Smart Buying

6 Things You Must Know About Valentine's Day Gifts

Here's how to pick the right present for your sweetheart.

1. Gender matters.

Gift givers planned to spend an average of $134 on Valentine’s Day last year, with men saying that they would spend nearly twice as much as women. Greeting cards and candy were the most popular gifts, and roughly one-third of lovebirds (skewing heavily male) said they would buy flowers.

2. Especially in Alaska.

According to the 2013 U.S. Census, the state most heavily populated by men is Alaska, with North Dakota not far behind. In such places, men may be more motivated to spend money on wooing. Research from the University of Minne­sota’s Carlson School of Management found that where there is a perceived scarcity of women, men generally tend to spend more and save less than do men in areas where women are more numerous. Similarly, when women think men outnumber them, they expect men to spend more on Valentine’s Day gifts (and dinner dates and engagement rings).

3. Roses may be more reasonable.

The wholesale price for roses (which florists pay) can double on Valentine’s Day—and what you pay more than covers that markup. But because Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, prices may be slightly lower than if the holiday had landed on a weekday. “There’s about 20% less demand on the weekend because men have more time to plan,” says Pete McBride, owner of ValentineRoses.com and Towers Flowers, a florist shop in North Babylon, N.Y. You may also do well at certain supermarkets or big-box stores, such as Wegmans and Costco, which tend to carry mid- to long-stem beauties (at least 50 centimeters long) and charge less than what florists bill for a professional arrangement.

4. But you’ll pay up for chocolate.

A sharp rise in the cost of cocoa in 2014 because of rising global demand and fears of tight supplies led several major manufacturers to increase their prices during the summer. Hershey’s, for example, started charging 8% more for its candy in July. Mars, whose brands include Dove and M&M’s, hiked prices 7% the same month.

5. Together time is more precious than money.

Don’t sweat it if you’re reluctant to spend a bundle on a box of chocolates or a dozen roses. Studies show that activities that bring you closer to loved ones make you happier than buying expensive items. You and your significant other may get more joy from doing something you both love to do—say, catching a movie or making dinner together.

6. Make it a money date.

Still need inspiration for what to do with your significant other? Talk about money. If that doesn’t sound romantic, think again. A 2014 survey of married couples by the consumer services division of the credit bureau Experian found that 73% of women and 60% of men say they found their spouse more attractive when he or she was willing to talk about personal finances and credit. Brittney Castro, a financial planner in Los Angeles, suggests couples schedule regular “money dates,” during which spouses set and review their progress toward financial goals and air any money concerns. “By scheduling a date, each person can come to the conversation prepared,” she says. “You’re not ambushing each other at the end of a stressful workday.” Schedule the first money date for Valentine’s Day and you can discuss just how expensive flowers and chocolates are now.

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