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Worried about over-paying for a cheesy box of chocolates and a hot pink teddy bear this February 14th? Think again. We’ve put together a unique list of creative Valentine’s Day date ideas that cost as little as $20 – some could even be free! Remember, it’s the experiences we remember in life – not the boxes of chocolate. These budget-friendly date ideas are sure to leave your sweetheart swooning for more!

Make it rain! With balloons that is…

On as many small pieces of paper as possible, write short memories, things you appreciate about your sweetheart, or sayings that have a special meaning to only the two of you. Then, fold up the pieces of paper and put each one inside a balloon. Enlist your friends for some help blowing up the balloons or rent a helium machine for an afternoon. Fill up your loved one’s room or car with these balloons and wait for them to be surprised!

Be a kid again – but lose the crowds

Try an off-season activity, like going to the zoo or theme park, playing putt-putt golf, or even visiting Disney World if you have the time and resources. You’ll avoid the crowds and lines that usually plague such places. There’s something special about having the whole place to yourself!

Pack breakfast in a backpack

If you work non-traditional hours, this idea might be perfect for you and your valentine. Wake up before the sun, put on your athletic shoes, and head out on a nearby trail with headlamps or flashlights. In your backpack, bring a thermos of coffee, individual bottles of juice, a backpacking stove (these can be purchased for as little as $25 online), a few eggs, and maybe some bacon. As the sun comes up, cook up your breakfast and sip your coffee together as you watch the city wake-up!

Recreate a restaurant at home

This one will take a little effort beforehand and you’ll need to enlist a friend, family member, or your kids; but don’t worry – it’s worth it! First, avoid having to make reservations by pre-ordering and picking up dinner from your favorite restaurant. You can also check out the deli section of your local supermarket. Then, decorate your house like the theme of the restaurant. For instance, if you’re having Italian, put up an Italian flag, hang olive leaf garlands, and put candlesticks in wine bottles. The cheesier the better! Then, have your friend, family member, or child dress up like a waiter and use the accent of the country your home and food is themed as, which would be Italian in this example. Print out menus of the night’s selections and treat your sweetheart to a night out…without ever leaving your home.

Celebrate before (or after)

Avoid the rush of Valentine’s Day and do something special the day before or day after! If you and your date agree on the day after, you’ll be able to take advantage of post-holiday markdowns on Valentine’s gifts, decorations, and flowers. You can also do a Valentine’s Day lunch or breakfast instead of a dinner. Entrees can be less expensive and many restaurants offer a lower priced lunch menu.

Keep an eye out for coupons

Watch coupon sites for unique experiences like glassblowing, painting, cooking, or dancing classes and purchase one for you and your valentine. Your city may have its own discount site, or you can visit sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, Yipit, Scoutmob, Thrillist, and Bloomspot. You may not be able to do the activity on Valentine’s Day, but you can present it as a gift on that day. Or, buy restaurant and experience coupons ahead of time and use your coupon/s for a full day of discounted fun!

Go on a local food tour

Some call it “culinary tourism,” but we like to think of a food tour like a vacation for your mouth. On a food tour you walk, bike, ride, or drive with a group of people and a tour guide to a pre-determined set of restaurants. Do an online search for food tours in your city and you’ll find a host of companies that put their own unique spin on these delicious adventures. Some are themed around the history of a city while others are themed after a certain type of liquor or mode of transportation.

Recreate your first date or meeting

How did you two meet? What was the first movie you watched together or first restaurant you went to as a couple? Whether you danced at a bar, met at a coffee shop, or had lunch at the corner deli, recreate your first date to the best of your ability…including the clothing!

“Find ye buried treasure!”

Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game that requires a GPS device and a sense of adventure. Using GPS coordinates, you navigate to a location and then attempt to find the “geocache” or hidden container at that location. According to Geocaching.com, there are millions of caches around the world just waiting to be found. Visit Geocaching.com to start discovering the hidden treasures around you, and pack a picnic for some romantic flair!

What are you doing for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day? Whatever it may be, remember that simply taking the time to express your appreciation for your significant other is enough. They likely won’t remember your gift in the years to come, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel. Maya Angelou put it best when she said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

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