This Valentine’s Day it’s all about striking a happy balance between your loved one and your bank account. A new survey by Harris Interactive finds about half of consumers planning to spend the same or less than last year. While money is on your mind, as you struggle to find the perfect gift, we bring you MainStreet's list of what to avoid and some alternatives.
Remember, these are what NOT to get:
Gas Station Flowers
Flowers, in general, are such a V-day cliché. Don’t make it worse by getting a bunch of carnations that smell like benzene. While you’re at it, skip the boring arrangements at the local grocery store, too. Just because you’re short on money and time doesn’t mean you have to look cheap. Instead, opt for a single, classic rose or her favorite flower from your local florist. It’s far more romantic and may even leave some room in your budget for an inexpensive, yet still fine, bottle of wine.
Valentine’s Day-Inspired Jewelry
Jewelry, as usual, is one of the top gifts this year, but if it’s red and white or heart-shaped, and looks like it came from Wal-Mart (Stock Quote: WMT), Claire’s or some random web site, don’t bother. That said, jewelry is not always a bad way to go. If it’s in a Tiffany's box (Stock Quote: TIF), it’s a slam dunk; but even if you are cash strapped, there are alternatives. You can usually negotiate lower prices with local artists that sell in small boutiques or at arts and craft sales, and their items are usually unique. Or consider picking out a sentimental charm for that chain bracelet she already wears.
I noticed a sign hanging inside the Magnolia cupcake shop last night in my neighborhood encouraging patrons to buy a gift card from the bakery for their loved one on Valentine’s Day. My boyfriend and I both agreed this would be a lame present. The gift of homemade cupcakes or a date to the local bakery or cupcakery would be more appropriate, not to mention more considerate. In general, buying a gift card for your sweetheart from any store for Valentine’s Day is a romantic faux pas.
Drug Store Chocolates
If the chocolate packaging has a Snoopy character or a Teddy Bear glued to the outside, then it’s surely screaming “$7.99 from CVS.” (Stock Quote: CVS) Such a present signals to not only that you’re cheap, but also that choosing a Valentine’s Day gift was simply an errand and you probably picked it up along with some toilet paper and toothpaste. Avoid the psychoanalysis that may follow and nix any and all Valentine’s Day-themed candy in exchange for a quiet dessert date. Sharing a dessert dish is the ultimate in cuddliness, not to mention half the price of dinner.
While we all love cash, especially in a recession, it probably won’t go over well on Valentine’s Day, since it’s a day for thoughtful gestures. Cash just says, “I guessed you were broke. Here’s some money.” While your cash gift may be well-intentioned, embrace the holiday by using that cash to treat your date to something more special and romantic.
—Catch more of Farnoosh’s advice on Real Simple. Real Life. on TLC, Friday nights at 7.