(Ladies, some of these might work for you too!)
Traditional: Dinner & A Movie.
Guys, I hate to say it, but this is like the one time of year where you get to attend a chick flick. Save the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie for your birthday or something. I know many couples that "compromise" on Valentines. He gets to choose the restaurant, and she gets to choose the movie. I think that is a great idea. Another couple I know alternates years for planning the "date night" all together. He'll plan their Valentine's Date one year, and she do the next, etc. Also, if going out is out of the budget, then what would totally make her smile is if YOU cooked dinner. I'm talking table cloth, candles, the works. Put the kids to bed early - or send them to grandmas! Rent a flick from the Red Box, or watch an old fav that you two haven't seen in a long time.
This is awesome if a) you can't cook b) you don't have a lot of money and even better if c)you have a fireplace. Finger foods are awesome here. Splurge on the fresh strawberries. Get some cheese. Make some sandwiches... maybe something a little fizzy to drink. Lay a blanket on the floor in front of the fireplace and remind her all of the reasons you love her. And cutting out little PB&Js with a heart-shaped cookie cutter is just soooo cute!
Fast Food Frenzy.
Ok - this one is a little out there, but I've actually done this with a boyfriend of mine once. I wrote out little "clues" or "riddles" and the answer was a menu item from a local fast food joint. He was only allowed to get THAT one item thru the drive thru. Finally, by the time we were done we had a "full-course" meal and dessert too! We didn't spend very much, and trying to get him to figure out the clues provided for lots of entertainment, which was the best part.
As far as gifts go, if you decide to do something, what about framing a nice photo of the two of you. Or getting one of her from your wedding day umpteen years ago? Or how about a pic of your names in the sand? (if you can find sand somewhere!)
Write her a note using those chalky little ant-acids disguised as candy. What are they - like 29 cents a box? Make her a little note. Tell her why you love her. Of course, pair with something else you know she wants... like that gift card to the book store, or for a massage or the homemade coupon for a Girls Night Out while YOU watch the kids. Or go bigger with your candy gram and use a poster board and attach candy bars.
Ok, even if you don't go for the candy, write her a romantic love letter. Tell her how much she means to you!
There are all sorts of things you can do. Get her little tokens that remind you of certain memories you have... Like maybe a shell reminds you of a summer vacation you took together. A certain candy bar might remind you of the time she craved that particular candy bar while she was pregnant with your first child, etc. Wrap up each little item separately, and attach a little note explaining the symbolism.
If all you do is get her a dozen roses, then accompany the flowers with a dozen reasons you love her.
I think we touched on this one before, but what about a gift certificate for a massage? Or a Couple's Massage?
Night Sledding & Hot Cocoa
If you live where it is cold, take her night sledding and then for some hot cocoa and a slice of pie or something afterwards. Feeling like "kids" again can be a lot of fun!
Recreate your First Date.
Even if that date was bowling and ice cream. Talk about the memories. Maybe even "pick her up at the door".
Drive and a View.
Take a drive into the "country" and find a cliff or a nice place with a view. Or -- if you're daring, go up to a make-out point like you did when you were back in high school! hahaha!
Local Performances or Art Galleries
Ditch the traditional movie. Check your local paper for local plays or theater productions. Even a high school drama production might be fun. Many times a library might have an art display going on. Maybe there's a performance at the local college. Check their website. Many of them range from $0-$10!!! And if it isn't any good, you can just enjoy making fun of them!
True Story: I knew this couple from back in college. As young students, money was tight. He was sitting in the library on campus on Valentine's Day and was feeling down that he didn't have anything to give his new bride; not even a spare dollar to buy her a card. Looking down at his college ruled notepaper, he begin to doodle, and then had an idea. Using stick figure drawings he wrote a love story; their love story! He folded and creased and folded and creased and tore out several "half" sheets of paper for his "story book". He even drew a "cover". It started out with the "once upon a time", and each "page" was devoted to pinnacle moments; how they met, their first date, the moment he knew he loved her, the proposal, the wedding, and things he loved about her. Then, borrowing the stapler from the library, he put his "book" together, and rushed home to make her dinner. He picked a wildflower on the way (which was totally illegal, cuz it was in Hawaii) and when he got home he placed the flower in the cutest cup they owned, since they didn't even have a flower vase, and placed it in the center of the table. Anyway, he cooked dinner and set the table and placed her "gift" at her place setting. When she saw it her smile broadened across her face and she squealed. She read each page with delight, giggling over the stick figure drawings and crying over the sentiments behind them. She absolutely loved it. She has kept that little Valentine's Day "book" tucked away in her journal ever since and pulls it out every year!
I guess what I am saying is, it doesn't have to be extravagant. In fact, most women just want to feel like you've put some thought into it. Remember, think about her, and think outside the box, but don't think tooooooo hard. KISS (keep it simple, stupid) :)
What was YOUR best or most romantic Valentine's Date or Gift ever?