and mixers – just not before you have to put dinner on! Get a bottle of Prosecco in the fridge too, one glass in a fancy restaurant costs as much as a nice bottle from supermarkets and it really adds to the occasion.

You have two options – you can either buy a set meal from supermarkets, which offers a main meal, sides, pudding and wine for a set price – great for those of you who aren’t that confident in the kitchen but want to serve up something delicious. They have a selection to choose from for each course. I’ve seen some range from £10-£20 depending on the supermarket and meal options, which I think is quite a good price seeing as all the meals are cooked for you, all you need to do is simply put them in the oven and hey presto. You won’t have to spend much time in the kitchen which means more time spent with you boy/girlfriend.

The other option is stepping up to the plate and cooking the meal yourself. Boys – here is your time to shine. It doesn’t matter what you cook, she will love you for putting in the effort and trying to impress her. However, there is no reason why the girl can’t cook the meal, or an even better idea is for you both to cook together. That way the pressure is off and it’s a joint effort – if anything goes wrong you can both (hopefully) have a laugh about it and no one will feel 100% responsible. Have a look at a few meal plan suggestions below for some inspiration:

Fish Lovers

Meat Lovers

Vegetarians

Starter

Mussels in garlic and white wine sauce with French bread

Roasted red pepper soup with chorizo and French bread

Roasted beetroot and feta salad with balsamic vinegar

Main

Seafood tagliatelle with tomatoes, olives and chilli

Rump/sirloin steak served with skinny chips and salad

Mushroom and garlic risotto served with parsley and parmesan

Pudding

Raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake

Chocolate fondant with ice cream

Salted caramel billionaire slice

These are just a few ideas, and you can pick up some of these ingredients for less than you think – rump steak can be found for as little as £3 each in Tescos, possibly even cheaper at budget supermarkets such as Aldi or Lidl. Try to set a budget for £15-20 for the three course meal plus any booze.

For more inspiration check out Studentrecipes.com and the recipes to ‘cook to impress’!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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