Some would argue that Valentine’s Day is just about the worst day of the year to go on a date. The good movies are sold out, the menus are marked up, the crowds are intense and the waiters are rushing you out the door. Fortunately, there’s a way to get the romantic Valentine’s Day experience without spending all of your money and losing your sanity. Here are five tweaks on the classic dinner and a movie date night that’ll help you save.
Enjoy an early bird special for all ages.
- Movie: The first showing of a movie is typically the best price you’ll ever get – cheaper even than a senior matinee ticket! These movie times are marked down because they are typically less in demand. However, it’s Valentine’s Day and President’s Day weekend so show up early or order tickets in advance.
- Dinner: Save the fancy food for dinner. After the movie, enjoy a cheap lunch by taking advantage of Valentine’s Day specials at fast food and pizza restaurants. For example, some White Castle locations provide Valentine’s sit-down service and deck the place out in prom-style red and pink decorations. Not great for a romantic dinner, but very good for a laugh. And some restaurants near movie theaters will give you a discount when you show your stub.
Buy gift cards in advance and save big.
- Dinner: You can save as much as 25 percent when you buy a restaurant gift card at a warehouse club. For example, Costco members can get $100 to Buca di Beppo for $74.99. Sam’s Club members benefit from a wide variety of options from P.F. Chang’s, Texas de Brazil, Outback Steakhouse, Chophouse, Red Lobster and more.
- Movie: Warehouse clubs also carry discount movie theater gift cards. If you’re not a member, check out gift card marketplace sites like giftcardzen.com, cardpool.com and raise.com. A recent search found theater gift cards for 10 to 17 percent off.
Opt for an Oscar movie marathon.
- Movie: Cinemark is offering a $40 Festival Pass to all Best Picture nominees during their Oscar Movie Week, which runs Feb. 13 – Feb. 22. On Valentine’s itself, your pass will get you into The Theory of Everything, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash, and American Sniper. For $35 at AMC, catch The Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash, Birdman and Selma.
- Dinner: Since you’ll be spending the whole day at the movie theater, you’ll probably have to sacrifice the romantic dinner but you can still save on popcorn. Use the Cinemark app to put your phone into Cinemode and get rewarded with concession stand discounts. But if you have time for a real meal, then try one of our Oscars-worthy recipes.
Create the romantic dinner and a movie setting at home.
- Movie: You can now stream many movies at home when they are still in theaters. Check for new releases and Oscar nominees in the iTunes store, Google Play or on demand from your cable provider. You could even set up a DIY movie night while you’re at it.
- Dinner: Cooking an extravagant meal at home doesn’t have to cost big bucks. Check the weekly ad for discounts on seafood, champagne, chocolate covered strawberries and other romantic dinner essentials.
Celebrate any day but Saturday, the 14th.
- Dinner: You love each other year-round, so beat the crowds and nab discounts. For example, some Melting Pot locations are offering a five-course meal with bottomless champagne for $99 per person on 2/14, but you can go Thursday, Friday or Sunday and get the same meal for $79.
- Movie: The movie will cost the same whether you go on Saturday or not but you can save in other ways. For example, many florists give discounts when you schedule flowers to be delivered on the 13th.