How to Find Traditional Valentine’s Gifts at Untraditional Prices

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A lingering recession hasn’t changed what a woman wants on Valentine’s Day.

Traditional gifts like jewelry topped the most-wanted list in a recent survey of more than 1,000 American women, both single and involved.

Market research firm Sentient Decision Science conducted the survey for Sears – which, of course, used the results as an excuse to remind the world that they sell jewelry and engagement rings. (The survey also found that 40 percent of men and women who are in a relationship plan or expect to get proposed this Valentine’s Day.)

But giving a traditional gift doesn’t have to mean paying a traditional price. I compile Money Talks News’ Deals pages and “Today’s Deals” posts every week. So as I read through the survey’s list of the most-wanted gift categories for 2012, I kept thinking that I already knew exactly where to find each type of gift for less than retail.

If you’re looking for something a little different this Valentine’s Day, you may want to check out 8 Sexy Tips for Valentine’s Day Savings. But if you prefer the tried-and-true, here’s where you too can find the seven most-wanted gifts for this Feb. 14 without paying retail…

1. Jewelry (29 percent)

Jewelry is an ever-popular Valentine’s Day gift with an endless price range, and stores know it. This means they’re willing to compete for your business, and you can therefore take your pick from sales at…

2. Flowers or chocolate (20 percent)

Both of these items can be tough to find at a discount. They’re so multi-purposed year-round and so universally enjoyed on Valentine’s Day that most stores realize flowers and chocolate will sell without a sale. So here’s my advice…

  • Flowers: If your Valentine isn’t the type to hold it against you that you didn’t splurge on two-dozen professionally delivered long-stemmed roses, consider a potted plant. It sounds boring, but this time of year, the garden sections of most big-box stores and home improvement stores include small festive plants and prettily potted flowers that are perfect for Valentine’s Day and don’t cost much more than cut flowers – yet that the gift recipient can enjoy for much longer. My black-thumbed mother still has and loves the pink-veined Fittonia I gave her last year.
  • Chocolate: Fannie May has a noteworthy offer going on right now. If you friend them on Facebook, they’ll give you a promo code good for a free pound of chocolate with a $20 online purchase. As far as chocolate brands go, Fannie May is closer to the lower-end, but their online selection beats the heck out of what you’ve seen at your local grocery store or drugstore. They’ve got artisan chocolates, chocolate-covered strawberries, and a year-long chocolate club that’s currently on sale.

3. Perfume (9 percent)

Whether you’re shopping for perfume or cologne, I have three suggestions…

  • All perfume and cologne bottles and gift sets are at least 20 percent off through Saturday, if you enter promo code HEARTS20 at checkout. To save the most, shop the hundreds of sale-priced perfumes or sale-priced colognes, because you’ll be able to take an extra 20 percent off the sale price. Oh, and shipping is free if you spend just $25.
  • Perfumania: This mall-based chain store doesn’t always have the lowest prices but does have several deals going on right now, including 20 percent off brands like Escada, Givenchy, and Davidoff (the manufacturer of the ever-popular Cool Water line). Their clearance-priced fragrances are up to 90 percent off. If you order online, you’ll get three free samples, free shipping (if you spend at least $50), and a free 0.5-ounce bottle of Soul Curve for women (if you spend at least $60).
  • Walmart: If you can’t find what you’re looking for on sale, or if you wait too long to take advantage of online sales, try Walmart. Almost every time I’ve price-shopped a perfume or cologne, I’ve found that Walmart sold it for the least.

4. The latest technology product (8 percent) tied with lingerie (8 percent)

If your Valentine insists on the latest technology, I wish you luck: The newest models are always the least discounted. (Although between now and the Super Bowl is a great time to find an HDTV on sale just about everywhere they’re sold, which is why Consumer Reports just rated them.) If lingerie is more her style, your odds are better…

  • Victoria’s Secret: If you’re looking to spend big, shop online. Through Feb. 14, enter promo code SPRING12 at checkout to take $15 off $100 (15 percent off), $30 off $150 (20 percent off), or $75 off $250 (30 percent off). Use the code to buy sale-priced items to maximize your savings.
  • Frederick’s of Hollywood: For a less-overpriced brand – or for a spicier selection of lingerie – try Frederick’s Valentine’s Day Shop. Also, select babydolls ($19) and corsets ($29) are on sale right now, and shipping is free if you spend $25.

5. A kitchen or home item (6 percent)

This category includes too many types of items to begin to list. So whether your Valentine needs new dishes, furniture, or lighting, check out our Deals pages for current sales.

6. Clothing (5 percent) tied with shoes, handbags, and other accessories (5 percent)

All four of these items are almost always on sale because they’re seasonal. That’s why almost every clothing and shoe store has a sale section filled with the previous season’s styles. If you shop online, you’ll usually find even bigger sale sections. If you aren’t sure where to start, ask your Valentine (or if you’re trying to keep a secret, a good friend of your Valentine) which stores or styles she prefers. Then check weekly ads and store websites for sales.

7. Fitness/exercise item (1 percent)

Consumer Reports recently reviewed dozens of pieces of exercise equipment that range in price from a few bucks to a few thousand bucks. Check out Top-Rated Exercise Equipment for 2012 (Starting at $3) to find out where to score them for the least.

Karla Bowsher runs our Deals page, writes “Today’s Deals” posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; and covers consumer and retail issues. If you have a comment, suggestion, or question, leave a comment or contact her at [email protected].

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