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Will you be my budget Valentine?

Retailers aim for your wallet, pushing romantics to buy now.

By Karen Datko Jan 29, 2010 10:36AM

This Deal of the Day comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.


Few holidays are as terrifying for your psyche -- and your budget -- as Valentine’s Day.


“You’re trying to set the right tone for the relationship,” says Art Markman, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas. “But usually you’re not 100% sure what you want to communicate.” Go too romantic, and you risk scaring the recipient away (or worse, inadvertently sealing the affections of a more casual acquaintance). A less-thought-out gesture gambles showing too little affection for a serious relationship.


Retailers would like cupid’s arrow to bull's-eye your wallet along with your heart. Last year, Americans spent on average $102 on Valentine’s Day expenses, down from $122 in 2008, according to the National Retail Federation. To get you spending again, they are pushing promotions now (see below), with many sites throwing in free ground shipping to deliver gifts in time, says Sok Verdery, the chief executive of, a deal and coupon site. But as the holiday approaches, expect fewer sales on traditional gifts.

To cut down the stress and expenses, have a frank talk with your significant other about what each of you is thinking in terms of gifts and celebrations, advises Markman. And follow your heart -- even if it takes you away from traditional gifts like flowers and sweets. “At the end of the day, we want to get the idea that someone was thinking about us, and the gift should reflect that,” he says. (Personally, I’m planning a fancy homemade dinner -- exact menu TBD -- followed by some of my office-renowned cupcakes. Romantic and economical.)


We’re featuring valuable coupons and sales each Friday to help you spend less on the items you buy. Found a deal we missed -- or looking for a better price on a specific item? E-mail me at or send me a tweet @kellibgrant.


Ruby Tuesday. Through Feb. 7, save 25% on meals at the restaurant chain when you use a print-out coupon. Alcohol isn’t covered, so factor that in before you decide to dine.


Valentine’s Day gifts. Stores tend to take advantage of procrastinators, offering fewer sales on traditional gifts -- think red roses, jewelry and chocolates -- as the holiday approaches, says Kit Yarrow, a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, whose book “Gen Buy” assesses consumers’ purchase motivations. “Stores are in the mode of earlier is better,” she says.


Here’s a selection of sales currently out there:

  • J.C. Penney: Save 15% off select fine jewelry online. Also get free shipping on all orders of $75 or more with coupon code VDAY75 through Jan. 30.
  • Barnes & Noble: Through Feb. 1, save up to 30% on select Valentine’s Day books and gifts with a print-out store coupon. Belong to the rewards club? Check your e-mail for coupons to save up to 40% instead.
  • Order the Valentine’s Roses package by Jan. 31 and get a free vase and chocolates (a $20 value). You’ll save 29%.
  • FTD: Save 40% on the price of a dozen red roses when you order by Jan. 31. You’ll pay $30 ($40 with a vase included). 
  • Blue Nile: Save 10% with code JEWELRY10 through Feb. 7.

Petco. Subscribers to Petco's e-mail newsletter received codes this week that offer an extra 5%, 10% or 20% off most items, good through Feb. 2. A strange point of fine print: Although the discount codes can be used multiple times (you’ll find plenty at, they are linked to a particular subscriber’s account. Petco will deposit $1 into that person’s reward account every time you or someone else uses the code. You won’t pay extra -- just know that another random customer benefits from your savings. Dog and cat food, litter and other items are excluded from the discount.


Through Jan. 29, you can also save up to 50% on beds, treats, toys, bowls and other products during the “Pet Essentials Mega-Event.”


Ann Taylor Loft. During the ongoing “Final Clearance” promotion, take an extra 50% off all sale items. The promotion is in stores only, so selection varies widely. Be prepared to do a little legwork to track down that sweater or jacket you’ve been eyeing online.


Related reading at SmartMoney:

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