Last minute plans on a budget

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Picture a moment you know well: mid-semester panic. You’re buried up to your ears in midterm papers, projects and exams. It’s the second week of February and you’re up late one night finishing a research paper. You type the last sentence, sigh, close your laptop and stretch — and then check your phone to see what time it is, now that you’re about to roll into bed. It’s 2 a.m. on Feb. 14. You wonder if you should text your girlfriend. No wonder she’s been suspiciously quiet lately. The panic builds, but never fear! If you are swamped with school or burdened by an empty wallet, here are some last-minute ideas for a romantic Valentine’s Day on the cheap.

South Congress

South Congress Avenue is a date night virtually prepackaged into a street. Start your evening at sunset on the South Congress Bridge and watch Austin’s famous bats take flight. Then, wander farther south down SoCo, stopping at the “I love you so much” graffiti on the wall of Jo’s Coffee to take a cute couple photo. Have dinner at The Mighty Cone food trailer as you watch fellow V-Day strollers, and, of course, grab a red velvet confection from Hey Cupcake. Then, swing by a convenience store for a six-pack of your beverage of choice and head west on Barton Springs Road to end the night with a round of Peter Pan Mini Golf.

Estimated spending: $30 to $40

Mount Bonnell

Feeling adventurous? Enjoy the warm Texas winter and pack a picnic basket full of goodies to enjoy at Mount Bonnell. Grab a cheap bottle of wine from H-E-B and fill your basket with fruit, crackers and cheese to enjoy together as you watch the sunset.

Estimated spending: $10 to $20

On campus

If you want to save gas money, staying on campus has its charms. Start the night off with the University Unions Student Events Center Film Committee’s Blockbuster Film Series at 6 p.m., screening Pitch Perfect. Then, head over to the Union Underground to enjoy a round of the cheapest bowling in Austin. After the two of you have worked up an appetite, walk just a few blocks into West Campus and enjoy the brand new trailer food park, Rancho Rio Eatery, on the corner of 26th and Rio Grande streets. After you’ve filled up on all the trailer food you can handle, walk a few blocks north to Polkadots Cupcake Factory (28th and Rio Grande streets) for cheap, delicious dessert.

Estimated spending: $20 to $30

Stay at home

Staying in is often just as romantic as going out for a fancy dinner. Whip up a quick and cheap meal like pasta with alfredo sauce and asparagus, with cookies or brownies and ice cream for dessert. Since you’re saving money on dinner, splurge for a bouquet of daisies — avoid roses, as they tend to be overpriced. If you want to be extra cute and crafty, you can create a book full of romantic coupons your partner can turn in, or turn a used deck of cards into a “52 Things I Love About You” flipbook. After dinner, have some wine and watch a few episodes of “30 Rock” on Netflix.

Estimated spending: $15 to $25

Happy hour

Don’t let a midterm the next day rain on your Valentine’s Day — there are plenty of cheap, quick happy hour options around Austin. El Arroyo has $1 margaritas every Thursday, and Lavaca Street Bar and Grill hosts Bacon Thursday, where you can order a $2 Bud Light and get free, unlimited bacon.

Estimated spending: $10 to $20