How to Enjoy V-Day Without Maxing Out Your Budget

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Valentine's Day is right around the corner and that means one thing: planning the perfect date. For many people, however, this also means maneuvering around a tight budget. Fortunately, there are plenty of unique and wallet-friendly ways to have a memorable evening with your significant other.

Take a Cooking Class

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Instead of spending money on an overpriced, overhyped, and overcrowded restaurant, why not sign up for cooking lessons? Check online or in your local newspaper for opportunities. Not only is this a great way to spend time with your significant other, but it's also a good way to brush up on your culinary skills. If you're feeling especially brave, try to apply what you've learned in your own home and cook up something special on February 14th. Find a simple recipe online and cook dinner for your significant other.

The Food Network, Paula Deen, and Rachael Ray all have some great recipes for both the beginner and experienced chef.

Attend a Local Sports Game

Is your significant other a fanatic sports fan? Don't have the dough to spend on a professional game? Treat your partner to a game at the local university or college. Afterward, head out to a local dive bar to throw back a few beers or maybe even take your turn on stage for a few rounds of karaoke. Even if you're not that interested in sports, your significant other will undoubtedly appreciate the gesture.

Local Sight-Seeing

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Sometimes, the strangest attractions are in your own backyard. If you're planning on a weekend getaway, why not spice it up with something a bit unusual? Instead of visiting the usual tourist attractions, make it a priority to not only check out places you've never seen, but places with an offbeat appeal. You could stumble upon something intriguing you never would have known about otherwise -- and at the very least, you might find something new to laugh about with your lover. Visit or to see what your city has to offer.

Tour Your Local Winery or Brewery

Visit your local winery or brewery, as many places offer a free or relatively cheap tasting once the tour is over. You'll be in for an educational experience as well as a nice little buzz. Check out to find your nearest location.

Local Shows and Concerts

All right, so you weren't able to get tickets to see your favorite band. Why not support a local artist instead? Check out Myspace or the Arts and Entertainment section of your newspaper for free or relatively inexpensive local concerts and show listings.

Board Game Night

Who says board games are for kids? If you're one of those couples who aren't into overly romantic dates, then test your competitive side and invite friends over for a night of Apples to Apples, Taboo, or Scene It. Turn it into a potluck event and have everyone bring a main dish or dessert.

Explore the Great Outdoors

Don't want to spend all day indoors? Then head to the local ice-skating rink. Both Bryant Park and Rockefeller Center in NYC have opened their skating rinks for the winter season. Open from 8 am-10 pm on Sunday through Thursday and 8 am-midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, Bryant Park offers free admission and free locker usage. Although they offer special lunch time and group rates, Rockefeller Center is the pricier of the two, charging $12 on Monday through Thursday and $16 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

If you're feeling especially adventurous, try rock climbing lessons. If you're fortunate enough to live in an area that's immune to the winter chill, hit up the local bike trails or go for a scenic hike.

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Visit a Museum

You may already have monthly museum tickets, or if you're a high school or college student, you likely have access to discounts or free museum passes. A museum date is a great V-day date idea for those in a more casual or new relationship. Plus, checking out an interesting new exhibit may give you and your crush some intellectual topics to discuss beyond the typical small talk. Check the museum's website or your student affairs office for details.

Scavenger Hunt
Unleash your creative side and plan a scavenger hunt around the city for your significant other, creating clues for every stop along the way. Make the final stop at a special place, that is meaningful to your relationship, such as your favorite restaurant or the site where you first kissed. Don't forget to bring the camera!

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