Key takeaways

  • This Valentine’s Day, romance doesn’t have to break the bank — in fact, there are ways to celebrate the day that can fit any budget.
  • Celebrating in creative ways at home can make it easier to save money on the holiday, but so can being savvy with your credit cards.
  • Whether you want to go out for a lavish dinner or trade off your favorite candy at home with your loved one, don’t forget to plan ahead — reservations will fill up quickly, and sales won’t last forever.

Expressing undying love for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day doesn’t cost any money, but nearly everything else does. Some 53 percent of Americans planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day in 2024, bringing the expected holiday spending total to $25.8 billion, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2024 Valentine’s Day Spending Survey.

While there’s nothing wrong with showering someone you love with gifts, it’s still possible to celebrate this wonderful holiday on a budget. Below, we’ll explore some steps savvy consumers can take to keep their expenses under control on Wednesday, February 14th.

1. Plan ahead

Valentine’s Day is all about love — but it’s also about sweets, flowers and fine dining. Last year, OpenTable reported Saturday, February 12th, as the single biggest dining day of the year, with more than 50 percent of Valentine’s Day reservations booked by February 7th — and dining out exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

For 2024, lovebirds may want to plan for Saturday, February 10th — and get reservations for that candlelit dinner as soon as possible, especially for top restaurants. You might want to use the same approach for buying gifts as well. Shop well in advance to make sure you get what you want and avoid overspending at the last minute.

2. Celebrate at home

For Valentine’s Day 2024, Americans are expected to spend 8.1 percent more than last year on restaurants and dining, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. To avoid the high cost of a night out, consider cooking a romantic dinner together. This can be a fun and intimate experience (as long as you know your way around the kitchen). Heck, meal-kit company HelloFresh reports that 42 percent of their respondents prefer a home-cooked meal on Valentine’s Day.

Whether you dine in or dine out, there are ways to reduce your financial burden. For instance, you may want to consider using one of the top credit cards for dining out or buying groceries — like the American Express® Gold Card or the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card — to earn rewards on your food purchases.

Additionally, many credit cards offer their own dining programs to help you save or earn rewards (such as Capital One Dining), or partner offers on meal-kit, grocery or dining services. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comes with partner bonuses for Instacart+ and Gopuff, along with other food-related perks.

3. Get creative with gift ideas

Along with Valentine’s Day cards — first produced by Hallmark back in 1913 — it’s become customary for lovers to gift each other candy and flowers (usually roses).

According to the NRF, candy (57 percent), greeting cards (40 percent) and flowers (39 percent) are expected to be the most popular gifts for Valentine’s Day in 2024. And let’s not forget that 22 percent of NRF respondents chose to gift jewelry.

As you can see, Valentine’s Day can be pricey, especially if you choose more than one present for your loved one. To get more creative with your gift ideas, it may help to think of flowers other than roses. Not only are roses pricey, but they don’t last long. And they aren’t the only flowers suitable for Valentine’s Day, according to the Society of American Florists. Alternatives to consider include tulips, daisies and lilies, many of which may be cheaper than roses.

If you’re looking to cut back on Valentine’s Day costs, consider creating your own gift rather than buying one. You can find many inexpensive DIY ideas and kits available — like candle-making kits, cookie kits and embroidery portraits — that are thoughtful and won’t break your wallet.

4. Redeem your credit card rewards

You don’t earn credit card rewards for sport — rather, redeeming rewards is like a valuable rebate on your spending. And yet many people have unused rewards year after year. A 2021 Bankrate survey found that a third of rewards card holders never redeemed rewards in the previous year. If a penny saved is a penny earned, then failure to cut your expenses by using rewards is no better than leaving money on the table.

In some cases, hoarding rewards makes sense. For example, some people might want to accumulate more rewards for a specific reward, like an award flight or hotel room. This strategy is not without risks, however. Travel providers regularly devalue their loyalty programs, and your favorite travel currency may simply not be the same next year or at some point in the future.

If you’re not interested in redeeming your rewards for travel on Valentine’s Day, you might want to consider redeeming your rewards for gifts. For example, your credit card may allow you to redeem your rewards for gift cards, or you could put a new card’s welcome bonus toward a gift for a loved one. Also, make sure to check out your credit card’s limited-time-offer program — like Amex Offers or Chase Offers — for deals you can earn by shopping with select merchants.

5. Take advantage of gift cards

Gift cards can make a great Valentine’s Day present, as long as the object of your affection loves the merchant (and gift cards). However, be sure they don’t neglect using them — gift cards are easy to lose or forget about. Nearly half of U.S. adults (47 percent) had at least one unused gift card, voucher or store credit, according to a 2023 Bankrate survey, with an average value of $187 per person.

If you have any unused gift cards from over the holidays, you may want to consider using them to buy a gift for a loved one.

6. Set a budget and stick to it

There’s nothing wrong with pampering the person you love with gifts, as long as you know what you can afford and don’t go over your budget. Whether you intend to spend $60 or $1,000 on Valentine’s Day, make an itemized gift list and stay on track with your finances. Valentine’s Day might be the most romantic holiday of the year, but there is nothing romantic about going into debt for overshopping. Be realistic about what you can and can’t afford — and stick to your budget.

The bottom line

Valentine’s Day can be an expensive holiday, but you don’t have to spend a lot to impress your loved one — especially if you plan ahead, stick to a budget and think of some creative Valentine’s Day ideas. If you’re looking to save money, you may want to exchange thoughtful, homemade gifts rather than expensive gifts. Or try a low-key couples activity, like cooking dinner together at home. On the other hand, if there’s a new restaurant you’ve wanted to try, you just might want to use this occasion to check it off your gustatory list.