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Cheap romance: Celebrate Valentine's Day the frugal way

By Nicole Paitsel, npaitsel@dailypress.com | 757-247-4737

9:43 AM EST, February 12, 2013

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Sweethearts won't up the ante this year by way of Valentine's Day gifts, according to a report by the National Retail Federation.

The average person will spend about $130 on gifts for the holiday this year, only a slight increase over 2012's spending numbers, a federation survey said.

More than half of gift givers will buy candy, a third will give flowers, and only 20 percent will buy jewelry.

But savvy shoppers can make it through the holiday without getting close to the retail federation's hopeful prediction.

Here are some ideas for romance on the cheap.

Holiday deals

Be wary of percentage off discounts from online floral dealers.

Websites like FTD.com and ProFlowers.com lure shoppers with discounted prices that are exponentially increased with shipping and other fees. A dozen roses — with no vase — on ftd.com was promoted to be on sale for $44.99 in the days leading up to Valentine's Day.

By the time the checkout process was complete, the roses cost $64.99.

Pollard's Florist, a Newport News-based floral business, offered a dozen roses with a vase for $60.44, which included tax and a $7 delivery charge.

But a dozen red roses will never be your best bet for Valentine's Day, frugally speaking. If flowers are a must-have, go with a spring variety. A bouquet that includes pink and white roses, among other flowers, costs $44.69 through Pollard's after delivery and tax. An arrangement of 10 red tulips is priced at $42.60 after tax and delivery at Mary's Florist shop in Newport News.

Small bouquets, without a vase, are often in large supply at local grocery stores during February and can cost as little as $20.

Sweet tooth

For the sweet tooth side of things, Krispy Kreme offers customers Valentine coupons for a dozen donuts with the purchase of a dozen donuts. The coupons come in individual denominations, one free donut per coupon, making this a good gift to share with classmates, teachers or co-workers.

Do it yourself

Of course, the old cliché "It's the thought that counts" really means something on Valentine's Day.

Ange Hatfield, of Windsor, says she and her husband have never spent a lot of money on holiday gifts.

"On Valentine's Day we leave little love notes hidden around the house, and I make a 'sweetheart' bag of goodies in his work lunch bag," she says. "I have even sent cards to his workplace to arrive on Valentine's Day (be sure to mark them personal and confidential)."

Krista Talley, of Newport News, makes her own Valentine's Day coupon book — a truly frugal idea.

"This idea could be used in a romantic sense or in a fun way for the kids," she says. "For example, I made one for my boyfriend that had coupons good for a massage or dinner of his choice (made at home, of course). Then for the kids you could do manicure or pedicure or park day."

Inexpensive gifts

There are a few fun gifts floating around that won't bend the budget.

The InterCourses Aphrodisiac Cookbook contains recipes for 135 dishes from chocolate tortes to braised short ribs. The cookbook also includes recipes for massage and bath oils and salt scrubs for couple's time after dinner. Through Feb. 15, the website SheSteals.com is offering the cookbook for $11.99.

Keeping with the "feed your tummy, feed your love" theme, the website gleegum.com offers a Make Your Own Chocolate kit, which includes fair trade and organic cocoa butter, organic cocoa powder, confectioner's sugar, starter crystals, a thermometer and paper candy liners to make your own box of chocolates. The kit costs $13.95.

Keep the night intimate with a personalized pillow case, priced at $23.95 through bighugllc.com.

Varieties include "Good Morning Beautiful" with the recipient's name, "You are my sunshine" and "You are loved," among other sayings.

Free scenery

For a no-fuss romantic evening, tap into the region's natural beauty.

Couples can take a trip down the Colonial Parkway, where the speed limit is low, traffic is minimal and the scenery is gushed over in loads of travel guidebooks. Pack a bottle of wine, some cheese and bread and stop for a quick picnic at one of the small beaches nearby.

Local bridal experts say the rooftop of The Chamberlin in Hampton is a hot spot for marriage proposals, and it could be the perfect place to rekindle your love. The historic former hotel is now senior living apartments, but there are two waterfront dining rooms open to the public. The restaurants often host a special Valentine's Day event.

And most locals agree that sunset at the Lion's Bridge in Newport News is one of the most romantic spots on the Peninsula.

There's no fee for that kind of beauty.

Paitsel can be reached at 757-247-4737 or npaitsel@dailypress.com.

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