Recession Mama Michele Ashamalla: I love flowers. I like to give them to people, and occasionally I like to buy them for myself. Yes, I know they last longer in nature; I also know that some people regard them as a waste of money. But sometimes it's nice to be able to give someone a beautiful thing that won't pack on the pounds.
I have a few tips for arrangements that won't break the bank. If you live in a metropolitan area that has a flower market where florists buy their flowers, by all means, go there first -- the prices there can't be beat. If that's not an option, flowers at farmers' markets are generally a good deal. Stick around until the market is closing up, and you can get beautiful bunches for practically nothing.
Costco and supermarkets (especially Trader Joe's) are good places for a bouquet. Costco has a standing deal on roses that runs about $14 for two dozen. Most supermarkets have lots of choices. I find the arrangements to be pretty pricey, but the bouquets can be very reasonable -- especially if they're a weekly special. Take a plain bouquet and ask for a rewrap with some greenery and a ribbon. Some markets will do it for free; others will charge a couple of bucks.
Also, I like to patronize the local flower shops. I bring in my own vase or basket, or buy a fun ceramic pitcher at T.J. Maxx or Ross (look in the clearance section first) and take that into the shop. A friend of mine glues pencils all around a coffee can and ties it with a thick ribbon for a teacher's arrangement. Just tell the store what you're looking to spend, and they can fill your container and arrange it.
Lastly, I've had some good experiences with online florists. I buy when there are great specials, use Internet coupons and combine that with cashback. I ordered for myself a couple of times and was pleased with the quality, but most sites have a lot of mixed reviews. They're good to use in a pinch for gifts for out-of-towners, but I find that presentation of a bouquet in a cute container is nicer for the locals.