Written by Brooke Wagner

DENVER (CBS4) – I would not say I’m cheap. I prefer the term “frugal.” My family would call me cheap. They know I love a bargain — sometimes too much! That’s why I’m thrilled to be writing this new column, sharing my tricks and tips for saving money.

READ MORE: Ralph MD Makes His Final Rounds At Children's Hospital After Launching Medical Dog Program

Over the years, I’ve stockpiled websites, coupons and habits to help my family of four keep as much of our money as possible. The last couple of years of economic downturn have made me (along with many of you) more dogged in this pursuit.

Since you’re reading this, we probably have this in common; I love to save — hate to waste. That goes for time AND money!

Speaking of love … Valentine’s Day is on the way.

It’s time for me to pull out the boxes of Valentines I bought for 10 cents last year!

Americans spend more than $15 billion a year on this holiday!

Dining out is a big part of that, which is why Denver Restaurant Week is a Valentine tradition in our house. I usually scan the menus for a dozen or so restaurants I think my husband and I would like to try, then I send the Final 4 to him and we choose two – one for each weekend that bookends restaurant week.

If you haven’t tried this, the restaurant week cost is $52.80 for a several course meal for two at restaurants many of us can’t typically afford. We’re talking lobster at Gabriel’s … steak at Del Friscos … Almond-crusted salmon at the Palm … and SO many other choices.

DRW puts fancy restaurants within reach for more of us. Just remember the deal when you tip your server :) … Make your reservation NOW. The dates are Feb. 26 through March 11 (though some spots go longer).

Obviously, this does not coincide perfectly with Valentine’s Day. So, you can postpone your special dinner for a couple of weeks.

Make dinner at home or bring in a $5 large, heart-shaped pizza after the kids go to bed, in the meantime! Here’s the pizza coupon: www.valpak.com/coupons

If you or your significant other go for Valentine flowers, and you are saving for college, check out the bouquet deals at Upromise. You can get free shipping and incredible deals on flowers for the big day, right up until the last minute. You need to register for Upromise, which is a college savings program I’ve been using for about eight years.

I’ve saved several hundred dollars for college just by clicking through their links every time I shop online. Most companies offer 2 to 10percent savings per purchase. So, as long as you link through the site each time you shop, it’s free money. You can send the money to a 529 college savings account and watch it grow.

READ MORE: Animal Rights Lawyer Jennifer Emmi Accepts Plea Bargain In Murder-For-Hire Case

One of my favorite bargain bonanzas happens after the holiday. After-holiday clearance sales rock.

But I don’t like to keep going back to the store and waiting for the markdowns.

Stores like Target follow a specific schedule for their markdowns after Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, etc. Often (but not always) it’s the 3-3-2 rule. The first day after the holiday, seasonal items go 50 percent off. After three days, they go down to 75 percent off. Then, the last two days, 90 percent off! This is when I buy party favors, reading/math incentives for my kids, and dark chocolate for my own daily treat.

But, ALWAYS make a list before you go, so you don’t end up with a bunch of junk you don’t really need or want.

Like most of you, I don’t have a lot of time to go trolling through the aisles, so I like to make a stop mid-week after a holiday and hit the 75 percent off sale, so there’s still some selection, but the deals are smokin’.

If your kids are still little, you can get away with buying boxed Valentines and gifts (princesses, Star Wars, etc) for the next year — but, as I’m finding, they get pickier when they’re older! Make sure to store any items for next year neatly in a labeled box, so you don’t forget about them and waste your money.

Target’s dollar section post-holiday is a total bargain bin of pencils, snacks, gift bags, stickers. I use these times to stock my kids’ art table, gift bags, and present toppers for friends.

These items are even fun (and less messy than cupcakes) for classroom birthday celebrations.

The section sells out more quickly on sale, so you’ll want to hit it soon after the holiday. If new items I buy don’t get used within the year, we donate them to our CBS4 Care for Colorado campaign as homework incentives for the Boys and Girls Clubs.

In every entry on our website, I’ll answer the question What to buy now? This week, I say it’s post-Valentine bargains, especially to have on hand for the kids.

Oh, and here’s a freebie for you to pamper yourself, sister, mom, or friend on Valentine’s — get a free lotion or other travel item of your choice at Bath and Body Works with this coupon. It’s free with ANY purchase — no minimum price.

Next entry, I’ll write about how to sell the things you no longer need.

Until then, happy Valentine’s Day and thank you for reading! I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you’ll post your tips and ideas, too!

MORE NEWS: Illegal Street Racing In Aurora: Cars Can Be Impounded For Up To A Year

(By the way, dear husband, boxed dark chcolates are $3.99 at Walgreens this week!)