It may be Valentine’s Day, but red roses and restaurant reservations are NOT mandatory. And romance needn’t be expensive.

Thoughtfulness beats all when it comes to romance. Doing something you know your sweetheart will adore is a thousand times better than racking up the credit card bill for overpriced flowers on one day when everyone else is buying them too.

As Paul Oyer puts it so beautifully in his article How to Be a Better Valentine, Through Economics

“Start by asking yourself, “What do I want my partner to think upon receiving my Valentine’s present?”

Suppose you buy your significant other a dozen red roses or a box of chocolates. She is likely to think, “All right, he cares about me enough to buy the obvious present.” Sixty-four percent of men buy flowers on Valentine’s Day, so giving flowers signals that you are like two-thirds of men. This is roughly the equivalent of writing “hb” on your mate’s Facebook wall on her birthday: it shows that you remember, and that you are willing to spend approximately seven seconds conveying that fact.

So how do you say “Honey, I really care about you, and you are very special to me”? Put your resources where your mouth is. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but to credibly signal you really care, do something personal.”

Stay home, stay away from the crowds, spend some time together alone.

But whatever you do – acknowledge the day. It’s important you show your partner that you are thinking of them and that you appreciate them.

And then do it again every other day of the year as well.

Here is my Complete Guide to help give you some inspiration!

Chapter 1: Thoughtful, Non-Commercialized Gifts
Chapter 2: Date Ideas That Don’t Involve Restaurants
Chapter 3: Romantic Recipes
Chapter 4: Thrill Him
Chapter 5: Captivate Her

Chapter 1: Thoughtful, Non-Commercialized Valentine Gifts

Paying three times the price for red roses one day out of the year rubs me up the wrong way (that’s a little massage pun for you).

Some of these DIY options show you care, just because you put in a little bit of extra effort.

Free Punny Massage Printables (IOU a Massage)| Melt: Massage for Couples
Handmade Valentine’s Day Cards| Better Homes & Gardens
Classic Valentine Printables | Nest of Posies
How to Write a Love Letter | Art of Manliness
14 Romantic Gifts From Significant Others Who Really Pay Attention | Huffington Post
How to Make Any Gift Voucher a Romantic Present | Melt: Massage for Couples

Chapter 2: Date Ideas that Don’t Involve Restaurants

Like New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day is what we can commonly to refer to as “amateur night” – there’s something slightly uncomfortable and forced about sitting in a sea of tables-for-two on a set menu on Valentine’s night. Stay away from the crowds and do something at home or something completely different.

Give the Gift of Massage | Melt: Massage for Couples
50 Most Romantic Movies to Watch as a Couple | To Love, Honor & Vacuum
52 Ridiculously Romantic Date Ideas for any Couple | Melt: Massage for Couples
21 Date Ideas We Think You’ll Love | Marriage 365
Random Date Ideas Generator | $30 Date Night
What We Were Up to On Valentine’s Day | A Blog About Love
12 Secrets to the Perfect Picnic | Design Mom

Chapter 3: Romantic Recipes

Whether it’s a breakfast in bed or a three-course dinner at home, you’d be remiss to not make something utterly romantic and special for Valentine’s Day. We’ve rounded up some amazing recipes. If it’s dinner, make the effort to light some candles and dress up for the occasion. If you’re baking treats, package them in a beautiful tin and gift wrap them. Breakfast in bed? Serve alongside piping hot coffee, fresh OJ and pop a single flower on the tray too.

Dinners
Restaurant-inspired Crab Salad Recipe | I Am A Food Blog
Heart Shaped Pizza Recipe | I Am A Food Blog
Beetroot Gnocchi with Lemon Pesto Recipe | What’s Cooking Good Looking
Veggie Valentine’s Day Recipe Round Up | Love and Lemons

Romantic Treats/Desserts
Chocolate Heart Cake with Raspberry Buttercream | The Vanilla Bean Blog
Lemon Meringue French Toast | I Am A Food Blog
Raw Vegan Hazelnut Truffles Rolled in Goji Berries | What’s Cooking Good Looking
Rose Petal Dark Chocolate Bar | Pure Ella
(Edible) Valentine Confetti | Nest of Posies
The Laziest Valentine Cake Ever | 5 Second Rule

Romantic Breakfasts
Baked Almond Pancake with Strawberries and Citrus | The Year in Food
Blueberry Pomegranate Chia Breakfast Parfait | Pure Ella
Valentine’s Egg in a Basket | Reclaiming Provincial

Chapter 4: Thrill Him

Men. I find them really hard to buy for, especially if we try and overlay our own version of romance onto what we think they want.

Here’s a secret: If a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then a bouquet of bacon “roses” or a Man Sandwich will surely make him fall even more in love with you. I can practically guarantee it!

Man Food: Afternoon Beer | I Am A Food Blog
A Steak Dinner at Home | Dinner, A Love Story
The Marlboro Man Sandwich | The Pioneer Woman
20 Gifts Guys Secretly Want for Valentine’s Day | Business Insider
A Bacon Bouquet | Our Best Bites

Chapter 5: Captivate Her

Women love romance. This doesn’t always mean over-the-top gestures. There are some things that will always go down very well – Lingerie, flowers (she’ll be more flattered if you pick her favorite flower rather than just standard roses… what did she have in her bridal bouquet? What was the first bouquet you ever bought her?), perfume, shoes… or just a deep, loving kiss (especially if her Love Language is Physical Touch)

What Women Want: Top Ten Romantic Gestures | The Telegraph
A Guide to Buying Lingerie for Your Girl | Complex
The Meanings of Flowers | The Language of Flowers
9 Facts About Kissing | Huffington Post

This is an evolving, crowd-sourced book. If you have a resource or chapter idea you’d like to see added, just Tweet or Facebook us and reference the “Valentine’s Day Guide” to make a suggestion. If you like the article, please remember to share it on social media!