You'll know my feelings about Valentine's Day from Monday's post, but I thought I should put my money where my mouth is, so to speak, and give you some ideas on how to say I love you on the 14th without spending a dime. I've honed my list down to 11 ideas that I think anyone would be over the moon to receive. Fun fact: these can be used over and over again and not just for Valentine's Day. These ideas are made even better by spontaneity so keep the spark alive and use them on a completely average day!
Help finish a project
I'm a list person. I have lists of things to bake, recipes to try, projects for around the house, research on things I want to learn about like canning, gardening, how to minimize the stuff in your house, and it goes on and on. My husband is the same way and each weekend he gives himself a list - usually too many things to actually accomplish in a 48 hour period - of things he wants to get done. It's easy to get overwhelmed by all those things we give ourselves to do, so help your loved one out and get the ball rolling on a project that you know has been on their mind. Or if they're the type to get bogged down halfway through a project, help them complete it!
If you have kids, watch them
I know, over-the-top romanticism right here! But really, sometimes love is about giving the other person space and personal time, especially if it's in short supply. Does one of you tend to take over the child-watching duties more? Then step in and give the other person the night off. Best. Gift. Ever. (This can also apply to high maintenance dogs, cats, fish or whatever your fur baby may be)
Keep it technology free
Most of the time I fall victim to relaxing in front of my phone or a new TV show, but it doesn't leave any space for conversation and connection with my husband. I know it's hard these days to keep life technology free, but try putting all the distractions away and just focus on your partner for an evening. Instead of watching the TV put on his or her favorite music. Does your loved one like playing games? Suggest a cribbage showdown or Scrabble match. Do you like to cook? Try making an elaborate dinner at home together. The key is to be doing something together and not sitting on the couch zoning out to a screen of some sort.
Go for a walk together
It may seem simple, but walking is a much needed escape from everything that distracts us at home: chores, work, TV, computers, phones, etc. Valentine's Day falls on a Tuesday this year, so by the time you get off of work a little fresh air is probably a great idea to turn off work mode and get into partner mode. And I know it's February so some of you might be thinking I'm nuts for suggesting a stroll in the winter, but make mulled wine or hot chocolate, toss it in some mugs, bundle up and make a moment out of it. Spontaneity and trying new things are great for keeping your relationship fresh!
You could spend $100 to have someone else work out the kinks and tension of a long day, or you could do it for free. It can be as elaborate or as simple as you want: from candles, scented oils and music to sitting on the floor in front of your partner watching TV. Sometimes a quick shoulder and neck rub are enough to relax muscles and give you and your loved one the space to connect for a few minutes. Not sure what to do? Check out Goodful, they have several short videos on massage for tension, pressure points and general muscle relaxation.
Do a dreaded chore
I can't stand unloading the dishwasher. I don't know what it is about it, but it's just not something I care to do so it tends to fall on my husband. Every time he takes care of that chore it shows me how much he loves me (and is willing to pander to my weirdness). He also cleans out the drains (siiiick) and puts the garbage out on the curb. Boring idea? Yes. But think of something you hate doing around the house and imagine not doing it. Yeah, that's love.
Surprise lunch at work
It's hard to make a Tuesday romantic, but start the day off with a surprise lunch with your partner. Grab takeout and eat together at the office or call ahead and say, "I'm picking you up in an hour!" Seeing you in the middle of the day (not to mention talking about something other than work) will be a fantastic break in the day and will make them all the more excited to see you later that evening!
Touch. All the time.
Super simple, super effective. This is geared more toward longer relationships, and especially if you're living with someone, but it's a very real fact that the spark can fade and you can end up being more like roommates than lovers. One of the best ways to crank up the love is to touch and to touch often. It's as simple as a hand on the back (or butt), a quick hug by the fridge, a lingering kiss...The increase in physical contact keeps that part of your relationship in the forefront and makes it harder to let life get in the way.
Help them succeed
I don't usually do big New Year's resolutions so this year I decided to make a habit of flossing every day. Not earth-shattering, but this really was a challenge because I hate the whole going to bed process. I get all cozy and sleepy on the couch, then I have to take the dog out, fill the humidifier, take my contacts out, wash my face, moisturize, brush my teeth for 2 minutes, look at my perfect baby one last time and finally climb into bed. Serious #firstworldproblems, I know. So adding flossing to that list was a tough pill to swallow. But you know what keeps me doing it? My husband puts the floss on the counter every night so I don't forget. It's so simple, but that act shows that he not only knows me and my druthers with the bedtime routine, but also that he is doing what he can to help me achieve a goal. It can be a large goal or it can be as simple as putting floss on the counter, but find out what your partner is wanting to change or achieve and help them get a little closer everyday.
Do something they love, but you don't. And do it happily.
I would not be a good poker player. Anything I'm feeling is on my face and in my tone immediately, so this idea is a hard one for me to totally master. Love gives us a lot, but it's also about sacrifice and compromise. Does your loved one like camping, but you don't? This Valentine's Day give them the gift of a complain-free camping weekend. Does he or she like the crappier take out Chinese place? On Tuesday suggest you order from there because your partner prefers it. Does your husband think Top Secret is an amazing movie but you can't for the life of you stay awake during the whole thing? Make a pot of coffee and put the movie on! (That last example might be from personal experience...) Basically do something totally and completely for them, but don't make them hear about it the whole time. Really dig in and get into whatever they love solely for their happiness and enjoyment!
Put it into words and write a letter
I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't suggest this last one! The power of the written word will surprise you and your partner too. Conversation is amazing, but writing out your feelings on paper gives you more space and time to articulate how you feel without the pressure of the other person being right in front of you. Writing can also help you tap into thoughts and emotions that you might not normally be able to say or express on a daily basis. Not only is it good for the writer, but it's equally as amazing for the reader. Receiving a love letter lets you savor each moment and save every word. It's a keepsake of that moment in your love life that you can always look back on and doesn't fade with time and memory.
So there you have it, a few ideas on how to express your love without busting out the wallet or falling back on the standard box of chocolates and grocery story teddy bear.