affordable romance en-US Affordable Flowers for Valentine's Day (or Any Day) <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/affordable-flowers-for-valentines-day-or-any-day" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Bouquet" title="Bouquet" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>A lovely bouquet of flowers is one of the most common Valentine's Day expenditures. Flowers really are a luxury item &mdash; they aren't something that most people buy regularly. This is partly because floral arrangements are so expensive &mdash; even the less-than-perfect arrangements that you get from your local grocery store. If you plan on buying flowers for your significant other this Valentine's Day, there are ways to spend less and still get a beautiful bouquet. (See also: <a href="">14 Valentine's Desserts That Hit the Sweet Spot</a>)</p> <h2>Avoid the Premade Arrangements</h2> <p>If you need to save some serious money this Valentine's Day, then you actually need to avoid the pre-made arrangements at your local grocery store (or online!). Florists are ready weeks ahead of time with pre-made floral arrangements for Valentine's Day, the cost of which can run the gamut from reasonable to bank-breaking. If you can afford a <a href="">professional florist</a>, by all means, splurge on a bouquet that will knock the socks off your lover. But if you really need to watch your wallet, don't buy the big bouquets that are specifically created for this Hallmark holiday. Nine times out of ten, the price is more than triple what it would be on any other holiday, and you end up paying for a lot of fill, like ferns and other greenery that may not be that attractive.</p> <p>Instead, buy a bunch of flowers that isn't already arranged, and do the arranging yourself. Here's how.</p> <h2>Choose Underrated Flowers</h2> <p>Some flowers have been so misused over the years that people have an almost innate aversion to using them &mdash; the problem is that these flowers are some of the nicest and most affordable: <a href="">alstroemeria </a>and <a href="">carnations</a>.</p> <p>&quot;People have a knee-jerk reaction to alstros and carnations because of how they have been used in the past,&quot; says Miles Johnson, owner of <a href="">Fiori Floral Design</a>, <a href="">Lavender &amp; Vine</a> Florists, and <a href="">R. David Adams Flowers</a> in Seattle. &quot;But if they are used on their own, without other flowers, the effect can be striking. Pick up two bunches of alstroemeria, place in a vase with some lily grass, and you will have a beautiful arrangement that will last a long time.&quot;</p> <p><img width="605" height="402" src="" alt="" /></p> <p><em>Alstroemeria</em><strong><br /> </strong></p> <p>Carnations have typically been seen as a cheap alternative to &quot;real&quot; flowers, like roses, but carnations have two very important qualities, besides the low price: scent and longevity.</p> <p><img width="251" height="350" src="" alt="" /></p> <p><em>Carnations</em><em> in a Mason jar</em></p> <p>&quot;Carnations should almost never be used with other flowers,&quot; explains Johnson, &quot;unless they are providing a particular pop of color or texture that only they can provide, such as a deep, dark purple in a <a href="">pavé arrangement</a>. Carnations look great massed together as a single flower in a bouquet. Cut the stems short and tuck them in together closely.&quot; Choose a shorter vase or jar to accentuate the compact feeling.</p> <p>Other flowers that are often overlooked on Valentine's Day? Hydrangeas, which come in dazzling colors, last for a long time, and can stand alone in a vase or add fullness to a bigger bouquet.</p> <p><img width="605" height="403" src="" alt="" /></p> <p><em>Hydrangea photo courtesy of <a href="">photofarmer</a><br /> </em></p> <p>If your loved one enjoys the scent of flowers, then look no further than stargazer lilies. They can be more expensive than other bouquets (you might pay $12 for a sprig), but the heady, spicy scent is worth every penny. Buy two sprigs and skip the filler &mdash; keep the bouquet simple and fragrant.</p> <p><img width="605" height="540" src="" alt="" /></p> <p><em>Stargazer lily<br /> </em></p> <p>While roses are very pretty, skip the long-stem red roses and choose a bunch of &quot;spray roses&quot; &mdash; they come in a variety of shades, with many dozens of blooms, and are often half the price of the Valentine's Day rose selections. Sure, the stems are shorter and the blooms are smaller, but they are also more interesting and varied than your standard bouquet rose.</p> <p><img width="605" height="402" src="" alt="" /></p> <p><em>Spray roses </em>&mdash;<em> $20 for over 100 blooms!<br /> </em></p> <h2>Select the Unexpected</h2> <p>Roses are such a symbol of Valentine's Day that they've pretty much become a cliche. But what if your significant other isn't into the norm? Look beyond the standard offerings and consider something more unusual.</p> <p>Thistles<strong> </strong>come in lovely shades of green, blue, and purple, and are increasingly easy to find in floral departments at major grocery stores &mdash; a couple of sprigs shouldn't cost more than $11.</p> <p><img width="605" height="471" src="" alt="" /></p> <p><em>Purple thistles and dark purple carnations</em></p> <p>Is your love a bit prickly? Get him or her a potted cactus instead of cut flowers. If your darling has a green thumb, then a beautiful orchid might be just the thing. Does your honey spend more time in the kitchen than in the garden? Buy bunches of organic herbs at your grocery store, tie together with twine, and place in a simple mason jar with a little water &mdash; a fragrant bouquet of edible herbs. A spray of eucalyptus might appeal more to those Earth-y types than regular flowers.</p> <h2>Seek Out Unique Vases</h2> <p>Never buy a vase at the same place you buy your flowers, unless you find an incredible steal. The vases sold at floral shops and grocery store floral departments are usually poorly made, incredibly expensive, or both. Instead, use a vase that you already have at home, or find a cool-looking alternative.</p> <p>Miles Johnson recommends mason jars, <a href="">milk glass vases</a>, and unusually shaped vases like glass cubes. Check out vintage and thrift stores like Goodwill for old-fashioned and unusual glasses, vases, and teacups, or go to large discount retailers like <a href="">Target</a> and Walmart for more modern and exotic vessels.</p> <h2>How to Arrange a Bouquet</h2> <p>A beautiful bouquet can seem like a daunting project, but it's actually fairly simple. Just use the following tips:</p> <ol> <li>Florists employ a bevy of tools to create their beautiful bouquets, but Miles Johnson says that beginners only need a sharp knife, floral tape, and some flower food. &quot;Knives are always better for cutting flowers because they don't compress the capillaries the way clippers or scissors will, so the flowers will last longer,&quot; says Johnson. Floral tape can be replaced with Scotch tape in a pinch.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Fill your vase halfway with clean, cold water, and add the flower food (this should be provided to you when you buy your flowers &mdash; if not, ask for a packet or two). Mix until dissolved.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Remove any leaves that would be submersed in water &mdash; the leaves decay quickly and make the arrangement die faster.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Using the tape, create a grid across the top of the vase, so that stems can be inserted in the gaps in between. The grid allows you to position blooms in a symmetrical manner. It's also easier on the stems than using floral foam.</li> </ol> <h2>Bouquet Accessories</h2> <p>Although a simple cluster of one or two types of flowers is generally enough, if you are feeling creative, you can certainly bulk up an arrangement with a few floral accessories.</p> <p><strong>Pine Cones</strong></p> <p>Wrap wire around base of <a href="">pine cone</a> and create a wire &quot;stem&quot; so that the pine cone can be set securely among the flowers.</p> <p><strong>Glass Christmas Bulbs</strong></p> <p>Similar to the pine cone, create a &quot;stem&quot; using some wire and insert glass Christmas ornaments (gold or pink) among bright pink blooms.</p> <p><strong>Branches</strong></p> <p>Curly willow and blooming branches like witch hazel make beautiful additions to floral bouquets and also provide dimensional interest. You don't have to buy branches &mdash; you can get them from your own yard or neighborhood.</p> <p><strong>Paper Hearts</strong></p> <p>Well, it IS Valentine's Day, after all. Cut out several sets of paper hearts from whatever paper or spare material you have (<a href="">newspaper</a> makes some pretty hearts), and glue to both sides of the top of a wooden stir stick (the kind you use for coffee). Place throughout your bouquet.</p> <h2>Should You Buy Locally Grown Flowers?</h2> <p>Attempting to purchase flowers that are grown locally is admirable &mdash; it cuts down on your carbon footprint, because the majority of flowers available in the U.S. come from Central and South America. Those regions have hot weather and longer growing seasons, to say nothing of incredibly cheap labor. This makes it tough for U.S.-grown flowers to compete on price. Miles Johnson recommends buying local flowers in the late spring and summer, when the cost difference drops significantly.</p> <p>If you really want to pull together a bouquet of <a href="">locally grown flowers</a> for Valentine's Day, your options are limited (unless you live in more tropical climes yourself). In some areas, tulips are an inexpensive option, as bulb flowers are the first to hit the market. They'll probably be grown in a hothouse, but they might not travel as far.</p> <p><em>Are you a flower-arranging maniac? Have any tips on how to put together a great, inexpensive bouquet on Valentine's Day (or any day)? Tell us about it in the comments!</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Andrea Karim</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-7"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">25 Gifts You Can Make Today</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">20 Great, Free Gift Ideas</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">5 Reasons to Use Your Outdoor Furniture -– Inside</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">20 Awesome Uses for Milk Crates</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">No-Sew Ways to Update Your Wardrobe</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> DIY Lifestyle affordable romance flowers ideas for valentines day Mon, 13 Feb 2012 16:41:39 +0000 Andrea Karim 876939 at 12 Cheap First Date Ideas <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/12-cheap-first-date-ideas" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src=" date.jpg" alt="12 Cheap First Date Ideas" title="12 Cheap First Date Ideas" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>My husband and I celebrate our third wedding anniversary this week, and it&rsquo;s had me reminiscing about all the fun dates we&rsquo;ve been on together through the years. We&rsquo;re both frugal people (for our anniversary date, my husband got a Groupon), and some of our best memories are dates where we didn&rsquo;t spend much money.</p> <p>I always smile when I remember those creative first dates that we went on, which set the tone for a fun and adventurous relationship. Never did the word &ldquo;cheap&rdquo; cross my mind on those early dates, even though they were unarguably inexpensive. We were too busy enjoying each other&rsquo;s company and having fun to think about money! (See also: <a href="">8 Cheap&nbsp;Date Ideas</a>)</p> <p>With that in mind, here are a few ideas for inexpensive first dates. Just remember, focus on your date and on getting to know him or her. It worked for us!</p> <h3>1. Have a Sunset Picnic</h3> <p>On one of our very first dates, my future husband and I rode our bikes to a nearby park. We settled down on a riverbank, and my husband pulled an entire meal out of his backpack! He lit candles, assembled some delicious chicken wraps, and uncorked a bottle of wine (this was in a country where drinking in public areas is legal). We enjoyed the food and talked as the sun went down. The atmosphere was perfect, and I was impressed that he had put so much thought and effort into the date.&nbsp;</p> <p>Why not try doing a sunset picnic of your own? If you can&rsquo;t bring wine, bring sparkling juice instead, and decorate the picnic with a few candles or flowers.</p> <h3>2. Go to a Jazz Club</h3> <p>Meeting for a drink is a great low-key way to get to know a new date. Make it a little more out-of-the-ordinary by meeting at a jazz club. If the bar doesn&rsquo;t charge a cover, then you&rsquo;ll only be set back the price of a couple of drinks while getting to enjoy some live talent. The music provides a conversation-starter, and if there&rsquo;s dancing, even better.</p> <h3>3. Explore Your City</h3> <p>My husband and I met in Shanghai, a city with endless possibilities for exploration and sightseeing. If you live in or near a city, chances are there are interesting neighborhoods and areas to explore. Check out an art community, or walk along the waterfront. Window-shop in the boutiques, browse independent bookstores, and stop for a cup of coffee. Be spontaneous, and let the day take you wherever it leads.</p> <h3>4. Visit a Museum or Art Gallery</h3> <p>My husband and I had an &ldquo;accidental&rdquo; date at a museum in our early days of dating. We were at the museum with a group of friends, but ended up exploring the museum together, just the two of us, talking the whole time. There&rsquo;s nothing like shards of pottery and 13th century textiles to inspire a lively conversation! Seriously though, a first date is more about getting to know each other than anything else, so a date where you can be distracted with interesting sights but also have the opportunity to talk to each other is ideal. Most museums and art galleries have low admission fees, and you may even be able to visit during free hours on certain days of the week.</p> <h3>5. Go Ice Skating Outdoors</h3> <p>This date idea only works if it gets below freezing in the winter where you live. One of my favorite activities in my hometown of Toronto was going skating at one of the outdoor skating rinks in the winter. There is something so merry and festive about skating outdoors, and if your date doesn&rsquo;t know how to skate, you have many chances to help him or her out. Afterwards, warm up rosy cheeks and cold hands with a cup of hot chocolate. Don&rsquo;t live in a cold climate? How about roller skating or a bike ride down a nearby bike path?</p> <h3>6. Go Boating</h3> <p>If you and your date are both outdoorsy types, consider going canoeing or kayaking. Renting a canoe or double kayak will set you back about $40 (depending on location) for a few hours of fresh air and amusement. Go for an exhilarating boat ride on a local river, bay, or lake. If you&rsquo;re not particularly outdoorsy or are on a tighter budget, try paddle-boating at the city lake. It&rsquo;s inexpensive, unique, and fun, and between paddling and laughing, you&rsquo;ll have plenty of time for conversation.</p> <h3>7. Go on a Winery Tour</h3> <p>Depending on where you live, local <a href="">wineries may offer tours and tastings</a> for low prices. Look for a large winery where you can tour the winemaking facilities, as well as have a wine-tasting lesson. The silly noises you make while slurping your wine (to better aerate it over your palate) are sure to break the ice. Going on a tour makes for a more involved and interesting experience than a simple short tasting, and often the cost of the tour is waived if you buy a bottle of wine.</p> <h3>8. Paint Your Own Pottery</h3> <p>Pottery studios where you can paint your own pottery are common these days, and they are a fun way to be creative on a date while staying on a budget. Generally, you have to buy the piece of pottery you paint, but a small bowl or plate will set you back just $10 or so. If it works out with you and your date, you&rsquo;ll have a lasting souvenir, and if it doesn&rsquo;t work out, you can always smash your pottery in a fit of rage for some much-needed emotional gratification.</p> <h3>9. Go Bowling</h3> <p>It&rsquo;s casual, it&rsquo;s cheap, and it&rsquo;s entertaining. Bowling is one of those great activities where you can get to know another person in a low-key setting. Between a second order of fries and teaching your date how to bowl (or being taught), you&rsquo;ll have a fun experience that will leave both of you with a positive feeling about the date.</p> <h3>10. Check Out Community Theater</h3> <p>Maybe you can&rsquo;t afford to take your date to Cirque du Soleil or the latest incarnation of Les Miserables, but you can probably afford tickets to your local community theater.&nbsp; Usually these tickets hardly cost more than movie tickets, and it&rsquo;s a fun way to connect with the community while having a great time. Community theater is also often more interactive and intimate, making for a warmer, casual atmosphere.</p> <h3>11. Visit Local Festivals</h3> <p>Whether it&rsquo;s a cultural festival, a clambake, or the community Oktoberfest celebration, going to a local festival is another low-pressure first date that allows you to walk, eat, drink, and talk without too formal of a setting. There&rsquo;s plenty to see and do, and the food and drink costs less than a dinner out at a nice restaurant.</p> <h3>12. Get Dessert and Coffee</h3> <p>A cheaper, less formal alternative to a dinner date is meeting up for dessert and/or coffee. Try something unconventional like getting Hawaiian shave ice, going to a tea house, or indulging your sweet tooth with cheesecake and an iced latte.</p> <p>A first date may not be the place to use a <a href="">Groupon</a>, gift certificate, or coupon, for fear of appearing overly cheap with someone you may not know well, but there are many ways to spend less on a first date. Think outside the box (dinner and a movie), be creative, and you&rsquo;re likely to have a date you&rsquo;ll always remember!</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Camilla Cheung</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-3"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">From $5 to $30+, Date Ideas for Every Budget</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">9 Places to Go to Beat the Summer Heat</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">50+ Ways to Have Free Outdoor Fun</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">25 New Things to Do Today</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Free and cheap things to do in Champaign-Urbana</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Lifestyle affordable romance cheap dates first dates things to do Wed, 19 Oct 2011 10:24:29 +0000 Camilla Cheung 755239 at From $5 to $30+, Date Ideas for Every Budget <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/from-5-to-30-date-ideas-for-every-budget" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Happy couple" title="Happy couple" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="162" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I'm happy to say that I'm a cheap date. I don't mean that I have a low tolerance for alcohol, but that I'm happy doing free or cheap things in the company of someone I enjoy. Sure, sometimes I enjoy a fancy date as well &mdash; putting on a dress, getting a nice meal, and so on...especially if it's done in a frugal fashion.</p> <p>If you're looking for date ideas on a budget, open up your wallet, see what you've got (and want) to spend, and find something to do in the appropriate category below. And remember, the costs of these dates are estimates and might vary from city-to-city. (See also: <a href="">Classy Dating on a Budget</a>)</p> <h3>$0 Date Ideas</h3> <ul> <li>Go for a walk, hike, or bike ride.</li> <li>Introduce each other to your favorite music.</li> <li>Go to an author reading at a library or bookstore.</li> <li>Offer to babysit a friend's child together (if you don't have one of your own, that is).</li> <li>Make up a walking tour and play tour guide for your date.</li> <li>Volunteer.</li> <li>Go on a brewery tour.</li> <li>Teach your date a skill or one of your favorite hobbies.</li> <li>Sit in a park and people watch.</li> <li>Check out shows or lectures at a local college; many list events open to the public on their websites.</li> </ul> <h3>$5 Date Ideas</h3> <ul> <li>Go get ice cream.</li> <li>Visit a museum that suggests a $2 donation for entry.</li> <li>Go sledding, then get a mug of cocoa.</li> <li>Buy a used book &mdash; serious, silly, whatever &mdash; and take turns reading to each other.</li> <li>Have an at-home movie night complete with indulgent snacks like popcorn and candy.</li> <li>Meet for coffee or tea.</li> <li>Go back to film &mdash; buy a disposable camera and fill it up.</li> <li>Make s'mores (if you can sit around a campfire, even better!).</li> <li>Have a game night with just card or dice games.</li> <li>Visit a cupcake shop &mdash; or make some yourselves!</li> </ul> <h3>$10 Date Ideas</h3> <ul> <li>Pack some good sandwiches and sweets, and go for a picnic hike.</li> <li>Visit a farmers market, buy ingredients, and cook a meal.</li> <li>Play pool or darts.</li> <li>Pick your own fruit (be careful how much you pick, though &mdash; this could get pricey!).</li> <li>Buy and put together a puzzle.</li> <li>Go to a show at a coffee shop.</li> <li>Go to yard sales or thrift shopping (and buy silly gifts for each other).</li> <li>Enjoy an <a href="">inexpensive bottle of wine</a>.</li> <li>Do a morning date with bagels and coffee.</li> <li>Indulge in milkshakes and fries.</li> </ul> <h3>$20 Date Ideas</h3> <ul> <li>Go to the movies.</li> <li>Go ice skating or roller skating.</li> <li>Instead of going out for dinner, just have drinks and share a dessert.</li> <li>See a local band.</li> <li>Attend open mic night at a comedy club (the cost is usually a two-drink minimum).</li> <li>Go bowling.</li> <li>Get tickets for a not-as-popular professional sport like lacrosse.</li> <li>Visit a county fair.</li> <li>Host a double-date dinner party.</li> <li>Take a guided tour.</li> </ul> <h3>$30+ Date Ideas</h3> <ul> <li>Get two standing-room-only or nosebleed tickets for a professional sports game.</li> <li>Go rock climbing at an indoor rock gym.</li> <li>Drive to a nearby town you aren't very familiar with, get lunch, and explore.</li> <li>Enjoy a fixed-price meal (many restaurants offer $20 fixed-price menus on off days).</li> <li>Get a <a href="">Groupon</a> to try a nice restaurant.</li> <li>Savor some fancy, well-made cocktails.</li> <li>Go camping for a couple of days.</li> <li>Take a class.</li> <li>Buy a new video game you can enjoy together.</li> <li>Go canoeing, try surfing, or do something else adventurous.</li> </ul> <p><em>What budget date ideas did I miss? Share in the comments!</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Meg Favreau</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-4"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">14 Ways to Spend Less Money on Valentine&#039;s Day</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">12 Cheap First Date Ideas</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">7 Surprising Ways Summer Will Cost You</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Flashback Friday: 143 Fun and Frugal Ways to Spend Your Weekend</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">How to Watch Movies in the Theater for Free</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Entertainment Lifestyle affordable romance budget dating cheap dates Mon, 08 Aug 2011 09:48:17 +0000 Meg Favreau 652912 at