Anything For Love – Bumps, Bruises, and Burns Along the Way

He was my very first love, first kiss, first feeling that I couldn’t quite describe, and I was his. We were so young though and just before the snow season started he and I parted ways. I knew that this would be ok, not because I would ever move on, but because we had a whole life time to find our ways back to each other.

We worked at a ski resort together and that winter and I was forever trying to make my impression on him. I figured that when he was finding the freedom, independence, and adventure that he was looking for, he would see that I too was finding those things, and conclude that we could do all of that together and that it would be even better.

Trying to impress this upon him while working in a run down ski chalet’s cafeteria was quite difficult though. When it was time to bake the giant chocolate chip cookies, the ones that made parents wonder why ski club wasn’t helping their kids lose their baby fat, well I wouldn’t just bake them. I hand shaped each into hearts, snowflakes, animals, even the circle ones were suns and moons as I handed them out with a smile to my regulars.

And what crazy girl would take on the very most dangerous and dreaded job of all, emptying the fryer at the end of the night, well that would be me of course! Anyway it couldn’t be that heavy. I saw that by the time a full day’s orders of French fries and chicken fingers had been made, half the grease vat had dripped onto the floor anyway. I realized maybe that wasn’t such a convenience as I sailed in the air, landing on my tush, a bucket of congealed fryer remains landing on top of me. And that was just what I did at work.

Out on the slopes I would be the fearless girl that dropped in the half pipe, that played chicken with the trees just like the boys . . . that accidentally fell off the chair lift and had the entire hill shut down.

That winter passed, and quite a few after that, but eventually my first love came back. I had traded in mountains for the ocean and was living in Florida. He flew half way across the country to tell me in person that he loved me and was never able to forget me. He confessed that he almost gave up pursuing me because I seemed so independent, adventurous, and free.

Each year that we go home to visit our families for Christmas and New Years, as husband and wife, we make sure to take a trip to our ski hill. Even if we can’t get in a ride we park at the bottom of the hill and talk about that winter.

Editor’s Note: The views are exclusively in the authors’ perspective and do not necessarily represent the views of the Web site or its management.


Sandra D. Bricker’s book, Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas, is available at! 

Anything for Love – Dare to Be Deflated

I’m afraid that the craziest thing I’ve ever done for love might qualify me as a stalker in some states.

Ryan was in one of my college classes, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get him to give me a second glance. I heard that he was going to have a party at the house he shared with two roommates one weekend, and I moved heaven and earth to wrangle an invitation. I’d heard that Ryan didn’t have a girlfriend, but he was so busy with the ladies that night that it seemed like every time I saw him, he was with a different girl. I left the party at 1 a.m. because he’d disappeared for the night, and I hadn’t even been able to say five words to him the whole time I was there.

In a last-ditch effort to get access to him, I devised a plan. Fairly early on a Sunday morning, I drove by his house to make sure his car was parked there and he was in the house, and then I parked my car on the shoulder of a fairly deserted road about a mile away. I produced a steak knife from the glove compartment (and no, I’m not kidding!), and I plunged it into my right front tire. Then I walked the mile to Ryan’s house and knocked on the door.

I’d practiced what I was going to say the whole way there. I’d partied too hard the night before and had to crash on someone’s sofa, then got a little lost on the way home. When my tire went flat, I realized I’d left my cell phone behind, but thankfully I realized I was close to the house where I’d attended a party a couple of weeks earlier and could go there for help. I’d even left my cell phone behind so that I wasn’t nailed in the lie.

I remember thinking at the time, in my young college-aged mind, that it was a brilliant plan. What I hadn’t thought of was the possibility that he’d gone out with his roommates, in one of their cars, and they had collectively stayed out all night. I knocked and knocked on the door until my knuckles ached, then walked around and looked into windows. Every room was empty. I sat on the front porch for three hours waiting for someone to come home, which they never did.

The silver lining to this thunderstorm cloud was that their next-door neighbor saw me and when she heard my flat tire story, she fetched her husband to give me a ride back to my car. He even changed the tire for me.

Editor’s Note: The views are exclusively in the authors’ perspective and do not necessarily represent the views of the Web site or its management.


Sandra D. Bricker’s book, Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas, is available at! 

Anything for Love – Love Is for the Dogs

I don’t know if it’s the craziest thing I’ve done for love, but it’s definitely the stupidest. I had been dating Jeff for a couple of months, and I felt pretty sure that things were moving toward getting serious. He went out of town for a couple of weeks on business, and then called to invite me up to visit him one weekend. When I said yes, he asked me if I would bring the dog along since he was really missing him.

Sport had been staying with me since Jeff had been gone. Since the dog had a penchant for chewing things (my favorite shoes, the corner of the bathroom door jamb, my comforter … he’d even bitten me twice!), I was more than happy to take him with me rather than search for somewhere to board him while I drove the two hours and spent the weekend with my new boyfriend! Certainly, none of my friends were going to take the monster in.

Well, in the week before I left to see him, the list of things he wanted me to bring with me grew longer and longer. Not to mention stranger! He was just going to be there another couple of weeks, so I couldn’t help but wonder why he needed things like his bedroom pillows, his blender, and one of the chairs to his dining room set. He explained that he was staying somewhere devoid of anything personal, and it was really getting to him, so I loaded the trunk and back seat of my car on Saturday morning, and the dog and I set out on the drive to see Jeff.

The anticipation was electric. I could hardly wait to see him again. Until I got there, and he met me outside with an unenthusiastic embrace and began unloading things from the car and setting them on the lawn of a small duplex. When my car was completely devoid of his belongings, Jeff stood there with his dog’s leash in hand, and proceeded to tell me that he wasn’t coming back. In fact, he was moving in with a woman he’d met while there on business.

He had actually gotten me to pretty much move for him on the pretense that we were still a couple! As I started to pull away, the new girlfriend joined him in the front yard. In my rearview mirror, I watched as she crouched down in front of that horrible dog of his and let him lick her entire face. I spent the drive home fantasizing about the first time that little angel she was cooing over destroyed her purse and all of its contents.

Editor’s Note: The views are exclusively in the authors’ perspective and do not necessarily represent the views of the Web site or its management.


Sandra D. Bricker’s book, Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas, is available at! 


Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas: A note from Author Sandra D. Bricker

I’ve learned a lot from the experience. Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas - By Sandra D. BrickerUnfortunately, I’ve discovered that my dog isn’t exactly the Rhodes Scholar of Dogdom; I’ve learned how to put a little romance into my bedroom’s decor, even though my dog is the only one who shares it with me these days; and I now know at least 20 ways to relieve stress.

Hopefully, I can provide part of #1 … snuggling up with a good book … for your readers!

On October 1st, a new line of inspirational romance will be launched by a publisher called Summerside Press. The Love Finds You line of romance novels will give readers a peek into the flavor of local life across the United States. The novels, uniquely titled after actual American towns with quirky but intriguing names, inspire romance and fun. Each fictional story draws on the compelling history or the unique character of a real place, and Summerside will be releasing two of them every month.

As soon as I heard what they were planning, I really wanted to be a part of it. I put together several proposals but, when the editor finally called me, she started out by saying that they weren’t going to be publishing any of them. I thought, “You’re calling to tell me you’re NOT buying my books? That’s different.”

But she went on to say that they wanted some lighthearted comedy to launch the line, and they thought I was just the author to deliver it. Since everything I’d proposed was rather serious in nature, I asked her, “Um, what would make you think that?” As it turns out, the e-mails we’d exchanged throughout the proposal processes were what sold them. She said my e-mails cracked them up.

Author Sandra D. BrickerAnd so, if you can believe it, they chose ME as one of two authors to launch their new line upon the world! Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas is a full-on romantic comedy that hits bookstore shelves on October 1, 2008.


Note: You can enter our latest contest to share your story about the craziest thing you’ve done for love, for a chance to win an autographed copy of Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas! See the official contest rules here.

And now, for your reading enjoyment, an excerpt of Sandra D. Bricker’s book, Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas:

Tips to Avoid First Date Drama or Embarrassment

Picture this: You’re dressed to kill in a semi-sheer black top with a black camisole underneath, you’ve got on a sexy suede miniskirt and your legs look fabulous in translucent black hosiery. Your high heels not only add a few inches to your height but make your derriere look great as well. Your hair looks great, you’ve completed the finishing touches on your makeup and you’re actually ready to roll before your date even rings your doorbell. What’s wrong with this picture?Give your first date a chance! (Photo courtesy of Mary R. Vogt.)

Well so far, nothing at all. But as any woman knows, what seems too good to be true often is. So avoid any and all first date mishaps with a few moments of pre-date prep. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth about five gallons of solution in this case, so take your time and be sure you’ve got all your bases covered. From a devastating runner in your hosiery to the classic broccoli in the teeth, a gal can never been too careful on a first date!

To save your tail and keep your date interested in your gorgeous appearance, prepare for the evening with Murphy’s Law in mind. Keep a small “emergency kit” with you at all times, whether safely inside your purse or tucked close within the inside pocket of your coat. You can keep it inside your glove compartment too, but a lot of good it will do you if you aren’t the one driving! This lifesaving kit should include all of the following:

– Dental floss – If not the entire spool, pack a small coil of floss wrapped inside a tiny bit of tinfoil. This very small yet oh-so-important item will really save face – literally – should a bit of your meal decide to cling stubbornly to your teeth.

– Toiletries – If you happen to receive an unexpected visit and find yourself completely unprepared, nothing could be more mortifying than dragging your new beau to the drug store to pick up some Tampax. As the days creep nearer to your time of the month, be sure to keep at least one tampon or pad with you no matter where you go.

– Clear Nail Polish or Spare Pantyhose – If you’ll be wearing a dress or skirt in the cooler months, chances are you’ll be wearing tights or hosiery.

– Gum, Mints, Mouthwash or Listerine Strips – No matter what delicious menu selection you choose for dinner, your breath will probably need some freshening before you go in for a killer smooch. Excuse yourself to the ladies room, check your hair and makeup and “freshen up.” You’ll find any of the above to be a godsend.

Other helpful items to have on hand should include your mobile phone for emergencies, change for tolls and parking meters, eye drops and pressed powder, concealer or cover-up so you can touch up your makeup if a blemish should appear.

If you’re wearing a strapless gown or an outfit that leaves your arms bare, remember to be careful with the deodorant. Many women perspire more when they are nervous in certain situations like a job interview, a court date or a first date. Deodorant can be a pesky substance, often rubbing off even hours later onto furniture, seats in cars and even onto other people’s clothing. If you typically apply the stuff liberally, be very cautious when hugging or kissing your date goodnight. The last things you want to linger are your soft lips, your flirty fragrance and your sexy appearance…not white deodorant residue on his clothing!

Get to know your date and forget your cares! (Photo courtesy of Matthew Hull.)

Also, if your cell phone rings, think twice before answering it – especially if you don’t recognize the number. You don’t want to get a reputation as Chatty Cathy because you spend too much time on your cell phone when you’re out on a date with someone. To avoid any potentially awkward moments, it may be best to avoid phone calls altogether, unless you are expecting an important call from a family member.

If you are nervous about your first date, sit down, close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths. Plan a couple of icebreakers in your head incase awkward silence should invite itself along and just relax. Give yourself a mental compliment on how terrific you look and realize that chances are he is just as nervous as you are!

What to Do When Your Sweetie Hates the Telephone

It’s not a matter of “he loves you, he loves you not,” but rather a strong dislike of the telephone!

You met the most adorable guy last week and still can’t get over the fact that you’ve got a date lined up with him for next Saturday. He’s cute, funny and such a gentleman. The catch? You met him a week ago and he hasn’t called you once. Not wanting to be pushy or over-eager, you sit back and wait for his call…minute after excruciating minute.Waiting for that phone to ring? (Photo courtesy of

Before you get yourself wound up in a tizzy when your new love interest doesn’t call, relax and consider all the factors playing into your relationship. How your new partner feels about you is not necessarily contingent on how often or how soon he dials your digits. Working from the ground up in a new relationship, you’ve got some ground to cover before you are both comfortable calling each other at all hours of the night. Ask yourself a few simple questions before you worry about the other’s feelings for you, and whatever you do, don’t base your perceptions about the relationship on how soon your phone rings!

Continue reading What to Do When Your Sweetie Hates the Telephone

The Perfect Fit – Tips on Selecting and Buying an Engagement Ring

A perfect fit is vital for the engagement ring! (Photo by Justin P. Van Druff.)

As much an emotional investment as a financial one, engagement ring shopping can become a daunting duty. Can I afford it? Will she like the same one I do? What if it doesn’t fit perfectly? Many elements must be considered when selecting the perfect engagement ring, from the type and color of the metal band to the size and shape of the diamond, its clarity and color, and the overall design of the ring.

Cost very often serves as a parameter in choosing the ring, so be sure you determine the amount you would like to spend before walking through the doors at the jewelry shop.

Things to know before setting off on your mission:

– What size is her ring finger? If you don’t automatically know the answer to this question, you can ask a family member, or more subtly, borrow one of her rings to get an idea of the sizing once you get to the jeweler.

– What color is the majority of her jewelry? Your sweetheart most likely wears predominantly one type of gold – either yellow or white. You should have an idea of her preference before choosing a ring so that you know she will be happy with it.

– Does she prefer a certain cut – round, princess, heart, marquis? Many women will be flattered that you took the time to select the diamond how you thought it would look best on her hand. Meanwhile some other women prefer a certain cut above the others. Try to get an idea without letting onto your plans if you’re trying to surprise her.

Determine whether you'll be getting a solitaire or a ring with several stones. (Photo courtesy of– Does she prefer a solitaire or a setting with more than one stone? You will find countless styles and ring designs ranging from one large stone to three or more smaller but moderate sized stones, or even one larger stone with a few accent stones. Try to find out your sweetheart’s preference without dropping any hints!

– What can you afford? Try to have a ballpark figure in mind before you set foot into the store. If the ring you like best is out of your price range, tell the jeweler you’d like some time to think about it and keep shopping around.

1. Take your time in the selection process. You’ll probably be very excited about the idea of buying the engagement ring, but take your time. Just like buying a first car, you don’t want to rush into a costly decision.

2. Find a jeweler you trust. For personalized service, consider going to a privately owned jewelry store. Chain stores offer a wide selection but having a close personal tie with your jeweler can be very beneficial in the long run, as he or she will remember you and your experience. If you have to come in afterwards to resize the ring or for any reason, you’ve already developed a relationship.

3. Shop around. Visit a couple of different stores online to get an idea of what styles are available. Go to a couple of stores locally and see which shop gives you the best service. Try to avoid buying from a closeout sale when a store is going out of business. If a store shuts its doors for good, you are stuck with whatever you’ve got!

4. Know your sweetheart and her specific tastes. Without being too obvious, try to get an idea of her favorite styles, colors, etc. Observe which pieces of jewelry she admires most when window-shopping and if you dare, take her to a store window and let her peer inside. She may get the idea, but better to know what she likes than to drive blind. If all else fails, drag along her sister or best friend on the hunt!

5. Be sure to get a diamond certificate. Jewelers must disclose to you all the critical information regarding a diamond – from carat size to color and clarity. The clearer the diamond, the more expensive it will be. You definitely want to have documentation to prove what you’ve purchased is of a certain quality.

Regardless of the amount of time and money you spend, the important thing is that you’ve made a decision to spend the rest of your life with the person who matters most to you. You have decided to express your love to your significant other, and together you will make a promise to love each other and be true for the rest of your lives. The ring is just a physical symbol of that everlasting love.

Sexy Non-Sex Activities for Couples

Finding a new love interest often fills us with an unmistakable feeling of bliss, often described as a fluttery feeling in one’s stomach. Ten years gone by and you’ve still got butterflies flitting about? Have fun without cutting too loose...No doubt you are in love! To give your relationship a nice balance of passionate playtime, consider varying your romantic routine from time to time.

Every couple engages in a different style of sexual behavior, but turning things down a notch in the lust department and heating them up on a sensual level can truly reignite the spark that initially drew you together.

No matter if your romance has survived the test of time or if it is merely beginning its path down love lane, take the time to pamper your partner, and enjoy some pampering yourself! Consider these options for a romantic, passion-filled evening, and modify them to suit your relationship’s style and your and your partner’s needs.

Spend an evening preparing a romantic dinner together.


Set some melodic music to play gently in the background as you prepare food together and indulge in a glass of wine. Relax and take pleasure in the culmination of your combined efforts. Linger at the table until the last drop of wine has kissed your lips and stare deeply into each other’s eyes.

Challenge your mate to hold your gaze simply by the intensity caught within your eyes. Share a slice of dessert on the same plate and take the time to feed each other the delicious delight. As your meal concludes, kick off your shoes and hold each other close as you begin to slow dance in the living room.

Treat each other to aromatherapy and full-body massages with essential oils.

First decide if you would like to wear your bathing suits, your undergarments, a towel, or less. Select a location such as a comfortable bed, a lounge chair or a nice clean spot on the floor, stretched across a soft blanket. You may choose to play gentle background music or sounds such as ocean or brook soundtracks, or those featuring the wind, rainforests, etc. Be sure to select an aromatic essential oil to massage into your sweetheart’s skin for a soothing and sensual experience.

Take turns pampering each other and stimulating one another’s muscles by firmly massaging the back, neck, shoulders, arms and even the hands to start. Pay special attention to the lower back, as this area experiences a lot of stress from general daily activities and from being on the job. Work your magic on your partner from head to toe, focusing more energy on the muscles that seem tighter or those that have been neglected. The backs of one’s legs should benefit significantly if massaged properly. You may wish to consult a book on different types of massage before engaging in the full-body massage.

Indulge in a hot bubble bath for two, complete with wine and sweet treats, candlelight and the spark between the two of you.

Select a fragrant bubble bath that appeals to both your senses and drift away in a relaxing pool of warm, sudsy water. Gently caress each other’s backs and enjoy the peace and solitude surrounding you. Sip wine or hot tea, indulge in chocolates or small dessert pastries and revel in your stolen moments together. While the dim flicker of the candle sets the mood, the two of you can unwind in the comfort of a warm bath, wrapped in each other’s arms.

If you are not yet at the point in your relationship where you feel comfortable taking a bath together, consider a dip in a hot tub under the stars at a bed and breakfast or fancy hotel. Go out for a night on the town in a bustling city and settle down for the evening by relaxing in the lodge’s sauna, swimming pool and whirlpool tub.


No matter what you do with your sweetheart during your passionate evening together, remember to pay special attention to his or her senses. Breathe sweet nothings into an unsuspecting ear, gently brush your fingertips across the arm while talking, trace a trail of soft, sweet kisses across the neck. Let your heart dictate your every move and enjoy true love in all its bliss!

Ten Summer Date Ideas for Couples in ‘Lazy Mode’

Let’s face it – even the most romantic, most exciting, and more outgoing couples fall into a stale lifestyle every once in a while. Maybe months of too many plans finally built up to the point where it’s really great to have a few free weekends in a row. We all need those lazy, nothing-to-do weekends. Pack a picnic lunch!But more often, it seems that we just get into a habit of not planning anything and not doing anything spontaneous on the weekends.

If you’ve fallen into this tired trap, consider these fun day trips and date ideas for a summer full of exciting and adventurous weekends!

1. Visit a local winery or brewery / microbrewery. You can mix education with culture and end up with a day full of fun. If you’d like to swill some fine wines and beers, check the Web for vineyards and breweries within a reasonable drive of your home. You and your sweetie will have a blast tasting the different samplings, but just make sure one of you keeps your sips to a minimum so you have a safe ride home.

TIP: This is an especially fun activity for groups, too! Get together with all your favorite friends and rent a chauffeured vehicle to serve as your designated driver. You might have so much fun that you’ll turn this into an annual event!

2. Enjoy a picnic in the park or at the beach. Who doesn’t love sitting on a blanket in a beautiful location, noshing, and just relaxing? Gather your favorite edibles and make up some sandwiches or other yummy bites. Bring something to drink and plenty of napkins. You can also bring your camera to get some good nature shots, or a small stereo or MP3 player with external speakers so you can listen to your favorite tunes.

TIP: Pack a bottle of wine if you can walk to your favorite picnic spot from your home.

3. Score tickets for a local minor league sporting event. Trust me, a hotdog and a beer never taste better than when you’re engrossed in the action of an athletic competition. If you can find a rugby match, better yet. You can even check your newspapers for listings of potential athletic events or activities that you might enjoy.

TIP: Don’t forget your sunscreen!

4. Check out the nearest zoo. A sunny summer day is a great time to enjoy the wonder of our animal kingdom. When life gets dull from doing the same old stuff all the time, a trip to the zoo can bring things back into perspective. Just think about the polar bears playing or the otters doing their adorable tricks. You can watch the zebras and antelopes graze or check out the big cats in their terrain. Take pictures of your favorite animals – it gives you a creative outlet for your summertime adventure.

TIP: Bring along a knapsack with some snacks in case you get hungry or thirsty along the way. Also, don’t forget sunscreen here either!


5. Plan something active – go for a bike ride, go rollerblading, or go hiking. Staying active keeps us healthy and in better shape. Spending some time outdoors playing is the perfect summertime activity, whether by yourselves or in a big group. Get some people together for a team sport like volleyball or just enjoy a little one-on-one basketball or roller-hockey. You can go for a hike and take some pictures, or enjoy a bike ride along your favorite trails. Go running together, walking together, or even have a water gun fight.

TIP: Remember what it was like over the summer when you were a kid? Think about your favorite things to do back then – and relive some of them now!


More summer date ideas…

First Date Ideas – Adventure, Excitement, and Intimacy

The most nerve-wracking moments of a new relationship are arguably the last few moments before your first date begins. When you barely know someone or even when you’ve known that person for a long time but finally decide to take things to a new level, the first date can be stressful, intimidating, and awkward. But it doesn’t have to be!

Check out these pointers for fun-filled first dates of all kinds—you’ll be so busy enjoying yourself that you’ll forget to be nervous!

First Dates for the Adventurer
Go for a horseback ride!If you find yourself having a hard time sitting still for more than five minutes, these date location options may be just right for you. If active is your lifestyle and energetic is your middle name, try these on for size when your interest lies in someone of similar interests….

Grab some bikes and go mountain biking or for a leisurely trip through the park, throw a pack together and go backpacking, hiking or horseback riding along a scenic trail, or head off to the nearest amusement park. Excitement in the water is sure to ensue if you opt to go tubing, jet skiing, or paddle boating. For a slightly more romantic first date: go sail boating!


First Dates for the Athlete
Foster a little healthy competition with your new love interest and challenge him or her to a grueling tennis match, a few rounds of golf, or have a good old-fashioned catch with a baseball. Need more exertion than that? Consider going for a tour of the town on rollerblades or find a parking lot and grab a crate, a ball and two hockey sticks and see who can score the most goals. Chances are you’ll both drop the gloves in no time!

Is the chance of rain threatening your outdoor festivities? No matter—take your competitive spirits inside and shoot some pool, throw some darts or indulge in some video games. Who says you’re too old to have a good time at the arcade?


Sophisticated First Dates
Care to swap some intellectual tidbits or compare tastes in fine art and history? You can learn a lot more about a person by spending some time together at a museum or an art gallery. Figure out what he or she likes, and perhaps you can even use your own artistic talent to create a work of art as a surprise on a future date with this person.Catch an art festival or visit a museum.

Another option for a more refined first date: Accompany one another to a natural or historical landmark in or near your community. Immerse yourselves in the natural wonders of a nearby park or other local attraction.

More First Dates….

Financial Tips for Valentine’s Day Gifts

The special day for lovers comes with a price tag these days…. Whether you are seeking the perfect piece of jewelry, state-of-the-art video game system, iPod or another pricey Valentine’s Day present, your credit card might just do most of the work for you. To prevent your plastic from kicking into overdrive, use some discretion when shopping for your sweetheart’s Valentine, and realize that he or she loves you for you, not for the number or cost of the presents you purchase when February 14 rolls around.

The typical dinner and a movie Valentine date works as a great standby for an evening together, but if the two of you share this outing several times a month, it may get a bit stale. Surprise your sweetheart with a special date that costs even less so you can get him or her the perfect present you’ve had your eye on. Ice-skating and stargazing, though perhaps a bit chilly if living up north, present unique date ideas that cost very little, if anything. Romantic and inexpensive… these options conveniently leave necessary funds for the Valentine’s gift.

In order to get your Valentine the perfect gift regardless of the price, some savings plans may be necessary prior to the actual purchase. Here are some tips to ensure that you have enough funds available to wow your sweetheart with a special Valentine treat:

– Keep a good track record of responsible personal finance behavior. Pay bills on time with at least the minimum amount due, monitor your spending to avoid overlimit fees and try to keep your balance as low as possible, if not completely paid off. By keeping your remaining balance low, you open up additional dollar amounts before hitting your credit limit. No one wants to get slammed with a finance charge for spending over his or her limit!

– Save up money along the way and put the rest on plastic. So maybe you are planning to pop the big question on or around Valentine’s Day…. That could surely cost a pretty penny, but if you save up for months prior to the big date, your credit card bill won’t seem quite as painful when you remember you have a secret stash squirreled away somewhere for the special occasion. Do your best to pay for the whole thing in full. If you must put your purchase on plastic, pay off as much as you can and then consider doing a zero percent balance transfer to avoid racking up interest.

– Limit your spending to reserve funds for your Valentine purchase. Forego the chicken cheese steak for lunch, leave the second bottle of wine on the shelf and forget about that new TV you’ve been dreaming of… with a little self control in your spending habits, you will open up the gates to more affordable bill payments and less regret when putting bigger purchases on your cards.

– Preplan how much you are willing to spend. Once you have determined what you want to spend on your Valentine’s gift, do not go over that amount. Before jumping on the Internet or leaving your home, figure out a set amount that you will spend and stick to it, no matter what!

– Shop the sales. Notice how stores start setting up for Valentine’s Day right after Christmas? Also notice how many items are drastically reduced or put on clearance after the holidays? Store management officials are smart enough to know that most people just finished spending all their money on holiday shopping.

Why not pick out your Valentine’s gift while the sales are still going strong? If you wait for the week before or the week of Valentine’s Day, you will likely be forced to pay full price for the same item you could have bought at a 50% discount a month or two ago.

Also avoid impulse shopping, as it generally encourages buyers to just pick something and be done with it. Put some time and thought into the perfect present, select the total price you are willing to pay and stick to your guns. Bear in mind that Valentine’s Day embodies the passion and romance of a relationship and the intimate connection shared by two people in love; love itself is not defined by the numbers on a price tag.


10 Sweet and Romantic, Crafty Valentine’s Gifts

Each year, we wonder what to get our significant other for one of the most romantic days of the year. When chocolates or cologne just won’t do, we try to think outside the box for a much better Valentine’s Day gift. From clothes to movies to small electronics, nothing seems quite right. You may be a procrastinator, waiting till the day before, or even the day of, to make your final selection. Be careful, lest you end up with yet another box of chocolates and a greeting card!

If all that shopping for breathtaking Valentine’s Day presents is giving you a headache, relax and put your natural creativity and talents to use instead! Here are ten creative gifts you can make or do yourself:

1. If you are musically inclined, compose a song for your one-and-only. Personally, I melt when someone sings to me or plays an instrument for me… Who doesn’t love to be serenaded? Writing a song for someone you love is perhaps one of the most sensitive and intimate gifts you can give, and it will surely be cherished and appreciated.

To add a more tangible artistic element for your Valentine’s Day gift, create a special CD case with pictures of you and your sweetheart, and don’t forget to print the lyrics out in a little booklet. You may want to perform the song live, but giving a hard copy of your hard work only adds to the impact of your gift.

2. If music isn’t exactly your thing, consider writing a poem for your mate. The feeling and meaning that can be intricately woven throughout the lines of poetry is unmatched in emotion by many other signs of affection. If time allows, be especially creative and use a software imaging program like PhotoShop to dress up your poem with beautiful graphics.

Not the computer savvy type? Buy a picture frame and some matting to create your own work of art! Print out or nicely scribe your poem on a fancy piece of paper, then apply the matting, fit everything inside the frame, and you’ve got one beautiful and personalized Valentine’s Day gift!

3. If your talents lie more on the artistic side of things, design some artwork. A beautiful sketch or drawing that you yourself design would be a wonderful sign of your love. Frame it if you wish, or roll it up and fasten it with a nice ribbon like an ancient scroll.

4. To capture your memories in a more tangible format, consider making a scrapbook or memory book for your sweetheart. All those photos from way back, ticket stubs, dried flowers, and your own personal special touches can culminate into a very thoughtful and sentimental gift. Or, if you don’t have time for all the bells and whistles of a true, traditional scrapbook, look into digital scrapbooking. It’s one of the latest and greatest ways to capture your memories with ease!

5. If you enjoy cooking and baking or find yourself particularly good at either one, make use of your talent. Make your sweetie a mouth-watering dinner or a scrumptious dessert. Add candlelight, mood music, or your own special touches to romanticize it even more. For twice the fun, see if your honey is interested in cooking together. You can have a great time while being romantic together as you add and mix ingredients and enjoy taste testing the results. What a fun Valentine’s Day activity!


6. Create a calendar with photos of the two of you. It may be February already, but there are still ten and a half good months left in the year. You can create a photo calendar easily at a site like the Kodak Online Gallery or Snapfish. If money is an issue, you can always create the calendar on your own computer and print it out at home. This Valentine’s gift is one your sweetheart can enjoy all year long!

7. Make a music compilation filled with songs that make you think of your honey. Chances are, he or she will love it and most likely will play it when you are not around or when you are on their mind. Make a copy for yourself, too, just in case you find yourself missing your love and wishing you were together at that moment.

For the crafty approach, design a CD case and cover for your sweetie. Don’t forget to make a little booklet with a list of all the songs and artists you decided to feature. If you are feeling especially ambitious, add a little quote as to why you selected each of these songs.

8. Construct a coupon booklet of little freebies you are willing to give your partner—free back massages, dinner at a favorite hotspot, a home-cooked meal, a night where he or she is boss, full control of the remote, a fill-in-the-blank coupon…you get the idea! Be creative, but personalize it according to your relationship. Draw little images to dress up each coupon, or add stickers for a fun, special touch.

To save some cutting and gluing, you can also craft your coupon book on the computer using one of many different software applications. Print it out, staple it together and you are ready to present a sweet and thoughtful handmade gift that lasts beyond Valentine’s Day.

9. Using glass paints and a mug, glass, or vase of your choosing, craft a stained-glass work of art. If you are not totally confident with your painting and designing abilities, find an image you would like to use (or for words and phrases, type whatever you would like the glass to say on your word processor and print the document out) and tape it on the inside of the glass so you can easily trace over it with the paint.

Be sure to allow enough time for the item to dry and for the paint to set before giving your masterpiece to the recipient. For a sweet touch once the glass is dry, you can fill it with your mate’s favorite candy.

10. Crochet or knit a blanket, scarf or other specialty item for your honey. Handmade gifts mean a lot because much thought and time have been invested. If you’re crafting an afghan or blanket, you will want to plan ahead several months to ensure you complete it on time. Perhaps this is a project for another year!