As Valentine’s Day approaches, couples are all-too-willing to break the bank in order to show how much they care.

According to a survey by credit card company American Express, the average person spends about $200 on Valentine’s Day. But overpriced dinners and crowded restaurants don’t have to define your experience this Feb. 14.

Here are some creative ways to showcase your love while keeping the cash and credit flow to a minimum.

Hit the ice

Weather pending, skating rinks are always full on Valentine’s Day weekend. Skating is a fun activity couples can bond over — at absolutely no cost. Top off the afternoon or evening with a hot chocolate and your day is sure to be a success. After all, the experiences you share are what mean the most, not the price tag.

Get cooking (or baking)

Rather than brave the crowds and costly menus, making a homemade meal for your loved one is sure to make waves. The time put into preparing the dinner shows how much you care — no matter how simple the selection. Pull out the fine china, buy some wine and print out a homemade menu to give your meal presentation that extra something special. Similarly, skip the standard store-bought chocolates for a homemade dessert. Find out your partner’s favourite cookie flavour and bake it for a fraction of the cost.

Explore the unfamiliar

With the hustle and bustle of daily life keeping us occupied, it’s easy to frequent our routine hangouts and areas during our downtime. To show off your sense of adventure, find an area in the city your mate isn’t familiar with — and go exploring together. Be sure to find a dessert place nearby to complete your outing on a sweet note.

Get creative

Instead of the typical box of candy, use your talents to make your sweetheart a homemade gift. If you’re an artist, work on a drawing; if you’re a musician, compose a song. Burning a CD with songs that have meaning to you or remind you of your significant other can work just as well. While this will cost you in time, your credit card statement will thank you at the end of the month.

Write a letter

At a time when we’re connected to computers and phones 24/7, it is rare to get a message via the written word. Whether or not you’re a fan of writing, sitting down and composing a letter will surely be a welcome surprise. The best part? Expressing yourself is free (and a healthy part of all relationships).

Sing their praises

If you and your sweetheart love to sing — or just want to try something different — karaoke bars have small rooms that can be rented out by the hour. With a TV, a microphone, an endless supply of songs and the privacy of not embarrassing yourself in public at your disposal, rates are very affordable. While you might be used to expressing yourself via credit card, let your voice do the talking this year. If nothing else, it will be a Valentine’s to remember.

Do good together

A bit unconventional, shift the focus to the less fortunate this Valentine’s. Volunteering together is a good way to give back — and to see a different side of your better half. At no cost, you’ll be making a difference in the lives of others while spending quality time together. And after all, who doesn’t love a humanitarian?

Vanessa Santilli

Vanessa Santilli

Vanessa is a Toronto-based journalist and freelance writer. She’s a regular contributor to, where she writes on all topics money-related. A graduate of Ryerson University’s Bachelor of Journalism program. Visit her website at or follow her on Twitter