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5 Creative and Free Valentine’s Day Tips for College Students on a Budget - 3 min read

Whether you’re a single college student, in a relationship, or have checked the box, “it’s complicated,” showing some love to someone—be it your significant other (SO) or yourself—this Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to break the bank. So, forget about expensive gifts, and instead, go for something more meaningful, and most importantly—free! Here are five ways to treat yourself (or your sweetheart) while saving some cash.

1. No phones for 24 hours

Let’s face it—most of us are a bit obsessed with our phones. If you’re the type who is tempted to look at your phone, even when your friends or significant other is talking to you, a 24-hour no phone policy speaks volumes (no pun intended)! Giving your loved one your undivided attention for one full day, completely detached from your device, keeps you focused and helps inspire creative ideas. And, if you’re flying solo this Valentine’s Day, disconnecting from your phone helps refocus your energy on something better than watching your feed fill up with sickly sweet displays. Instead, feed your non-sentimental side with these books about finding yourself. Before you know it, you’ll be showered in kisses (or self love) completely forgetting you left your phone back in your dorm room.  

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2. Serve breakfast in bed 

There’s an old and wise saying that goes something like this: “the way to [your] heart is through [your] stomach.” And, there’s simply no better way to show how much you care than to add some love to your recipe. Whether you’re a four-star chef, or a kitchen novice, there’s no way you can mess up breakfast. From homemade croissants to bakery rip-offs, it’s the thought that counts, especially when served with the right amount of love and affection. If you want to get super creative, plate up some heart-shaped eggs or serve up some Valentine’s Day inspired biscuits.

3. Make your own Valentine’s Day card

Yes, it would be nice to afford expensive gifts to bestow upon your beloved (or friend), but let’s face it—as a college student, most of you are living (or barely surviving) on a tight budget. Without that extra cash needed for lavish presents, you must think outside-the-box. One of the easiest (and most thoughtful) gifts you can give your partner or friend is something that comes from the heart. How about a handmade card?

Go the extra mile and include pictures of the two of you, or add concert tickets and movie stubs from events you’ve shared together. Or, get creative with heart shapes, special messages, and other innovative elements. And, if you need some additional inspiration, head on over to Pinterest. Oh, one more thing: let’s not forget about the element of surprise—tuck that card into your loved one’s backpack or jacket pocket to win over their heart (and, in some cases, kisses).

Write a love note to yourself…

You certainly don’t need a SO to write a love letter. Write one to yourself instead. In this letter, indicate what you love and appreciate about yourself. Who knows, you may find this practice so therapeutic, you’ll want to keep it going, especially since studies suggest keeping a gratitude journal leads to better sleep, fewer symptoms of stress-related illnesses, and more happiness. The important thing is to pay attention to what you’re grateful for. It could be as simple as recording five things you’ve experienced in the past week for which your appreciative.

4. Netflix and chill

Haven’t seen The Notebook yet? You can bet your bottom dollar it’s on Netflix. What better way to snuggle up to your sweetheart than to console one another during this Hollywood tear-jerker. And trust me, you will cry. Not into that? Watch Ozark to prove to your boo just how normal your relationship is in comparison to the one in this bizarre and binge-worthy series. No matter what you watch, it’s a great way to work in some lip-locking. That, my friends, doesn’t cost a dime!

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All singled out? If you’ve seen enough teddy bears and rose bouquets, and aren’t in the mood for cheesy rom-coms, perhaps it’s time to celebrate your independence by watching movies that evoke feelings of empowerment, hints of vengeance, or offer up some valuable lessons in friendship—movies like Fried Green Tomatoes, The Help, The Intouchables, or John Wick. Watch ‘em alone or with friends, while nestled up to some popcorn and a tub of ice cream. Let Valentine’s Day be your cheat day!

5. Go on a day trip

Get on that bike, in that car, on that bus, or in that train, and head out for some adventure. Yes, it may be cold in your neck of the woods, but it doesn’t mean you have to be cooped up indoors. Find a beautiful forest to explore, take a stroll through the park, head out for some local sightseeing and window shopping, or recline on a bench, wrapped in a warm blanket while toasting to “romance (or self care) on a budget.”

See, love don’t cost a thing, or at least it doesn’t have to! Remember: the best Valentine’s Day gifts come from the heart. No matter how you choose to surprise your sweetheart, or treat yourself, the investment of your time is what counts most, and no amount of money can top that. What awesome (and cheap) Valentine’s Day ideas do you have planned? Share them in the comments below.

Kristy is a copywriter and former student at Columbia University. Having lived in New York City, Berlin and Auckland, she's a bit of a nomad, but has found a home away from home (wherever that is) in Copenhagen. When she's not busy writing on everything 'study-related,' she can be found in vintage shops and coffee parlors all around Copenhagen.

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