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Valentine's Day: How to be romantic on a student budget


Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and if you’re coupled up then the question of what to do (if anything) is probably imminent.

Although, on a day deemed by many to be a fake, card company-invented holiday it can seem unnecessary to spend a fortune on declarations of love, when you could show your affection every day. So here are a few suggestions that could help to make the day special, while still keeping it loan-friendly.

The card

A great way to combat the commercialism is to boycott the card shops altogether. Relationships are not generic, so why buy a generic card? Making your own card is far more personal and romantic. There’s no reason to be nervous if you’re not naturally artistic; you can create anything from a collage to a funny Photoshop (or Gimp, which is a great free equivalent) image to express your feelings. Fill it with a poem (silly or serious), a romantic quotation, or an in-joke for an even more intimate touch.

The present

Maneuvering purse strings is not necessarily synonymous with pulling at heartstrings; a sentimental gift such as a filled photo album or handpicked collection of poetry can strike the perfect note. If you’re not a sentimentalist, it doesn’t mean that your only option is to be unoriginal: if you’re musical, compose a melody; if you’re literary, write some verse; if you’re tactile, give a massage. However, if you do decide to purchase a present after all, you may wish to surreptitiously tease a price bracket from your partner so as to avoid any awkwardness.

The dinner

The way to a man’s heart is supposedly through his stomach, and it’s not unusual for women to be seduced by a little wining and dining as well. Home cooking can be a great success, with websites such as BBC Good Food giving delicious dishes with easy-to-follow steps for those who are cautious in the kitchen. By all means, if you’re comfortable with cooking then you can dazzle your date with something more complex!

A carefully chosen wine to compliment the meal can act as the perfect touch, and if you’re feeling adventurous then an aperitif can start the evening with a sparkle. If you weren’t the first tenant to shotgun the use of the kitchen, or you do decide to eat out, it is common for restaurants to offer a prix fixe for Valentine’s Day, or run special offers to entice couples. Nevertheless, it is likely that many restaurants will not accept vouchers or be running their regular deals, so checking in advance, rather than relying on previous knowledge, will help to sidestep any embarrassment over the bill.

The ambience

Candles and incense cost next to nothing and can immediately set the romantic tone, although you many have to give these a miss if you live in halls, as they break fire regulations! Perfectly permissible, however, would be a carefully crafted playlist of romantic - but not gushing - music. Add to this a well-presented table with a classic single rose (should cost around £1) and it would be hard to go wrong.

The little extras

It’s often the small, personal gestures that we find most touching; romantic notes left in secret places (and undiscoverable by housemates) or a chocolate heart placed somewhere thoughtful could gain you extra brownie points. If you feel up to braving the great outdoors, Chinese fire lanterns can be bought for under a fiver, or made with the help of YouTube, and will be sure to ignite the evening.

The possibilities are endless for high-end, low-budget romance, and these are just a few to spark ideas. If you’re looking to spend a little, then mix and match with a luxurious meal and home-made gift, or vice versa. True, it doesn’t have to be a special occasion to show a little affection, but Valentine’s Day is a good excuse to show even more affection. If you disagree with the commercialism that can be attached to the occasion, then it’s even more reason to go the extra mile with hand-crafted, personal gestures.

I'm a second year English student at Durham University. Follow her on Twitter here.