22 fabulous (but fabulously low-key) ideas for Valentine’s Day

valentine ideas

I like Valentine’s Day, but everything in me recoils from the expensive, over-the-top dramatics that you see on the commercials. I don’t want a Huge Romantic Gesture on February 14: no fancy steak dinner or two dozen roses. I’d much prefer some plain chocolate and a $5 bunch of tulips from Trader Joe’s.

If you can relate, this low-key list is for you:

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For him

1. Dollar Shave Club. Personal and practical. Subscribe now on his behalf, wrap up the first month’s shipment for February 14.
2. Sexy candle. Go for black pepper or Sherlock’s Study, which smells like tobacco.
3. Journal. If he’s a Moleskine kind of guy, get him a nice one, and inscribe it.
4. Action movie. As in, “I love you so much I will willingly watch an action movie with you.”
5. The gift of “permission.” I’m pretty sure I first read about this in The Tightwad Gazette when I was young, and it stuck with me. Has he been dying to buy tickets for the game, go skiing for the weekend, buy a new gadget? The gift is saying yes.

For her

6. The gift of plans. A time, a date, a place, a babysitter. Check out Shana’s post: she knows what I’m talking about.
7. Dinner. But please oh please, not dinner out on Valentine’s Day. Do I think that sounds like torture because I’m an introvert, or because that’s just common sense? I think it’s the latter, but correct me if I’m wrong in comments.
8. Books. Not just any book, but a thoughtful pick, or one she’s been lusting after? Absolutely.
9. Good lotion. A personal gift that’s dead-practical in February.
10. Chick flick. As in, “I love you so much I will watch Austenland with you.” (A real possibility, because it’s coming out on DVD on February 11.)

For the kids

11. The little things they love. For my kids, this means bubba yum and tic tacs.
12. Cute panties or boxers.
13. Novelty socks. Socks are Lucy’s thing, so this is an obvious choice around here.
14. Pocket warmers
15. … or love birds.
16. Lip balm. Go with this classic, or get a red tube and do it up like this.
17. Valentine paper airplanes.

Wanted for stealing my heart

For everyone

18. Adorable valentines.
19. Heart-shaped bacon.
20. Strawberries on a stick. (Am I the only one who thinks they look like hearts?)
21. Chocolate anything.
22. Cute decor. (That’s as fancy as it gets around here, folks.)

P.S. Check out the stocking stuffer list for more ideas, and my Valentine’s Day pinboard.

I’d love to hear your Valentine’s Day ideas in comments.

valentine ideas

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Leave A Comment
  1. Jillian Kay says:

    Thanks for the link to the paper airplane! I’m making one for DS. I used some free photo book coupons to make each kid one of their own. They love looking at their baby pictures, but I don’t want them messing up my books.

  2. Ana says:

    Now how to send this to my husband without it being too obvious….I would LOVE all the “for her” items and I am 100% with you—dinner out on Valentine’s day sounds about as much fun as going out on NYE (ummm…in case that wasn’t clear…not fun at all).
    I think the “action movie” is a GREAT idea….I’ll add that to my handmade cheesy Valentine’s card. The kids are getting a “special breakfast” (idea from “Happier at Home”), I’ll make them red and pink heart shaped pancakes and set the table with red streamers and chocolate hearts…

  3. Rebecca says:

    Great ideas! Dinner…if he cooks, it’s nice if it’s prepared in advance or after toddlers are in bed. Entertaining little ones outside of the kitchen while an elaborate meal is prepared takes away from the fun a bit. 🙂

  4. We’re going out for Valentine’s Day! I’m actually excited about it. It was hard to get a reservation though. Thank goodness for Open Table so you can see what’s available without calling around everywhere.

  5. Breanne says:

    We’ve gone out on Valentine’s Day before and it’s not my favourite either. I love the idea but only until I’m at the full restaurant with people waiting and looking awkward in heels.

    We have plans to try out a restaurant around Valentine’s Day and I’m planning a tea party with heart-everthing for my little girls on the 14th. =)

  6. Jeannie says:

    These are great ideas! My favourite thing to get on Valentine’s Day is definitely a treat such as chocolates or cupcakes. I always subtly (?) try to steer my husband away from things like plants (just one more thing to take care of!) and toward things like chocolate (fun for the whole family!).

    I’m fortunate that my husband works shifts and often has weekdays off: today he said, “I’m off on Valentine’s Day; let’s go skiing or snowshoeing or skating.” Although I have very little experience with the first 2 of those suggestions, I’m looking forward to taking advantage of our first “real” winter in many years, to do something outdoors together. And maybe the chocolate will follow!

  7. Sarah says:

    Thank you for posting these ideas. I’m obsessed with all the cute valentines that I’ve found on Etsy. Oofda – I could spend my whole paycheck.

  8. Anna says:

    I just got my husband a moleskin notebook today. 🙂 For my daughter- lip gloss. For my sons- angry birds toothbrush travel sets. I guess we’re not into a lot of red & hearts. 🙂

  9. We always try to avoid going out on Valentine’s Day! I love getting to go out, but everything is so crowded and overpriced that day. Sometimes we sneak out for Indian food (weirdly not crowded on the day itself) but since this year the kids are out of school I think we will just do a fun breakfast and stash a bottle of champagne in the fridge to open after the kids go to bed that night.

  10. Ginger says:

    You’re gift of permission reminded me of a post you wrote some time ago about giving your husband the gift of adventure. My husband used to enjoy riding his bike every day when we lived in California and trails were plentiful. We live in South Carolina now, and there’s a lovely trail, but you have to drive to it.

    I went out right away and bought him a bike rack for his car, and it was the best money I ever spent. He loves riding and that bike rack gave him the gift of adventure, beauty in nature, movement, and some some manly time alone.

  11. Courtney M says:

    “7. Dinner. But please oh please, not dinner out on Valentine’s Day. Do I think that sounds like torture because I’m an introvert, or because that’s just common sense? I think it’s the latter, but correct me if I’m wrong in comments”

    You are not wrong. As a prior server, here’s what I loved about Valentine’s Day:
    1. Guys (and girls, but mostly guys) feel the need to impress their dates: Bigger Tip.
    2. It will be busy for hours, and people will wait: More tips.
    3. Often, there is a special menu, with higher prices than normal (just like roses), and more splurges on appetizers and desserts: Bigger check, and tips for the same food.

    What I hated:
    1. Because it’s busy, and they waited, people will expect the best service, which they will not get. (Imagine all 4 of your children needing dedicated attention, in different ways, at the exact same time.)
    2. Because it’s busy, some people will feel the need to be macho, and complain about anything and everything. True Story: A guy complained, very loudly, about the dressing on his salad not being Hidden Valley ranch. Date was completely embarrassed.
    3. Because it’s busy, some people will feel the need to linger at their table. After all, if they had to wait so should the next person.
    4. The people are onry because they waited in a crowded lobby that does not have enough space, the hosts are onry because the tables aren’t turning as fast as normal, so reservations are waiting, the managers are onry because the wait is really long and guests are complaining, the cooks are onry because they are trying to push food as fast as possible, which results in errors typically, and redoing the dish. Which means the servers are caught in the middle, and will soon get pretty cranky.
    5. Because it’s so busy, I usually ended up working close to a 12 hour shift (lunch and dinner). My feet were tired, and my smile was long gone after about 6 hours of crazy.

    So, no. You are not crazy.
    There have been a few articles over the years that will advise you not to eat out on Valentine’s Day as well. And with Valentine’s Day on a Friday this year, both Friday and Saturday will be bad.

    • Anne says:

      I thought about this so much as we were planning our Valentine’s evening! Thanks so much for the pro tips. (We had pizza at home. It was delightful. 🙂 )

  12. Alyssa says:

    My hubby loves the dollar shave club! Good idea for a VDay gift 🙂

    Valentine’s Day is the last in a back-to-back string of birthday, anniversary, and holiday celebrations so we usually keep it low key! This year we are going to order in Thai food and binge-watch season 2 of House of Cards. I’m SO excited 🙂

  13. Mindy says:

    My favorite vegetarian restaurant used to have a dinner on Valentine’s Day. There was only one seating followed by a performance by a local singer/songwriter. You could byob or they offered red and white wine. It was always a lovely evening. My husband and I always put the largest possible group together for the evening.

  14. moj says:

    I got my girlfriend of 6 months a packet of *expensive and hard to find* liquorice, a monogrammed moleskin, and some small crystals in a heart-shaped box.

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