You Need Help: Rekindle the Flame for Less than $200 this Valentine’s Day

Q: Valentine’s Day is already weighing on me. My wife and I have been together for 6 years, married for 1.5, and we’ve NEVER done anything for Valentine’s Day, because we have been completely broke every year. We own a business together, and so we work together every day and then go home together and cook together and sleep together, and we’ve kind of fallen into a habit of work, make dinner together, go do our own thing (she goes to band practice and I go work on printmaking or do work for our business), and then we go to bed and repeat it all. Money’s tight again this year, but we really need something to change it up a bit. We’ve never even been able to go on a honeymoon. I need some ideas! And cheap ones! Let’s say top to bottom, less than $200. Any thoughts? We live in Pittsburgh, PA.


A: Congrats on your happy marriage and relationship! It sounds like you’ve built a solid and rewarding life together doing the things you love. That’s awesome! It also sounds like you’ve fallen into a daily routine that is a bit predictable, as many folks in long-term relationships do. Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to do something to, as you write, “change it up a bit.” Let’s get to it!

Book a Night Away from Home

Whether it’s a bed and breakfast, a hotel room, or an airbnb, stay the night in a pristine clean bed that is not your own, in your own city or nearby. When you’re in your own bed, doing your typical bedtime routine, it can be challenging to turn off your brain, forget the stresses of the day, and stop mentally reviewing your to-do list. Creating physical distance can help you both clear your mind and focus more on the moment… and each other. You don’t have the break the bank. Airbnb has whole apartments available in Pittsburgh for $100 or less. Just the act of packing your bags and checking in somewhere else is exciting, even if it’s not too far away. Bring supplies for a romantic night in. Candles, massage oils, a romantic playlist, strawberries and champagne, sexy underthings, maybe a new sex toy or game you’ve been wanting to try. You know, treat yo’self. Turn off the cell phones. Don’t answer work messages. Don’t talk about work. Be “on vacation” for one night.

Snuggle Under the Stars in Your Living Room

star projectors

It’s a little chilly to go stargazing in PA right now, so have a romantic night under the stars in your living room or bedroom. Order a indoor light star projector, like this Smithsonian version ($48.22 on Amazon) or this other one ($124 on Amazon). This isn’t like the nightlights you had as a kid or the glow stars you had in college. This star projector is super realistic and pretty and will make you feel like you’re under a real night sky. Turn on the projector, turn off the lights. Put on some romantic tunes. Roll out a cuddly blanket and snuggle up for some indoor star-gazing. Pack a picnic basket full of finger foods and wine and yummy desserts. Make out like teenagers all snuggled up under the (man-made) heavens.

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Enjoy a Staycation

The Pittsburgh skyline via Wikipedia

The Pittsburgh skyline via Wikipedia

When was the last time you saw the sights in your own city? Take a day or the whole weekend to do fun stuff in or near Pittsburgh. Be a tourist in your own city. Since you have a small budget, go see those museums and shows and cool things that you would normally not spend money or time on. Eat at a trendy restaurant. Take lots of pictures, like you would if you were on a real vacation. Set a budget in advance, then set out to spend it! For once, just enjoy going out and doing fun stuff together without worrying about money.

Send Her on a Romantic Treasure Hunt

My partner surprised me a treasure hunt once. It was the cutest. Here’s how it goes. Create a treasure hunt around your home, around your neighborhood, or your city. You’ll give the first clue to your wife, which will set off the trail of clues she will need to follow to get to the big prize. So, you need clues, a trail, and a big prize at the end. The big prize can be a romantic gift. It can be dinner with you. It can lead her to the spot where you went on your first date or had your first kiss or proposed. The clues start with a clue that you give her, either by texting her or taping it to the door before she gets home or having a friend deliver it to her or slipping it into her bag when she isn’t looking, etc. Of course, you can just hand it to her, too. This first clue should give her an idea of where to look for the second clue (inspiration for clues: here and here). Have fun! One special touch my partner did for me was that each clue also had a word or phrase that described something my partner loves about me. It was a romance winner!

Find Your Rhythm with a Private Dance Class

Sign up for a private dance class together and learn to tango or ballroom dance or belly dance or swing dance or whatever you think would be fun! Private = all for you and minimal embarrassment as you learn the steps. One private dance lesson for a couple is typically less than $200. Call around for quotes. This studio in Pittsburgh, Absolute Ballroom Dance Center, offers private classes and, according to some internet research, used to have a same-sex ballroom class! One class isn’t enough to become an expert, but you’ll have fun pressing your bods together and you’ll have a little routine you can show your friends at your next wedding reception/party/brunch.


Whatever you do, I hope you have a fabulous and special Valentine’s Day together! If you have more ideas for $200 or less unique romantic dates, share them in the comments!

KaeLyn is a 37-year-old (femme)nist activist, word nerd, and queer mama. You can typically find her binge-watching TV, standing somewhere with a mic or a sign in her hand, over-caffeinating herself, or just generally doing too many things at once. She lives in Rochester, NY with her spouse, a baby T. rex, a xenophobic cat, and a rascally rabbit. You can buy her debut book, Girls Resist! A Guide to Activism, Leadership, and Starting a Revolution if you want to, if you feel like it, if that's a thing that interests you or whatever.

KaeLyn has written 219 articles for us.

16 Comments

  1. These are such cute ideas! I want to book an airbnb for one of me and my sweetie’s monthly girlversaries (we’ve been together 7 months now, and we try to do something special with each other each month). We don’t usually spend much money- Sometimes we go out for burgers or bacon cheese fries, sometimes we lay around in bed and just whisper all the things we love about each other for an hour and fall asleep by 8:30pm.

    This Valentine’s Day falls close to our girlversary so we’re celebrating both together, and I’m in charge this month. I’m lucky that VD lands on a Saturday this year- I’ve already told her she needs to make other plans for the day so I can set things up (she has a brunch date with a friend). We first started dating in the summer, and we went on so many picnics. On our third date, she took me to the park near my house with some cured meats, wine, and glasses for the wine (?! people don’t just drink straight from the bottle?). Later she shyly confessed that it’s the night she fell in love with me, even though I still too awkward and anxious to let her touch me.

    I’m going to pack a picnic for us, and when she gets back from brunch, we’ll hit the road. We’ll drive around our beautiful Montana roads, and when we get hungry, we’ll find a pretty spot to park and have a picnic in the back of her subaru (and probably have car sex on some deserted road). I’m lucky that gas prices are so low right now, since I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, and the roads are finally clear enough that it’s safe.

      • Thanks! I actually just found out ten minutes after I posted this that Sleater Kinney is playing in Boise on Monday, so I bought her and her bff tickets to that! We can still do a nice (very cheap) picnic for VD, but some of her local friends haven’t been very kind lately, so I’m sending her to Idaho for some much-needed bff time (they haven’t seen each other in months)!

        Bonus: We can brush up on our sexting while she’s gone.

  2. Star projector was the thing missing from my indoor picnic plan! Thanks :)
    Missus and I, (of 8 years), have been poor students until recently (I still am, just now a poor grad student.) and taking a holiday in the spare room has been fun. Sounds weird but it’s a bit like a hotel/b&b if it has a spare bed/futon/sleeping object and you fix it up romantical like. Great if, like us, you can’t get easily get a pet sitter and are on a budget.

  3. My girl and I are definitely doing the staycation V-Day. Since we both live with our parents (ugh, college costs) we decided to go the book-a-room route. Our parents are loving, supportive people who respect our privacy, but we need some serious away time.

    Also, quiet-challenged activities such as flogging may be at the heart of our instant decision to book a room…

    Love the star projector; my girlfriend loves all things space-related so this is an excellent gift idea!

  4. Alas, no valentine gift ideas because I have no valentine miss. I suppose I’m overlooked because I’m over sixty. Well, my libido doesn’t know that. How am I suppose to find a sweetie at my age??? I’m not a wrinkle job. I exercise. I’m a very interesting person if anyone cared to inquire. It’s sad really. I’m just a skilled lover left out of the scene. I’m not new to this. I have 40 years experience in lesbianity.

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