smart spending

10 great -- cheap -- ways to win her heart

3. Buff up her Manolos. Want to really thrill your Valentine? Shine her shoes for her. All of them. Well, the leather ones, then. I know, I know, she has a lot of them. That's the point, Einstein. Here's how you do it: Arrange to take Thursday off, but pretend you're going to work as usual. Then double back to the hacienda, pull out the shoeshine kit and get to work on those puppies. As you complete each pair, slip it into its own brown paper lunch sack, label it with a marker and return it to its rightful place in her closet. (No, I don't know the correct names either; just try to get close and have a laugh about it later.) Once you're done, close the closet door and affix the most creative big red craft paper heart you can muster with your names tied together with shoestrings. She will freak out.

4. Stage a chocolate intervention. This is essentially a surprise dinner party with a bit of "Punk'd" thrown in. You'll need the help of a few good friends to pull it off. Come up with a pretext to delay her arrival home from work, to give the guests time to assemble. Have them arrive with two things -- a healthy veggie you assign to them (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.), and something of their choosing from the chocolate family. Before she arrives, seat everyone around the table with their two items concealed and terribly concerned looks on their faces. Seat her facing them and inform her that this is an intervention. Then, one by one, have each guest place their veggie on the table and express their concern for her health. When everyone has spoken, let the tension build, then ask the group, "How can we help this girl?" At which point everyone shouts, "Chocolate!" and unleashes the flood of treats. Then proceed with party. Variations include ice cream or wine.

5. Dazzle her with detailing. Car detailing, that is. The less attention your Valentine typically pays to the cleanliness and appearance of her ride, the more she'll appreciate this thoughtful gesture. Arrange to skip work on Valentine's Day long enough to complete the job. You'll also need to feign car trouble or come up with another good reason to borrow her car for the day. Once she's elsewhere, start by filling her gas tank. Then wash, wax and polish the exterior, vacuum the interior and clean the upholstery, overhead and dash. Then hang a fresh linen-scented air freshener. For the finishing touch, use car wax or one of those easy-off sports booster paints to draw Valentine hearts with your names in big letters on every window. Then go pick up your Valentine.

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6. Suds her duds. This surprise will have the most impact if you've never, ever done the laundry. Ever. It's also the riskiest of these 10 choices. But if you're relatively confident you can man the machines without accidentally turning your combined wardrobes to a pastel Easter egg shade, soldier on, laundry god. To earn extra snuggle points, fold and stack. WARNING: DO NOT touch knits, woolens, silks or anything frilly! If you don't know what these are, choose another selection from our list -- now. And don't even think about ironing! You've been warned.

 

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