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Down and Out on Valentine's Day

Given the economy, this seemed like a fitting story.

It's February 14th, 2001. Evan and I are both broke. B-r-o-k-e. We weren't yet married, and lived in a crappy apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens. An apartment that to this day gives my mom chills.

I was a dot-com darling turned dot-com unemployed, and Evan was playing Claudio in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. He made $400 dollars a week, and I made about the same teaching SAT prep to fifth graders (you read that right) at an academic factory in Chinatown. There were lots of beans and rice in our cabinets, and pitiful gazes at barely-above-negative bank statements.

We were as cynical about Valentine's Day as they come, considering we were still in that post-college, existential/fight the man phase, and didn't have money to burn on cliched tokens of affection. So we decided not to use our last $50 to go to dinner, buy chocolates and bears, or hire a mariachi band to profess our love. Instead, we challenged ourselves to come up with a little fun for less than $20.

We did it. And I will remember the night forever as one of the best times we ever had.

So in honor of the crappy economy, and with hopes that I can inspire someone else to have a memorable evening on $20, here is what we did.

Movie: The Bicycle Thief
Total cost: $2.99 rental

Still one of my favorite films. It hits me even harder now that I am a parent.

Dinner: Pasta with tomatoes, garlic and olive oil
Total cost: Roughly $6 for the ingredients
Recipe: Saute 4-5 cloves of garlic in 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add 2 cans (28 oz) of diced tomatoes. Simmer for about 5 minutes, and serve over the pasta of your choice.

This was a staple recipe for us during the broke years. Way better than jarred sauce, and about the same price.

Wine: Smoking Loon
Total Cost: $6.99

Costco usually stocks Smoking Loon, and I think it retails for $7.99 now. We usually have a few bottles on hand. Evan's dad knows wine well, and introduced it to us as one of the best bangs for the buck.

Dessert: Whoopie Pies
Total Cost: Pantry items, so pretty much cost us nothing

I am from Lancaster, PA, and whoopie pies are a favorite dessert there. If you've never tried one, you absolutely must. Must. Must. Must.

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