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The Money Mom: Stick to Your Budget this Valentine’s Day

iStock_000011922863XSmallAccording to the National Retail Federation, couples plan to spend, on average, $63.34 on their significant other this season – 6 percent less than what they expected to spend in 2009. But it can be tough to stick to that budget (we didn’t succeed at Christmas). So I’m helping you out. Here’s a look at some of the hottest Valentine’s Day gifts for 2010 — and some lower-cost alternatives that are sure to still be a hit.

Roses are the Valentine’s Day flower staple. Roughly 189 million are given in the U.S. on February 14, and if you ask me, I wouldn’t mind something a little different. Try tulips – they come in a variety of colors (like this pink, red, and purple bouquet), and are about $20 less expensive than roses.

When it comes to the Valentine’s Day gourmet chocolate arrangements in heart-shaped boxes… I’ll pass. Sure, the truffles are fantastic, but the Cointreau milk chocolate hearts or the mint crème ganache? Leave the herbs in the garden – I’d rather have Dove’s milk chocolate individually wrapped bites – which I can get in a 9.5 oz. package at Walgreen’s for $3. Put them in a gift bag, and you’re good to go.

Tiffany’s little blue box has a lot of significance (and it never hurts to get one), but this Valentine’s day, I suggest shopping around before deciding on a selection from their trendy key collection, or their traditional cufflinks for men. Beautiful, yes, but you can find something similar at Etsy.com for a fraction of the cost. Still not sold? Make something yourself – antique and thrift stores often have lots of old skeleton keys, pendants, and accessories for sale — and you’ll put a unique twist on today’s trends.

A night on the town is one of the top gifts each Valentine’s Day, according to the National Retail Federation – but the cost of one of these dinners can be a real test on your wallet. For example, a three course meal at famed Manhattan steakhouse Gallagher’s can run you a tab of $180 a couple. However, a homemade dinner for two featuring filet mignon, baked potatoes, and Seabrook farms creamed spinach (tell your honey you made it – he’ll never know) will only cost you about $35 – and you don’t even have to leave a tip.

One of the hottest gifts this year is Amazon’s new Kindle 2. With over-the-air book access in 60 seconds, the Kindle is versatile and portable – but at $259, it’s a bit out of most budget ranges for Valentine’s day. As an alternative, your techie can read books on his iPod touch or iPhone. With Stanza, a free app, you can download books to your device. Buy a few titles for your sweetie – and I’ll bet he’ll get a few for himself, too.

Other Gifting Tips:
Bing.com: Get 10 – 30 percent cash back on hot Valentine’s Day gifts from selected stores
Shutterfly.com: Create a customized photo book, starting at $13
LiveNation.com: Find concerts and comedians at small venues in your area (often for much less than you’d spend for a band’s concert at a larger venue)

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