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Making 'cheap' romance memorable
Valentine's Day needn't be about a splash of cash. In fact, it might be a big hit if it's not.
February 13, 2004: 9:27 AM EST
By Jeanne Sahadi, CNN/Money senior staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) Quick: what are the three most romantic gifts you've ever gotten?

I'll bet at least one or two of them cost very little, if anything at all.

Some of the most memorable gifts I've ever received were a 2-cent piece of bubble gum (honest), a homemade chocolate cake, a home-cooked meal, and a book sent to me by interoffice messenger from London.

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The point is, pricey displays of affection aren't the only ways to convey love and commitment.

In fact, there's plenty you can do that may get you far more mileage with your sweetheart long-term than competing with other preening couples for a table at the best restaurant on Valentine's Day.

In a thoroughly unscientific survey, I asked a number of friends and coworkers, "What are some of the most romantic things you've given or received (that are not X-rated) but which made a lasting impression and didn't cost much?"

Not all the responses were what you might describe as traditionally romantic. But because they all spoke to giving (or receiving) something meaningful to them or their partners, they got the stamp of amorous approval.

Here are some of my favorites from their lists and mine:

Feed each other early and often. Make your partner breakfast, dinner or a picnic lunch. (Now, if you're with someone who doesn't like food .... well, there's really no good advice except to ask yourself, "Why?")

Dress like a French maid. Or a rodeo cowboy. Just make sure the outfit doesn't get in your way as you clean the bathroom, empty the dishwasher, pick up your dirty socks or do the opposite of whatever it is you normally do (or don't do) around the house that annoys your partner to no end.

Send a long-distance smooch. True, a blown kiss really can't compare to the knee-buckling kind. But if you just can't be on hand to deliver the real thing, why not allude to good things to come? Ship chocolate kisses overnight.

Compile your love. Frame a favorite photo of the two of you. Create a scrapbook or photo album of your relationship (on paper or CD-ROM). Or burn a CD with songs you both love.

Host a personal version of "This Old House." Repairing something your partner hates to deal with can score big. And for the technologically challenged, there's nothing more touching than having someone else take care of installing your T-1 line or programming your PC.

Nothin' says luvin' like stick figures. C'mon, 5-year-olds aren't the only ones who can draw. Make each other Valentine's Day cards.

Make like Nigella Lawson or the Naked Chef. If you're hooked up with a culinary maven, you might assemble a book of favorite recipes from meals you've eaten together or fantasized about. Give yourself bonus points if the ingredients are known aphrodisiacs.

Set up a scavenger hunt. Write 10 or 20 short love notes to your honey, and hide them all over the house.

Don't underestimate the power of cliche. These moves may be oldies, but they can still do the trick: scatter rose petals over the floor, dresser and bed or lay a trail of petals to a drawn bath lit by candles.

Don't underestimate the power of novelty. Does your better half love beer? Tour a local brewery. Do animals make your sweetheart swoon? Try the zoo. Or give a "rainy day" box filled with new ideas for romantic things you can do together on a rainy day.

Abandon your (cinematic) principles for a night. You're a "Master and Commander" kind of guy or a "You've Got Mail" kind of gal. Why not lay down your sword for a night (or quietly yield to the competition) and rent your partner's favorite chick flick or blood-and-guts fantasia, and watch it together. Don't forget the Twizzlers.

Jeanne Sahadi writes about personal finance for CNN/Money. She also appears regularly on CNNfn's "Your Money," which airs weeknights at 5 p.m. ET. Please let her know what you think about the issues raised in this or any other Everyday Money column by e-mailing her at  Top of page

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