Money Talks: Costs of Valentine's Day

For at least 700 years, since the days of St. Valentine, people have been expressing their romantic intentions in February.

It started out real simple, and real cheap by today's standards. Just a folded piece of paper that revealed the name of your secret love. That was all there was to it, until advertising came along.

Then came roses, chocolates, stuffed toys, diamonds, and even romantic getaways. Result? The love-struck often spend hundreds, even thousands.

Here's the low-down on the costs of Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching. Do you know what you're getting your sweetie?

Maybe you don't have a sweetie, but you always remember dear, sweet Mom or take advantage of the occasion to pamper yourself. Whatever your sentimental situation, count on the Web to deliver a potpourri of gift selections no matter the size of your wallet.

The most obvious choice for the woman in your life is the time-honored classic guaranteed to win her over: a dozen roses. Most florists carry red, yellow, pink and white. Pink or white tend to be a few dollars less than the more popular red or yellow. For last-minute shoppers, most online florists have same-day shipping available if the order is received before 2 p.m. in the recipient's time zone. But be prepared to pay more for the roses and for the delivery if you place your order on Feb. 14. Best bet is to order early. You'll save.

Feeling the pinch of this lousy economy? As an alternative to a traditional bouquet of roses, send a "bouquet" of balloons at about half the cost. You can choose from a variety of colors and sizes and even add a plush animal or bag of candy for a few more dollars. Or, spring for a unique balloon such as a floating teddy bear complete with arms and legs.

If your Valentine is a guy, he deserves a special treat, too. You'll find a number of gifts specifically designed for him. How about a NASCAR gift basket? That will have him racing to thank you.

Or, surprise him with a gift that will last forever. Go to the International Star Registry and name a star after your sweetie. You'll get all the official-looking paperwork and a plaque, but it's all in fun. No one except the International Astronomical Union has the official power to name stars.

Romantic but broke? The most cost-efficient way to send your love is a Valentine's Day e-card. You'll find free e-card sites by the dozens. If you'd prefer a tangible card that you can sign yourself, there are e-card sites that allow you to print out the pattern and make your own card.

Or write and send a real card from your computer by letting Hallmark write it for you and send it to your Valentine. You can also go the more elegant and unique route by choosing an antique card that you can e-mail, print out or purchase.

Is it never about YOU? Take advantage of Valentine's to pamper yourself. Gift baskets are nice. Purchase a gift certificate for a spa and spend as little or as much as you like while giving yourself a well-deserved day in the lap of luxury.

To top off Valentine's Day with a romantic evening of fine cuisine, consult the restaurant guides on the Web that offer reviews and price ranges for the most romantic spots around the country.

Inclusion in this list is not meant to endorse any particular site or product, but simply to give consumers an idea of availability and costs. The prices, culled from the Web sites, can change at any time. Visit the Web sites for a more complete description and pricing.

Chocolates

12 months of chocolate
Different types of chocolate sent each month. $30 per month $5 per month

Valentine's Day Ballotin
35 pieces
$38 $7.95

Extra-large romantic velvet heart
50 pieces
$135 $15.95

Roses

1 dozen red w/vase $79.99 $9.99

1 dozen red without vase $39.99 $8.99 to $13.98

1 dozen (red or yellow)
1 dozen (pink or white) $67.99 w/vase
$63.99 w/vase $6.99 to $11.99

Toys

Love Me Tender® Elvis Bear $89.95 $15.99

Cupid Bear $59.95 $15.99

Balloons

36" I Love You Big Bear $4.19 starting from
$7.00

6 mixed balloons
$29.95 $6.95 if ordered by 1 p.m. M-F

Lingerie

Satin pajama
$49.50 $4.95 to $19.95

Gift baskets

The Way to His Heart
Microbrew beers, tortilla chips, salsa, red chili dipping pretzels and cheese sticks.
$57.95 $12 to $40

NASCAR Gift Basket
NASCAR logo souvenir pillow, NASCAR Driving Force video, cap, thermal mug, greeting card and key chain. $79.99 included

Greeting cards

Awesomecards.com

Freewebcards.com
Free

Hallmark cards
$1.99 (blank)
$2.49+postage

Antique Valentine cards

Twin Brooks
Handmade Victorian Valentines from late 19th & early 20th century. $7 to $15 Varies

Spa gift certificates

Spa Wish Certificate
Manicure & pedicure massage, body wrap, facial, manicure, pedicure, hair style, makeup, spa lunch. $50 minimum
$400 to $500 all day

Spa Finders
Services vary depending on the spa you choose.
$25 increments

Restaurant guides on the Web
Fodor's Restaurant Guide
Gives reviews and prices for romantic restaurants in cities around the country.

CitySearch.com
Gives reviews and prices for romantic restaurants in cities around the country.

Name a star after your valentine

Custom Star Kit
Unframed parchment certificate with star date, name and coordinate, a personalized star chart, an astronomy booklet and a letter of congratulations.
$48 Depends on method and ZIP code


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