By Taylor Gabbey, HRI Graduate Assistant

Valentine’s Day is a time of affection. Romantic partners spend additional time together, and friends and family exchange small gifts to show their appreciation. While the season is full of fun ways to show we care, it can be easy to get caught up in unreasonable expectations. We might feel pressured to go “all out” for the holiday, spending money we don’t have or putting time and effort into something that neither we nor our partner want. Still others might feel left out of the season, because romantic movies usually don’t show couples with children or people looking to celebrate with friends. 

It can be hard to figure out how to celebrate, so we want to share some ideas to keep your Valentine’s Day simple and sweet. Whether you’re low on cash or looking to include your kids in the fun, here are some easy ideas for you and your Valentine this year!

If You Have Kids

Valentine’s Day isn’t just about partners; it can be about parents too! If you have young kids, nice dinners and big excursions can be difficult, not to mention expensive. Instead, find simpler activities to do with your kids that stick to the spirit of the season!

One activity to do as a family is baking Valentine’s Day cookies. Cooking together is a ton of fun, and emphasizes the teamwork and cooperation that make up healthy relationships. Cookie decorating also encourages creativity as you each put your own unique spin on them. Take the opportunity to point out each others’ strengths, and the quirky little things you love about each design! You can find a bunch of Valentine’s Day cookie recipes here:

Another way to celebrate together is by making Valentine’s Day cards. Nothing says fun like crayons and glitter! The cards could be for each other, or you could try making Valentine’s Day cards for a cause. See if any organizations in the community, like hospitals, retirement homes, or community centers, would like to receive some hand-made cards. This way, you and your family can spend hours making unique goodies, and can help spread the spirit of love and affection even further!

Lastly, try having a family game night with a few fun twists. Instead of standard trivia, ask each other questions about the people in your family (i.e. “What is Sarah’s favorite toy? What is Mommy’s favorite color?”) Try to see who can come up with the most specific compliment for another player. You can even write out things you love about a family member and see if anyone else says it Match Game style. Be creative, be honest, and above all, be kind to each other!

If You’re Low on Money

Let’s face it: Valentine’s Day can be expensive. When the expectation is gifts, and flowers, and a nice dinner out, the pricetag exceeds what many couples can afford. But being low on funds doesn’t mean forgoing the holiday entirely; it just means getting a little bit creative!

Instead of spending exorbitant ticket prices, try having a movie night in. Of course this doesn’t have to mean just putting on Netflix. Make it more of a special occasion by adding snacks, rearranging the living room, and picking a movie that you haven’t seen, or that has a special significance to your relationship. If you really want to make an event of it, have your own movie premiere by dressing up and walking  your own red carpet–no matter how small it might be! 

Similarly, you and your partner can use the lack of frills to create a fun, unique night! Imagine what the two of you would do if money wasn’t an obstacle, and then make a game of trying to create it with what you have around the house. Picturing an expensive candlelit dinner? See what candles you can find at home, make fake flowers from towels or tissues, and create a “gourmet” dish from the ingredients in your kitchen. Dreaming of a tropical couples retreat? Lay out some beach towels and create your own “spa” with lotion face masks or DIY massages. Don’t be afraid to get a little silly with it. The important part is having fun together!

If gift-giving is more your thing, you don’t have to break the bank to give something meaningful. Try creating a Compliment or Positivity Jar! Fill post-it notes or slips of paper with things you love about your partner. Be specific about your compliments, or share favorite memories, inside jokes–anything you want! If you both do this, you can even read what you wrote together or choose the one that means the most to you. 

If You’re Single

Maybe you’re flying solo this 14th. That’s no reason not to practice a little love! Self-love is as important as love of others. While we often think about taking our partners or loved ones out, buying them gifts, or doing things for them, we don’t typically do this for ourselves. Well, Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to focus on you a bit!

One way to do this is by taking yourself out on a date. Visit your favorite restaurant or one you’ve been waiting to try; go to a movie you want to see; buy your favorite drink or dessert and just relax. There are so many ways to treat ourselves! Even something as simple as giving yourself permission to relax and do what you want for a night can go a long way in helping us feel healthy and confident. Reward yourself for being you!

Another way to practice self-care is by having a spa day. That could mean taking yourself to a professional spa for a manicure or massage, or it could mean creating your own spa at home. Splurge on a few things like a facemask or bath bomb, or just draw a nice hot bath and relax. Being kind to our bodies can make us feel happy and confident, as well as appreciative of the body we live in!

Sometimes, saying nice things about ourselves is even more difficult than “treating ourselves.” We are often our own biggest critic, either out of a desire to do better for ourselves or out of modesty and humility. While being humble and hard working is admirable, it’s okay to acknowledge the things we like about ourselves, especially when doing so can feel difficult. Take some time this Valentine’s Day to write a list of all the things you love about yourself! These could be physical attributes, personality traits, accomplishments, talents, even memories of times you did something you’re proud of. Make the list as long as you can, and if you want, put it somewhere to revisit when you’re feeling down. It’s never a bad time to spread a little love, especially for yourself. 

If Your Stuck in a Rut with Your Partner

Long-term couples hold many benefits, like comfort, trust, and greater intimacy. However, as things become more comfortable and routine, romance can end up in a bit of a rut. Fortunately, Valentine’s Day offers a great opportunity to shake things up! Here are a few simple ideas to break out of the routine.

Sometimes the simplest ideas yield the sweetest experiences. If you and your partner need something new to bond over, try just going to a new place. This could be a museum, a restaurant, or a whole new city! If you don’t want to go too far from home, try just wandering around a different part of town. When you’re with the person you love, anything becomes an adventure. Don’t put too much pressure on yourselves, and just enjoy each other’s company in a new place!

Conversely, going to someplace familiar can have its own rewards. Rather than going to your usual spots, try revisiting places from a different point in your relationship. Go back to where you had your first date, or the place you first said “I love you.” Even better, have each of you pick a place that holds one of your favorite memories as a couple, and just spend time expressing what that memory means to you. The objective is to find new ways to connect, and that can be done in places new or familiar!

If Your Valentines Are Your Friends 

As we’ve probably made pretty clear at this point, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to look like a Hallmark movie. The holiday is about spending time with the people you care about most, and for many, those people are their friends. If a significant other isn’t in the picture, use the season to cherish the love and bonds you have with your besties!

One easy way to do this is to have a friends’ night out (or in, if you prefer). Get the group together and do things you love, whether that’s going downtown for dancing, or chilling at home with a bunch of movies. If you want to make the night particularly special, try going somewhere new or buying your favorite treats to share. It’s all about you and your crew, so have fun with it!

Another way to celebrate with friends is a gift exchange. Wish you had a reason to buy those big boxes of chocolates? Try having a Secret Cupid party! Like Secret Santa, you and your friends can draw names and buy Valentine’s-themed gifts for each other, or just buy whatever you can find and have the party White Elephant style. Gift exchanges can be sentimental or as wacky, and they provide a perfect excuse to get together with some chocolate, flowers, and your favorite people!

If schedules prove too hectic for a party, you can still show your love to friends this Valentine’s Day. Try making something as a nice, simple gift to say how much they mean to you. Bake some cookies, make a friendship bracelet, or just write a very heartfelt note. Don’t worry about the pricetag; rather, think about how it expresses your appreciation to these people who mean so much to you. 

Valentine’s Day is all about love, and the many forms it takes. Make the most of the holiday by celebrating with those you love, be they family, friends, partners, or yourself!

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