Love is in the air again…or maybe it’s just February. It can feel like every year, the Valentine’s Day plans people have get more extravagant, which can be stressful if you’re a grad student or don’t have a ton of money to spare. But the good news is that you DON’T have to spend a ton to have a wonderful evening with that special someone. Here are some ideas for February 14th, or any time you want to spend some quality time with your partner. (There are also some good ideas if you want to surprise the graduate student in your life, like a niece, son, or cousin!).

Netflix and chill (but really, just chill). We know what it’s like to be a grad student: short on cash, stressed, and pressed for time. Valentine’s plans don’t have to be fancy or elaborate. Why not find out what’s new on Netflix and make a plan with your partner to wear comfortable clothes, watch a movie or two (or even binge a season of a show), and order your favorite take-out?

Take a break. No, not THAT kind of break. If you’re both grad students, that can put an added stress on the relationship. If you’re both super busy (because the middle of February is often when things are really amping up in the semester), pick a time to take a dedicated break from work. Meet up and go take a walk for some fresh air. Have lunch at the place where you had your first date. Get coffee or tea and people watch for a bit. Simply spending time with someone you enjoy and laughing with them has health benefits, including stress reduction.

The element of surprise. If your partner is studying or working on their own thesis or dissertation, or has a work deadline they’re up against, what about surprising them with a snack or meal, along with a caffeinated beverage (if they drink it)? Or what about slipping a bag of snacks with a heartfelt note and a coffee gift card into their bag or briefcase before they leave in the morning?

Give back. If there’s a cause you or your partner believe in or feel strongly about, consider a small donation or volunteering with them. Whether the organization is local, national, or global, giving back is always a good thing.

Get sweaty. Exercise helps reduce stress, can help you recharge and focus on your work, and has a multitude of health benefits. What about taking an exercise class with your partner? If there’s no gym or yoga studio near you that offers single class passes, check out our blog post on yoga apps and videos, and choose one that works best for you guys. Afterwards, make a favorite meal or order your favorite take-out — you deserve it!

Check out the campus. If you’re on campus for Valentine’s Day or in a larger college town, there are often free or lower-cost activities available for Valentine’s Day. Make sure to do your research ahead of time, since these often require pre-registration and fill up fast.

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