15 sexy tips to save on Valentine's Day
The sexiest way to save on Valentine's Day? Do the seemingly impossible: Spend less and get more.
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What you need to know first: The best red roses are ice cold. "If the product is outside of a cold chamber, which is 32 to 36 degrees, they lose life for every minute they're outside that cold," warns Christine Boldt, executive vice president of the Association of Floral Importers of Florida. Hence, this advice:
- Never buy from the side of the road. They'll last only a day or two, because roadside vendors don't get the best product. "Those flowers are what we in the industry call seconds," Boldt says.
- Don't buy online. You can save money and score good deals online for almost anything -- except flowers. Why? Boldt answers that question with her own: Have you ever seen a refrigerated UPS or FedEx truck? No.
- Do buy from grocery and even warehouse stores. Ask if those stores keep their flowers refrigerated. If so, then they can be just as long-lasting as those at a florist.
- Look for tight buds. In other words, look for flowers that don't look good at that moment -- because they'll blossom in a few hours and will stay that way for many days. If those buds are already open, they won't last as long.
- Use the food. If your flowers don't come with a tiny packet of flower food, ask for it. And use it. That packet isn't a gimmick -- it really does help.
- Don't be afraid to ask for replacements. If you buy a jar of spoiled peanut butter, you take it back to the grocery store. Florists and other experienced retailers who sell flowers know that they sometimes stock buds that are duds. If you've taken all this advice and they die early, ask for new ones.
What you need to know first: "Our No. 1 money-saving tip is: Stay out of the restaurant and bring your celebration home," says Elizabeth Mascali, one half of an event company called Party Bluprints. But doing that right means:
- Eat elsewhere. Romance means special, and eating in the kitchen doesn't cut it. "Make a move from the table to a cozy spot in your home," Mascali says. If you have a fireplace, she recommends spreading a blanket in front of it and dining picnic style.
- Burn for your love. Let's face it, flames are sexy. "Get a fire lit, whether it's a fireplace or candles," Mascali says.
- Put the petal to the metal. "Make one red rose work for you," Mascali advises. "Take the petals off the rose and sprinkle them all throughout the area. It really adds a luxurious look and feel to your celebration."
- Don't pay double for your bubbles. Most people can't tell good champagne from bad. So why bother? Mascali's business partner, Dawn Sandomeno, suggests, "Keep the cork on the champagne and pop the prosecco. A really good bottle will run you $15 -- a fraction of the cost of champagne." What the heck is prosecco? It's a sparkling white wine from Italy and, unlike some American-made sparkling wines, it's not too sweet and cloying.
- Flirt with dessert. The last thing you want on a romantic evening is a heavy dessert. The best solution is also a cheap one: sorbet. "It's inexpensive and refreshing," Sandomeno says. But it can look pricey and exotic if you buy several flavors. Sandomeno's sexiest combo: Tangerine and pomegranate with a sprig of mint.
What you need to know first: Set a budget and go with your gut. "Don't take the allure and the romance out of the purchase and turn it into buying stocks and bonds," says Jeff Malvin, president of the Beverly's Jewelers chain. "Just buy beautiful." That means:
- There's more in store. We told you not to buy flowers online. Well, that goes double for diamonds. Many online diamond dealers tout that their stones are certified, so you don't need to see them. But if you're spending a lot of money, comparing stones in person and under magnification is important. Use the Internet as a pricing guide, but if you can get similar prices from a local jeweler, you're better off buying locally. For more on diamond buying, see "A man's guide to buying diamonds in 5 simple steps."
- Certify before you buy. Speaking of certificates, once you like the look, go by the book. Most people know diamonds come with certificates that attest to their "four C's" -- cut, carat, color and clarity. But even gold has marks you need to look out for. "The manufacturer's trademark must be on that item, close to the karat stamp," Malvin says. "So both of those must be readily visible. And don't ever buy a gold chain out of someone's trunk."
- But don't go certificate-crazy. "The young lady is not going to wear the certificate," Malvin says. "So get the most beautiful stone you can for your budget." And if you get the hard sell from any jeweler, leave. "If you walk in and don't have a good feeling," Malvin says, "go to the next place."
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