Centsible Mom: Lavish outlay not needed to delight your loved one

2013-02-03T00:00:00Z 2013-02-03T14:22:38Z Centsible Mom: Lavish outlay not needed to delight your loved oneAngela Pittenger Angela Pittenger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

If love is in the air but Cupid's too broke to spring for golden arrows, you need not worry.

There are plenty of ways to sweep your loved one off his or her feet - and some of them cost little more than time and creativity.

The average person spent $126.03 on Valentine's Day last year, a National Retail Federation shopping poll found. That may not sound like much, but a hundred bucks may as well be a million when the budget is tight.

You're in luck if chocolate is your gift of choice.

Consumer Reports rated several brands of chocolates, and one of its favorites was the Ferrero Collection Fine Assorted Confections. You can pick up a 24-piece box for around $13 at Walgreens.

Don't get suckered into thinking you have to buy Valentine's candy in a fancy, heart-shaped box. Instead, get a bag of your beloved's favorite candies and put them in a pretty box from the dollar store.

Or, why not make chocolate-covered strawberries together? Strawberries cost about $3 a pint, and a good chocolate bar costs around $2. Melt the chocolate, dip the strawberries and enjoy while watching a favorite movie or sitting outside under the stars.

Reader Barbara Ehrentraut suggests making an edible bouquet.

Get an assortment of fresh fruit like watermelon, pineapple and cantaloupe, bamboo skewers ($2 for a pack of 100 at Party City), a small, heart-shaped cookie cutter and a foam-filled bowl or vase to arrange it in (both can be found at the dollar store).

Cut the fruit into heart shapes with the cookie cutter and carefully slide pieces down the skewer. Ehrentraut suggests three hearts per skewer.

Repeat until you have the desired amount of skewers and arrange them into the bowl or vase.

"Voila," she said. "You have a beautiful edible table arrangement that everyone will enjoy. Simple, fun, healthy and inexpensive."

If you'd rather buy a gift, you can still find nice winter items on clearance. Leather gloves and sweaters always make nice gifts. Use a smartphone app like RedLaser or The Find to compare prices and get the best deal.

If your guy is a beer lover, you can build your own six-pack at Plaza Liquor, 2642 N. Campbell Ave., for just $7.99. Select a few he hasn't tried. Put them in a basket from the dollar store, along with a couple beer mugs, and tie on a ribbon. It'll all cost about $15.

Let out your inner child and glue a conversation heart to an adjustable ring bank (an unfinished band used to make rings), which can be found at Michaels or JoAnn Fabrics for a couple dollars.

A great idea from Jenni Pagano, owner of 1st Rate 2nd Hand Thrift Store, is to get a little mirror for around $4 at a thrift store and fix it up with a painted lipstick kiss so "every time he looks in the mirror, he gets a kiss from you." Put it in a basket with things to pamper him.

She also suggested getting a picture frame, which you can get for about a dollar, and embellishing it with his or her favorite old toy pieces, such as Legos, Army men or Scrabble tiles. Add a picture of you.

I love the Time in a Bottle idea from Bankrate.com. Let your partner know, in writing, that you're giving them time to do whatever they want, whether that's watching the game, going to the movies, engaging in a hobby or simply reading a book, uninterrupted.

Include a love note or note of appreciation, roll it up, put it in an empty, clean wine bottle and tie a red bow around it. For extra appeal, make your own label.

I don't know about you, but for me, it's the little things that really tug on the heartstrings.

Cheap dates

• Pack a picnic, go up on the roof and watch the sunset.

• Set up a tent in the backyard, have a bonfire and camp out.

• Go to a farmers market. There are plenty around town, including one on Thursdays 3-6 p.m. at Mercado San Agustin, 100 S. Avenida del Convento.

• Go hiking, bike riding or roller skating.

• Get kites at the dollar store and fly them at the park.

• Go to Tucson tourist attractions and take cheesy pictures.

• Take a yoga class together. Tucson Yoga, 150 S. Fourth Ave. offers drop-in classes for $6 per person. They also have evening classes.

• Set up an ice cream sundae bar at home.

• Walk around Trail Dust Town, 6541 E. Tanque Verde Road. Ride the carousel for $2 each and the train for $3 each.

For the Kids

If you have kids in school, you'll probably be looking for ideas for their classmates. Here are some that I like:

• Fabulouslyfrugal.com's Swedish Fish valentine is cute and easy. Get blue paper and cut waves into the top and bottom. Write something like "Glad we're in the same school." Put that, and a few swedish fish in a goodie bag and tie with curly ribbon or twisties. Total cost for 24 kids: $5.

• For a sugar-free valentine, ivillage.com has a great idea with pencils that can be given either to the teacher or to each classmate. You'll need pencils, pipe cleaners and hot glue. Using the pipe cleaners, make spirals and hearts that wrap onto the pencil. Add hot glue to keep it in place. Arrange them in a jar. Total cost: $4.

• Two handprints can make a cute heart. Get Red and pink acrylic paint, which can be found at Michaels for about a dollar each, and white card stock. Make a diagonal red handprint. Do the same with pink, overlapping the red, so it looks like a heart. Write a message around the heart. Great gift for mom or dad.

• Tucson mom Lori Andersen suggests sitting down with the kids and making old-fashioned valentines with construction paper and glue. She said to print pictures or messages from the Internet and add old scraps of wrapping paper, ribbons, stickers or foil wrappers from gum or candy to add sparkle. "You are only limited by your imagination," she said. Most parents have this stuff already, so it wouldn't really cost anything.

• The superhero lollipops on zakkalife.blogspot.com are adorable. Draw a cape with a valentine's message, like "You're super" or "Have a super Valentine's Day." Cut it out and put a hole in the top, large enough to go over the stick and wrapper. It should be sized so it will stay up by itself. Make a mask as well. Cut it out, wrap it around the lollipop and tape it in the back. Total cost for 24 kids: $4.

Arizona Daily Star reporter Angela Pittenger, our "Centsible Mom," shares tips, ideas and news about how Tucson consumers can find value and stretch their budgets. Send suggestions, ideas or questions to her at apitteng@azstarnet.com or 573-4137.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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