Brilliant Frugal Living
Okay, where did January go? Did anybody get the license plate as that month FLEW by? Personally, it’s just a hazy memory of blizzards, snow days and torpedoed New Year’s dieting resolutions blurring together this point. The great news is that Valentine’s Day is upon us! WOO HOO! And yes, Frugalista or not, I am chick enough to be totally sucked in by this utterly Hallmark holiday. Any day of the year that specifically steers men towards gifts of chocolate, romantic dinners, flowers, lingerie or (let’s face it) anything for the ladies is going to get a rousing WOOT-WOOT! in my book. Here’s my only gripe – Valentine’s Day gifts are insanely overpriced. Yes, I’m as desperate for a heart-shaped box of candy as the next chocoholic, doesn’t mean I want to spend $20 a pound for it! Luckily, opportunities abound for V-Day gift givers to look like a romantic hero without having to sell his white horse. Read on, Romeo.

Gorgeous Roses – Guys, I don’t care how liberated your ladies appear to be, trust me, it’s built right into a woman’s DNA to adore these heavenly flowers, myself included. Send two dozen to Gloria Steinhem and her heart will go pitty-pat, I kid you not. This gorgeous, classic gift is also one of the highest priced gifts out there on February 14th. Online flower websites are offering two dozen red roses delivered to your house for $140, not including tip. Well, here’s MY tip: get to your nearest wholesale produce warehouse! Yes, produce warehouse. Granted these local goldmines are more famous for their top notch, low price fruits and veggies, however they also often have absolutely beautiful flower selections. At the produce warehouse near us, gorgeous long stem roses in beautiful colors of your choice are – ready for this? – $7.00 a dozen. Go online to find the one nearest you, then drive by on your lunch hour, pick up a gorgeous dozen (or two!) in your sweetheart’s favorite colors, and save yourself $100.

The Chocolate – I know what you’re thinking. Heart-shaped boxes of candy. So clichéd. So ridiculous. So FABULOUS. Oh yeah, come to Momma. However, $20 per box (in the respectable chocoholic size) is completely insane. I also take issue with those “combination” chocolate boxes where half the contents are magnificently compatible with your tastes, but the rest are things like chocolate covered nougats that always feel like they’re going to pull out a filling. Not cool. For the chocolate gift givers out there, do yourself a favor and hit the local dollar store, where adorable empty candy boxes and tins await you. Frugalista’s hint to the wise – this is a great opportunity to prove the “more is more” mentality in chocolate gift giving. (Translation: get the BIG box.) Then hit your local discount grocery, where gorgeous gourmet chocolates are waiting for you to purchase in bulk, often for $3 or less per pound. Best of all, you can customize the gift to the recipient’s taste! Does your Valentine adore chocolate covered cherries? Go for a full pound (or better yet, hello, five pounds) of those! Truffles? Vanilla Cremes? Coconut clusters? Go for it! Another hint from my experiences – if you’re putting these boxes together yourself for friends, be sure to purchase at least one extra pound of goodies. For, ummm, quality testing. Yeah, that’s it.

Lingerie – Okay guys, coming right out with some insider information here. Victoria’s Secret commercials to the contrary, I know precious few women who enjoy receiving lingerie that not only reveals every holiday rum ball consumed 6 weeks ago, but also puts on spectacular display every conceivable inch of untanned skin we own in the dead of 18-degree February. That being said, if you’re currently keeping company with a 17-year old Sports Illustrated model who bought herself some lipo for Christmas and recuperated with some quality time on a sunny, no-carb Carribean cruise, this paragraph is for you. Specialty lingerie stores may have a great selection, but your local top notch Consignment Shops will have fabulous collections as well, for easily 90% off retail. Head there first. Not only will the original sales tags no doubt still be attached to the Consignment Store offerings, but you may even come across some still in their untouched, expensive boxes.

A Romantic Dinner – Think back to a fantastic, romantic expensive restaurant you went to, back in the day when you were trying to impress each other and pretended money was no object. Those days. Can you recall anything your sweetheart enjoyed that night? Some fantastic pasta dish, maybe a great dessert? Okay, write it down, then call the restaurant. Ask to speak to the Chef, and rave about how fantastic their food is. Explain how you can’t make it out to their restaurant for Valentine’s Day this year, but how you’d love to recreate it at home for that special someone. Folks, I’ve done this no less than FOUR times, calling the head chef at expensive Inns & top notch restaurants, and the Chef never hesitates to give out the recipe! They’re fabulous! Once I called to inquire about a fantastic Fettucine Alfredo, one was a rustic chicken dish with amazing sautéed vegetables on the side, two other recipes were for to-DIE-for chocolate dessert recipes. The most delightful shock? These dishes are EASY to prepare with even moderate cooking skills. Think about it, if they want to create these dishes at a high quality for their guests time & again, it needs to be a relatively simple-to-follow recipe. When your honey gets home on Valentine’s Day, dazzle them with a candlelit dinner, featuring their favorite dish from their favorite romantic restaurant. This time, you’ve got money in the bank when dessert is finished.

The Valentine’s Day cards – Is it my imagination, or were these on store shelves around January 5th? Don’t get me wrong. They’re poetic, they’re beautiful, they’re filled with romantic sentiment that our tough guys would rather fling themselves off a cliff than write themselves. I get all mushy in the knees at this flowery prose myself. These cards clearly have their place in society, especially amongst our adorable yet otherwise romantically-mute menfolk. Unfortunately, when a five-cent piece of paper (pretty words or not) goes for $6.95 retail, it gives me a serious itch between the shoulder blades. Gentlemen, I would like to suggest an idea so terrifying that only the bravest of you will dare attempt it. Write something yourself. Be modern and send it via email, or get wild and write it by hand. Something short and sweet, and depending on how brave you are, it can range anywhere on the romantic scale. Your Valentine’s Day message could be a passionate essay on how her blue eyes still remind you of a perfect Tuscan sky (this rates a solid 10 on the romantic scale, with extra credit if you go to Altavista.com and translate it into Italian first), to “You’re still the kickinest bowling partner ever!”, which will score you a solid 7 (9 if you include a 2-pound nougat-free chocolate assortment with your note). Be creative. Be daring. Be a dork. Valentine’s Day only comes once a year!

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