Feb 2, 2024

How to Get Through Valentine’s Without Breaking Hearts or Your Budget

Ellen Duggan's guide to being sentimental without splashing out

Ellen DugganAssistant Magazine Editor

Ah, yes. Valentine’s Day. Because nothing says love like spending half your rent money on your partner. Eternal bliss notoriously depends on you getting them that box of chocolates. The key to matrimony is to possess enormous amounts of cash (as Jane Austen so notably recorded). That leaves those of us who are broke in a very, very unfortunate position. Obviously, there’s no way we could actually love our partner unless we are willing to bankrupt ourselves for them. If that doesn’t suit, guess you better break up!

All things said, Valentine’s Day is a really sweet opportunity to give your partner something that they care about and to spend some time with them. Or, alternatively, to have a movie night with your flatmates. (Or, given that Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday this year, to go to mass.) So we here at UTZine have compiled a list of things you can do this Valentine’s Day that DON’T involve spending crazy amounts of money.

Crafting is key


If I had a form of useful skill (knitting, baking, welding, bookbinding), I would be a much wealthier woman — not only because I would actually have a means of making money in the world, but because I would never buy anyone any gifts ever. I would simply create them. A one-of-a-kind gift that you’ve put thought and effort into will always mean more to someone than something they could easily get for themselves. Plus, they’ve got something to remember you by forever — and what’s more romantic than that?

Trip to the farmer’s market

If someone brought me on a surprise trip to the farmer’s market for Valentine’s Day and bought me a coffee and some form of warm bread, I think I would lose my mind and propose on the spot. Dublin is home to many wonderful markets, including my personal favourites in Herbert Park and Dún Laoghaire. Tell your partner that you’re taking them on a surprise trip at the weekend, get onto the bus, and experience the glory of loose fruit and veg, delicious baked treats and small book stalls and jewellery stands. Top it all off with a hot chocolate and a walk on the seafront… a dream date, all for under €20.

Cook them a meal

While being treated to a meal at a fancy restaurant is something very few people would say no to, it can be kind of harsh on your wallet. So why not see what you can whip up in the kitchen? Prepare the food, get a bottle of wine in Dunnes (or steal one from your family home) and have a quiet night in with your partner, complete with the beautiful meal you’ve just cooked for them. Plus, if you have leftovers, that’s lunch covered for the week.

Have a girls’ night in

Alright, we get it, someone loves you! No, yeah, of course I’m fine, why do you ask? But just because some of us aren’t coupled up it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get to celebrate all the beautiful different forms of love in our lives. Gather your nearest and dearest (preferably one of whom has several subscriptions to different streaming services) and celebrate how much you all mean to one another. Watch a stupid movie! Have a crafting night! Bake a cake! Make a PowerPoint presentation on a topic of your choice! The world is your oyster.

Make them a scrapbook

Possibly the most beautiful and thoughtful gift I have ever received from someone was a scrapbook filled with photos, with little notes detailing the person’s thoughts at the time the photos were taken. If you want to make your partner feel adored, there’s no better way to produce a heartfelt gift that doesn’t cost the earth than going to Boots, printing off a few photos, and glueing them to the pages of a second hand book. Get some coloured sheets of paper to provide a caption for each picture and you’re sorted.

Bring them to the family farm and get them to feed the lambs

Okay, so maybe this one’s just me.

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