Valentine's Day is two weeks away, and you're still undecided on what to get that special woman in your life? Think you'll just pop into a store and find some amazing deals on candies, flowers, and jewelry right before the big two-one-four?
Not exactly. While we will likely see many specials on Valentine's Day staples, you'll probably find these gifts and treats (even the ones that aren't holiday-specific) at even better prices after Cupid's shot his last arrow. See, retailers know that chocolates, flowers, and the like are in heavy demand in the weeks leading up to the holiday, so while they're willing to trim prices ever-so-slightly, anything blatantly Valentine's Day-related (read: anything with hearts across the package) won't be on the verge of lowest-of-the-season prices until immediately after the holiday. (Take note of the bargain bin next to the newly-minted Easter candy display on February 15 at your nearest drug store.) And even more general gift items that are typical of the holiday, like perfume, are more likely to see their best prices in the weeks after.
But don't let that news break your sweet heart. Instead, take a non-traditional approach to gift-giving this Valentine's Day. Since these atypical options are less in-demand than those Cupid-spattered goods, you'll not only be giving something of greater value than a box of chocolates, but you'll also be offering up a nice, thoughtful surprise.So, what are the alternatives to "The Big Three" Valentine's Day Gifts?
Afraid the gift you select may be relegated to the dreaded sock drawer of a dresser, never to see the light of day? Consider instead purchasing her an item you'll know she'll use on a frequent basis... and it's not as hard as it may seem.
You can gather such clues by way of a casual chat. Your lady may lament in passing that the headphones she relies upon to make her morning commute bearable are on the verge of blaring their final notes. Why not surprise her with a brand new pair (and, as a result, save her from some potentially terrible, no good, very bad days)? For a set with style and substance, the Sony MDR-EX36V In-Ear Headphones ($11.99 with free shipping, a low of $10) come in several color choices, and provide exceptional sound quality at a reasonable price.
You can also pay attention to something your significant other uses every day, or very often. For instance, maybe the laptop case she's taken to work with her for several years has seen better days. A brand new laptop bag for her portable work station would be more than welcome, and you can make it special by getting something that suits her style. The simple-yet-classy Vera Bradley Bonjour 17" Laptop Bag ($65 with $10 s&h, $40 off), pictured, features a padded main compartment plus multiple, smaller compartments.
Practical gifts are ideal because you know your lady friend will use them on a regular basis. Also, she may not think to ask for them herself, since (to her) they're just objects she'll eventually replace on her own ... when she has the time. And of course, she'll be ever so appreciative that you consider even the smallest details of her day-to-day life.
Has She Had a Break Today? (Or Lately?)
Your girlfriend, fiancee, or wife is a hard worker; perhaps she goes to great lengths to take care of others, and she seldom indulges herself. This is where you come in — why not spring for a vacation?
While the cost of airfare is expected to rise in price this year, if you're planning well in advance (say, six weeks), you can potentially save a significant amount of money. And if you currently book through Orbitz, you can shave an extra $75 off a 4-night flight and vacation package of your choice (via coupon code "TRAVEL75VACATION", expires December 31). Also, since you can book right up until Valentine's Day, keep an eye on our travel deals page for discounted hotels or vacations, like this offer for a 4-night stay at the affordably chic Hotel le Marais (from $596, a low by $80).
If your partner can only find one day to unwind, then treat her to hours of relaxation. This could be as simple as having her stay in and curl up on the sofa with her favorite book as you take care of the chores. Or, if she likes to be pampered (mani, pedi, massage — the works!), consider reaching out to a local day spa or salon and inquire about their offer specials for a day of beauty. Our local deals page may guide you toward a deal on a spa treatment that's fit for a queen.
Dinner for Two. Only.
Restaurants may be offering their own Valentine's Day dinner specials, which may save you a few greenbacks. But unless you've made reservations well in advance, you ain't getting a table on Valentine's Day. But it may be for the best anyway; restaurants tend to be overcrowded and less-than romantic. Thus, why not make your own Valentine's Day feast? (At least you won't have to worry about making reservations, except, maybe, for a babysitter.)
Whether you're convinced that you're a future Iron Chef, or if your only brush with "cooking" has involved boiling water and ramen noodles, these free cookbook eBooks for Kindle and Kindle-supported devices can provide you with an array of recipes suited for any chef's kitchen skills. If you notice before you get started that your cookware needs some updating, the Rachael Ray Porcelain Enamel 10-Piece Nonstick Cookware Set ($89.99 with free shipping, a low by $19) includes everything you may need to prepare your special meal.
How about dessert? Few women can turn down chocolate, regardless of the time of year. For an interesting way to share such a treat, pick up the pictured Nostalgia Electrics 2-Tier Mini Chocolate Fondue Fountain ($28.79 via code "SMS7873" plus 99-cent s&h, a low by $6). To set the mood, this Pottery Barn Oversized Filled Glass Tealight Candle 4-Pack ($8.99 plus $4.95 s&h, $11 off) lends itself to a romantic mystique while still being able to stare deep into each others' eyes.
If you're not confident that you can take on the task of serving up the perfect romantic meal alone, ask your significant other to help — cooking the meal together will make it even more meaningful.
Sharing Is Caring
The time you spend with your loved one can be a gift in and of itself. Plan a day or evening in which you two do something that you both enjoy, without breaking the bank, of course. Are you both avid gamers? Load up the computer with some new games and hold a mini-LAN party. Do you both enjoy watching poorly-dubbed Kung-Fu films? Plan a movie night and stream or rent some of your favorite titles. Is photography a hobby you share? Arrange a photo walk and snap pictures of your favorite destinations.
You wouldn't be a couple without at least a few common interests, and you can parlay those hobbies into a memorable — and fairly economical — date.
Yes, to some, this may sound very much like elementary school art class, but nothing is more unique, sentimental, and irreplaceable than a gift made by you.
Don't fret if you're not good with your hands or lack any artistic talent. You can still design a one-of-a-kind gift, with a little help from a third party. You could create a 12-Month Personalized Photo Calendar (free with $5.67 s&h, $16 off) loaded with images that make your loved one smile. Or personalize an 11x14" Lovers' Heart Framed Canvas ($29 plus $2.97 s&h, a low of $33), pictured, that she can display for all to see.
You can even make something as simple as a card. We've seen freebie custom card offers come and go lately, but the best current offer is at Cardstore where you can get 20% off personalized cards (via coupon code "HEART20"). If you're not one for canned Hallmark greetings, a custom Valentine's Day card can truly convey your feelings of love and appreciation for your one-and-only.
So, while opting for a non-traditional Valentine's Day gift can help you buy more for your date without going over budget, it also allows you to display your affections in a unique and thoughtful way. If you have some suggestions of your own (ladies and gents, alike!), feel free to share them with us in the comments section below.