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  • Where to Find the Best Value on Flowers for Valentine's Day

    By Louis DeNicola,

    Sending flowers to someone this Valentine's Day? Chances are you've been tempted by coupons and daily deal vouchers for online flower retailers. Even with a Groupon, a bouquet can easily cost $80 or more, so you want to make sure you get what you pay for. At Cheapism we set out to find the best cheap flower delivery site and were surprised to find that not one major online provider lived up to our expectations. Consumer reviews abound with reports of late and unfulfilled orders, unhelpful customer service, and less-than-appealing arrangements that bear only the vaguest resemblance to online photos. Shoppers can very likely avoid these pitfalls and even save money by turning to a local florist instead.

    Buying from a local florist is your best bet.

    Related: Inexpensive treadmill recommendations

    Valentine's Day prices vary, but when Cheapism priced out standard, non-holiday delivery of a dozen red roses from local florists and four major online flower retailers, we found that consumers

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  • 4 Top Budget Bread Makers that Will Save You Some Dough

    By Louis DeNicola,

    Artisan breads often cost upward of $5, yet the thought of a thick slice with butter or a piece of perfectly crisp toast keeps expensive loaves from staying on store shelves for long. Instead, why not make your own at home for a fraction of the cost? It's too much work, say some. It takes so long, say others. But a bread machine sweeps those objections off the table like crumbs. Although a high-end bread maker can cost a couple hundred dollars up front, at Cheapism we found a number of well-loved machines for less than $60.

    Hamilton Beach HomeBaker 29881

    Related: Top 4 affordable rice cookers

    • The Hamilton Beach HomeBaker 29881 (starting at $56) is easy enough to use that even complete beginners give it rave reviews online. Add three ingredients, select the correct cycle from among the 12 settings, which include an express mode for when you're in a hurry, and choose your preferred crust shade -- light, medium, or dark. You can make 1.5- or 2-pound loaves and other baked
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  • 10 Tips to Ski for Cheap

    By Alyssa Goldman,

    Are you ready to hit the slopes but don't want to blow all your money on a long winter weekend? No problem. Here are 10 easy ways to ski for cheap without any loss of fun for you and the family.

    Do your homework. Check various ski resort websites to compare and contrast prices. Better yet, turn to an ecommerce site such as Liftopia, which offers lift rates at a discount of 15 to 80 percent off the standard price.

    These 10 tips can help you save money on your next ski trip.

    Buy in advance. Ski for cheap by avoiding an impromptu trip -- prices generally rise as the trip date nears. According to a December, 2011 travel article from The New York Times, the average savings by booking through Liftopia amounts to 33 percent for tickets purchased 14 days in advance; tickets bought within the two weeks of ski day are reduced an average 27 percent. Chain retailers, such as Costco, and local ski shops also sell discounted lift tickets.

    Related: Top inexpensive airlines

    Bring your own gear or buy it

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  • Take the Frugal Month Challenge This February

    By Raechel Conover,

    The holidays may provide a festive reprieve from the daily grind, but as a rule of thumb, they're not good for your wallet. With January comes a return to real life and living on a tight budget as you pay off holiday bills. So, here's our February challenge to you: a no-buy month.

    Take our challenge and see your savings grow!

    Related: Which is the best: Walmart, Kmart or Target

    What's a No-Buy Month?

    As blogger The Frugalista explained last year in The Washington Post, the idea is to save money by going an entire month without buying anything other than the bare necessities. This means you pony up for your house or apartment, utilities, groceries, and gasoline or public transit, but that's it. No dinners out, no trips to the salon, no shopping, no toys for the kids, no smartphone apps or music downloads, no cappuccinos or lattes -- nothing, even if you spot a great sale.

    The Frugalista reports that this started as a way to clear out debt and regularly saves her almost $400 in

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  • What to Buy in February

    By Raechel Conover,

    Knowing when to purchase what can mean big savings throughout the year. Savvy shoppers take advantage of two major, and related, trends: seasonal shifts and post-holiday sales.

    As you consider what to buy in February, remember that winter is halfway over and retailers want to get rid of seasonal merchandise. Also, stores usually have a lot of electronics left over from the holidays and must make room for new gadgets. And finally, President's Day falls in February - giving many people a three-day weekend and extra time to shop. Taken all together, you can count on February deals galore.

    Now is a great time to purchase a LED or LCD TV.

    Related: Best LCD TVs under $600

    Electronics: GPS, TVs, Digital Cameras, and Home Theaters. With Black Friday and Christmas long past, retailers advertise cheap LCD TVs and home theaters for yet another national "holiday": Super Bowl Sunday. Game day meets up with January's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to spur retailers toward February deals on things

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  • Taste Test: Warm Up with the Best Low-Cost Hot Cocoa

    By Louis DeNicola,

    Temperatures plunged so low last week that frozen ATMs reportedly held cash hostage in New York and fire hoses transformed a flaming Chicago warehouse into an ice palace. One antidote for those still enveloped by bitter cold weather: sweet hot cocoa. Not too sweet, mind you -- more chocolaty than sugary, with a nice, creamy texture. assembled a tasting panel in the hope of finding just such a concoction in a bargain-priced package. Here's how three popular powdered mixes ranked in a blind taste test.

    Bundle up with a cup of hot chocolate.

    Related: Inexpensive coffee makers

    • Swiss Miss Classics Milk Chocolate (starting at 17 cents per serving) emerged the winner in this tasting. The aroma filled several panelists with nostalgia and the resulting cocoa was luscious and chocolaty without being overbearing. Consumers reviewing this hot cocoa online generally draw similar conclusions, although some take issue with the use of artificial sweeteners.
    • Ghirardelli
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  • 4 Best Diet Apps to Help You Lose Weight

    By Raechel Conover,

    Accountability is key in any weight loss program. With most of us carrying a smartphone everywhere, diet apps are making accountability possible at every moment of the day and night. But with hundreds of diet apps on the market, deciding on the best option can be daunting. We've done the research for you and found the top three diet apps.

    Related: Best inexpensive smartphones

    1. MyFitnessPal Calorie Counter and Fitness Tracker. Far and away the most popular diet app on the market today, MyFitnessPal's Calorie Counter and Fitness Tracker is reviewed by more than 300,000 people on iTunes and nearly that many in the Android Market. The diet app has everything today's dieter needs, including the largest food database with more than two million foods listed. The app also remembers your favorite foods, automatically syncs with the website to store your information, has a free barcode scanner, works offline, and more.
    Use a cheap diet app to help you lose weight!Pros and Cons: This

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  • A Winning Combo: 5 Cheap and Tasty Chips and Salsas

    By Gina K. Briles,

    Even with the holidays over and the New Year in full swing, plenty of celebrations lie ahead. Whether you're stress-eating during the big game or munching your way through the Hollywood awards season, chips and salsa make the perfect snack. Cheapism set out to find some low-cost contenders that don't skimp on flavor. We assembled a panel of 11 enthusiastic snackers and conducted a blind taste test of 14 brands of tortilla chips and 19 inexpensive salsas. We also took into account tastings and reviews by other outlets whenever possible. In the end, we were left with five nominees in each category. And the winners are …

    Salsa and chips make a winning combo on game-day!

    Related: Best inexpensive LCD TVs

    Top Tortilla Chips.

    • Santitas Tortilla Triangles ($2 for 11 oz.): These chips, well known for the price printed directly on the bag, won over tasters with their "good flavor," "medium crunch," and "nice salty balance." Snackers eagerly gobbled down both the white- and yellow-corn versions
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  • 4 Best Toaster Ovens Under $40

    By Louis DeNicola,

    Ding! It could be the sound of hot holiday leftovers or breakfast toast to accompany your eggs. With a good toaster oven in the kitchen, you can save the energy and time it takes to heat up a full-size oven. On the high end are toaster ovens that can replace a conventional oven for most tasks, but those models can also cost hundreds of dollars. On the low end are too many toaster ovens that can't seem to toast a piece of bread properly and take as long to warm up as a regular oven. In a quest for a perfectly browned middle ground, Cheapism found four models between $20 and $40 that don't impress every last user but perform well for the price.

    Related: Inexpensive slow cookers

    • The Black & Decker TRO480 (starting at $28) has all the basics a consumer could want. It's large enough to fit four pieces of bread and has a removable tray that slides out for easy disposal of crumbs. A timer goes up to 30 minutes, or you can set the oven to stay on
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  • Six Fun Indoor Winter Activities for a Long Weekend

    By Alyssa Goldman,

    Long winter weekends will be with us for a while. We're surrounded by kids, responsible for keeping them entertained, and it seems like there's nothing to do. But wait … We found six fun and cheap indoor winter activities that keep them occupied and stave off boredom.

    Related: Budget lego sets

    1. Get crafty. Take out the markers, colored pencils, paint, scissors, glue, paper, pipe cleaners etc. and let imaginations run wild. Art is one cheap indoor activity where there are no rules. Whether your kids create a personalized snowflake or build a home out of Popsicle sticks, emphasize that creativity is key.

    2. Play with your food. Bring arts and crafts into the kitchen with recipes from Parenting. Create a ladybug out of vegetables with a cherry tomato, cucumber, low-fat cream cheese, black olives, chive stems, and carrots. And after the kids prepare various creations, you won't have to worry about making lunch the rest of the week.
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