How to do Valentine's Day on a student budget

Groupon can be a lifesaver, and who needs gifts anyway?

Valentine’s Day is approaching fast and while Cupid's arrow is on the lookout for its next victim, the holiday can be a stressful time for students who may not have the cash to spoil their significant other. 

The average American is expected to spend $143.56 on V-Day this year, according to the National Retail Federation. But the holiday isn’t all about showering a partner with gifts, and there are many ways to celebrate without breaking the bank.

Coupons for the win

For those who aren’t afraid of a good coupon, Groupon is a lifesaver. The site boasts hundreds of deals for restaurants and activities in Tempe, so the cost of a night out can be cut in half or more. 

Movie tickets, escape rooms, paint nights, knitting classes and paintball sessions – Groupon has everything imaginable, perfect for all Valentine’s Days, from tame to adventurous.

Conner Propst, a mechanical engineering junior, suggested Tempe Town Lake as an inexpensive date location.

Pedal boats and kayaks for rent at $23 an hour (or cheaper on Groupon) make for an exciting date on the water. Propst said couples should go at sunset and bring some snacks for maximum romance. Just watch out for the dead fish

Staying in is the new going out

As far as his own night goes, Propst said he plans on ordering Thai food, setting up some candles in his room and binging Planet Earth with his girlfriend of almost a year.  

Ashley Tobin, a criminology sophomore, plans on a night in with her boyfriend as well. While Tobin said she is working as a server on Valentine's Day, in order to make some good holiday tips, she and her significant other are doing a movie night on the 15th.

“We’re just both kind of in a little bit of a financial bind right now, so we just wanted to do something smaller,” she said.

Tobin suggested couples make a meal together at home instead of spending money on a fancy dinner out. She said she and her boo often have date nights where they plan a meal to cook at home together.

“Valentine's Day isn’t about how much money you spend or what fancy places you go to – it’s about showing affection and love to whoever it is you want to show appreciation for,” Tobin said. “We just enjoy each other’s company.”

For a quick rendezvous between classes, there are many spots on campus that make for a cute picnic setting. 

The not-so-secret Secret Garden is a retreat from busy campus life with more than enough shade and grass to make for the perfect picnic. Grab some Chick-fil-A from the MU and feed each other waffle fries – what more could you need?

It's the thought that counts

The cliché Valentine’s Day gift is a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers, but a dozen red roses can set a person back around $50. 

Jaslyn Ravenscraft, a journalism sophomore, said that she and her boyfriend of three years decided to skip the gifts this year. 

“This year we’re not going to exchange gifts or anything just because we want to try and save money,” she said. “There are ways to have dates that are pretty cheap and still feel special.”

Ravenscraft said the couple picks holidays throughout the year to focus on spending time together instead of splurging on gifts. But when they are giving gifts, she said her go-to gift is something small but thoughtful, like someone's favorite candy.

She said she appreciates something thoughtful much more than something that has material value. While it might be something small, it shows that her boyfriend put effort into listening to what she likes.

“It’s the thought that counts, you know?” she said. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @mackinleyjade on Twitter. 

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