smart spending

10 great -- cheap -- ways to win her heart

7. Candlelight dinner with Chef You. Surprise her with a full-course candlelight dinner at Chez You. If you're an absolute novice in the kitchen, so much the better. Search online for an uncomplicated romantic meal you can prepare for two; veggie or meat marinara sauce over pasta, tossed salad, garlic bread and a simple tiramisu for dessert are probably within your reach. No guy meals allowed (pizza, steaks, Spaghetti-Os, etc.). Uncork a bottle of your -- or her -- favorite wine, light a few candles and serve her with your best suave waiter accent. She'll eat it up!

8. Go on the record. Tell her a story. Read her some treasured poetry or the lyrics to her favorite love songs, or even try to sing a few -- you don't need to be an accomplished vocalist, she'll love you for trying. Record it in MP3 format and load it onto her iPod or burn a CD for her drive to work. Or reminisce about your favorite trips, funny moments or those little details about her that still make your heart melt. Don't overproduce it; just be yourself. She'll love it. Be warned: Mix tapes are a guy thing. Do not -- repeat, do not -- give a mix tape of any kind to your Valentine. This includes cell phone programming. It falls into the same category as lingerie, computer games and malt beverages, all of which are really gifts to you.

9. Sweep her off her feet. If you dance, you already know where to go. If you don't, this will sweep her off her feet. Check online for free evening dance lessons in your area: salsa, ballroom, country two-step, swing, whatever. If you like it, it might start a whole new hobby for you to share. Even if you're the world's worst dancer, she'll be touched that you cared enough to try.

10. Don't just stand there, 'Say Anything.' In the annals of I'm-a-fool-for-love movie moments, John Cusack's Romeo-with-boom-box pose in the 1989 Cameron Crowe classic "Say Anything" ranks right up there with Bogie and Brando. You know the scene -- Cusack as loser Lloyd Dobler stands outside Ione Skye's bedroom window holding that boom box over his head, letting Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" do his love talking for him. Granted, it takes a little manly nerve to crank up your sweetie's favorite Michael Buble or Corinne Bailey Rae track to full volume, hold that boom box over your head outside her window and bring her entire workplace to a full stop. Classics are classics because they work. She'll love you, even as you're escorted off the premises.

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