Where to Dine on Valentine’s Day
1. Dine in. “Our number one money-saving tip is: Stay out of the restaurant and bring your celebration home,” says Elizabeth Mascaali, one half of an event company called Party BluPrint. But doing that right means:
2. Get out of the kitchen. 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,” Mascaali says. If you have a fireplace, she recommends spreading a blanket in front of it and dining “picnic style.”
3. Burn for your love. Let’s face it, flames are sexy. “Get a fire lit, whether it’s a fireplace or candles,” Mascaali says.
4. Put the petal to the metal. “Make one red rose work for you,” Mascaali 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.”
5. Don’t pay double for your bubbles. Most people can’t tell good Champagne from bad. So why bother? Mascaali’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.” A sparkling white wine from Italy, Prosecco is not too sweet and cloying.
6. Flirt with dessert. The last thing you want on a romantic evening is a heavy dessert to weigh down the romance. 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.”
How to Pick the Right Flowers on Valentine’s Day
7. 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 (AFIF). Hence, this advice:
8. 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.”
9. 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.
10. 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’ll only last another day or two. 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.
11. 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.
How to Pick the Right Jewelry for Valentine’s Day
12. 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:
13. 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 jeweller, you’re better off buying locally.
14. 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 Cs” – cut, carat, colour 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. On the other hand, don’t go certificate-crazy, either. “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 jeweller, Malvin says take advantage of the competition for carats: “If you walk in and don’t have a good feeling,” he says, “go to the next place.”