It’s that time of year again, when the shops deck everything out in red and pink and insist you make grand gestures of declaring your love by spending money on food, drink, and treats.
Is it just me or is it all a bit nauseating? Surely showing someone you care shouldn’t come with a price tag! What if you’d rather not spend a lot of money? Or what if you’d rather show your love in a different way? The best things in life are free after all.
Let’s take a look at some simple ways you can let that special someone know that you care, all year round.
Go for a walk together
There are few things I enjoy more than getting outside and exploring the countryside. You can take this as seriously as you want, whether you want to scale the nearest mountain or just amble round your local beauty spot.
Being out in nature is a real mood-booster, and it’s fun to explore somewhere with your partner in crime. The fresh air will blow away the cobwebs, and give you a chance to appreciate each other’s company without the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
If it’s Valentine’s day then don’t use the naff February weather as an excuse not to go. Bundle up in your winter woollies and snuggle close. Take a flask of tea or soup with you to keep warm.
Not sure where you could go? Visit to your local information centre and find out if there are any parks or woodlands nearby that you can explore. Gov.uk has a handy widget that allows you to find a park based on your postcode.
You don’t need to be a fan of the countryside to get out and about. Get the bikes out of storage and cycle to a local town or city you’ve been meaning to explore. Don’t forget to pack some sandwiches!
Write a letter
You don’t have to be Shakespeare, with a sonnet for every occasion; being sincere and heartfelt is much more important. It’s nice to put your thoughts to paper occasionally, and many people appreciate getting a handwritten letter now that so much of our day-to-day communication is electronic.
If they’ve done something lately you particularly appreciate, tell them. Make a list of what you like the most about them. Or compose as many variations on ‘roses are red’ as you can think of, whether or not they rhyme.
If you’re not the eloquent type you could leave brief notes dotted around for your loved one to find, with various compliments written on them. And if you’re feeling artistic, try writing out your messages using faux calligraphy. The Postman’s Knock shows you how.
Give a massage
As hard as it is for me to believe, not everyone likes a massage. If your loved one is receptive to a good back rub, it’s an excellent way of giving them your undivided attention. It’s also a nice way to help them relax if they’re feeling stressed.
Make the effort to set the time aside. Turn the TV off and clear distracting clutter away. Light some candles and play some ambient music like this playlist I found on YouTube.
You don’t need expensive massage oils for this either. You can pick up coconut oil for around £1 at your local pharmacist, which is also great for your hair and nails. Olive oil is particularly good for neck and back aches. Let’s not forget good old fashioned moisturiser or baby oil!
Learn something new together
Try Futurelearn for a wide range of online courses. If you’ve ever thought about learning a new language, try the free app/website Duolingo – you’re more likely to pick things up and remember words if you have a partner to practice with.
Are you more of a crafty type? Try YouTube or Craftster for tutorials on crochet, knitting, drawing and more.
Make a playlist or mix CD
You might be showing your age here, but remember the mixtape you would painstakingly create for your crush as a teen, with every song carefully picked for its lyrics and melody? A good playlist is arranged in such a way that shows the inner working of your heart.
Yeah, I threw up a little at that too, but don’t deny it. You were right back there in your bedroom with your finger hovering over the record button. Your heart was pounding to think of how those songs will remind them of you forever, wasn’t it? Admit it!
You know how special a gesture that was back then, so what’s stopping you from doing the same now for the current love of your life? You could go full retro and put your songs on a cassette, but a CD might be easiest and you’ll have more room for more songs. You don’t even need to spend money on blank CDs – you can make your own personal playlist on 8tracks for free. Or, if you’re digitally-inclined, use a web service like Spotify.
Show your love in the kitchen
Cooking for someone is always a kind gesture, no matter what your skill level. You don’t even need to cook something super complicated, although making the effort to cook something new is sure to go a long way.
First things first, take a look in the kitchen cupboards and see what you’ve got going on there. Then, log on to supercook.com and type in what you have available. It’s pretty amazing what you can rustle up from very few ingredients!
There are recipes to follow on supercook.com, but you may prefer to have someone guide you through the steps. If that’s the case, get on YouTube and search for how to cook the particular meal you have in mind.
And lastly, because it’s the most important:
Listen up, and listen good
It’s time for active listening. When your partner has something to say, focus on them, not the flashing notification light on your phone, or the TV (you should probably still pay attention to the road if you’re driving though. And don’t forget to look before you cross the road if you’re out walking).
Do you notice how your partner’s voice sounds when they talk about their day, their hopes and worries? What makes their eyes light up or their shoulders droop? Listening is much more than what you do with your ears, and what you say back to them is just as important. When discussing things with your partner, reflecting their words shows that you’re taking on board not just what they say but how they’re saying it.
You might be wondering ‘er, what’s this got to do with Valentine’s Day?’. Well, probably not as much as the other things I’ve mentioned. It has more to do with your relationship across the whole year, and that will always count more than some hastily purchased flowers and chocolates from the local garage.
Love with your full attention and time as well as your heart. That’s what it truly means to show someone you care for free.