How to plan a killer Valentine’s Day when you’re utterly broke

Every year, just as you’re recovering from your end-of-year spending spree, Valentine’s Day rolls around and kicks your bank account in the guts. Don’t freak out. There are so many meaningful ways to show just how crazy you are for somebody without spending your non-existent savings. Here are a few ideas that cost practically nothing, but in some ways, mean as much, or more, than any store-bought gift.

Make reservations at your place

Everyone goes out to dinner on V-day, which means restaurants are overcrowded and super-loud—and that’s if you can get a reservation. So how about making a ridiculously delicious home-cooked dinner instead? Light a couple of candles. Throw some pasta in boiling water. (This super-easy New York Times recipe for “Midnight Pasta” will cost you under 10 bucks but appears deceptively fancy.) Get your Spotify on, and DIY that dinner. Bonus points: go to a dollar store and pick up a funky table cloth for a campy faux-restaurant table.

Craft the perfect mixtape

This is one of my favorite gifts. I love surprising friends with random mix CDs—and I’m particularly into making mixes for my BF. The “theme” of the mix is one of the best parts: think “cheesy songs that perfectly express how I feel about you.” It’s one of the easiest, cheapest and most sincere (and fun to make) gifts that you can give someone.

Actually write an old-school letter

A letter is the classic way to express your love for someone. It’s also one of the most challenging ways to share how you feel. We’re not talking pre-written Hallmark cards here, but bonafide, hand-written, outpourings of emotions. Get some really cute paper (or doodle “fancy” borders on blank sheet), bust out your favorite pen and let your feelings flow. Fill the page with memories, plans for the future and all the beautiful junk in your heart. Then, roll it up, and tie it with a red string. Then, hand it over to the one you love, so they’ll always have a tangible reminder of how you really feel.

Make a dream catcher from scratch

Not too long ago, I asked my friend about the use of dream catchers. She told me that if I was interested in getting one for someone, it would be better to look on Ihe internet to find out how to make my own. “If you make it yourself,” she said, “if your hard work and love is put into it, it’s that much better.” I totally agree. The Internet (and by that I mean Pinterest) is full of so many ideas for fun, easy and budget-friendly dream catchers. They come with step-by-step instructions. You can also check out video tutorials. Even if your work of art doesn’t come out exactly right, the intention is there and it came from you. That’s what’s important, folks.

Do a surprise favor or take care of a tiny chore they’re dreading  

This one may require a bit more work, but it’s absolutely the cheapest, coolest gift out there. Basically, do them a huge solid without prompting. Doing the dishes, picking up the dry cleaning, making the bed or putting the laundry away can all make a difference to the one you love. It could also be as simple as picking them up from work or class when they would otherwise be taking a train or a bus. It’s these little acts of selflessness that show how much you care about someone and it’s the best.

Whether you want to go big or small this Valentine’s Day, do whatever you do with love and remember that just because we’re flooded with ads for diamonds and other crazy expensive gifts, that’s not really what the holiday’s about. These little tokens of appreciation may be small but they have huge resonance and they’ll serve to remind you both why you’re together.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

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