Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for the Budget-Conscious Procrastinator

While I am not normally one to buy into Valentine’s Day sentimentality, it’s always a nice feeling when that day comes along and someone has thought of you. Here are a few last minute, budget-friendly ideas if you haven’t yet gotten anything for the lady in your life, and you’re not quite up for a trip to Victoria’s Secret.

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Inexpensive Fashion Jewelry

Free People caught my eye recently with their budget-friendly prices and Russian-gypsy-meets-grunge-girl aesthetic. You can’t go wrong with the Shashi Bracelet ($69.95; times must be tough over at Free People if they’re using bracelet models with hairy arms…if your lady presents a similar situation, you may want to throw in some bleach as well), or the Freemont Bib Necklace ($29.95). Each is a lovely, unique and fashion-forward piece that will have her wondering where you could have dug up such a fabulous find.

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I’m also very into J. Crew’s statement-making fashion jewelry collection. A number of pieces are currently on sale. One I particularly love for both its look and price is the Petal-and-Pearl Necklace ($34.99) below. The ribbon tie allows her to adjust the length to her liking.

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One note about fashion jewelry: it’s best not to buy inexpensive rings. They tarnish readily, and can therefore turn one’s finger green. Trust me, nothing looks busted up quite like a green tarnish line encircling your finger.

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Cook Her Dinner!

Head over to your local fish market and pick up a slab of fresh tuna steak. A total of 12 ounces should be plenty. On the way home, grab a bottle of white wine and some fresh herbs — basil, chervil, thyme, oregano…anything you can find that doesn’t look totally anemic, seeing that we are in the dead of winter. Rub the tuna with the chopped up herbs, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sear in a pan with a turn of olive oil at high heat for 1-2 minutes per side. Finish with a squeeze of lemon. (There is no better way to enjoy a tuna steak than when it’s practically raw in my opinion, but you might want to ask her if she prefers it better done.) For dessert, my dear friend and soon to be cookbook author, Luisa Weiss (aka The Wednesday Chef) suggests Bret Thompson’s utterly bewitching Double Chocolate Cookies. They are the sexiest, most grown-up tasting cookie I have ever had the pleasure of indulging in. Easy to make, they’re essentially just butter, eggs, sugar, flour and a boatload of chocolate.


Photo credit: The Wednesday Chef

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Street Vendor Essential Oils

Yes, buying scents for another person is very personal, and I would only recommend this option if you’ve been dating for at least six months. With that caveat out of the way, I will now tell you about one of my all-time favorite scents: Egyptian Musk. I cannot praise this fragrance enough. It’s light and clean but still feminine, and it always draws compliments. The beauty of Egyptian Musk is that you can get it very inexpensively. If you live in Manhattan, you can get it from one of the incense and oil sellers on the street, or elsewhere from an African American beauty supply store or online here. The stuff is cheap enough that if she doesn’t like it, you’ll only be out a few bucks. Please forgive the peculiar-borderline-frightening image. I couldn’t help myself.

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A Coupon Book!

My least expensive yet most creative idea is the handmade coupon book. Here you make little slips of paper for things like “one free I’ll do your laundry,” and so forth (why not go R-rated here as well?). If you’re on a budget, you’ll still really impress her with the thought you put into this one. You can personalize it with all those nice things you’ve been meaning to do for her all year long but haven’t really felt like (let’s be honest!) or gotten to.

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…If you’re flying solo this Valentine’s Day, and you’ve made it thus far through this blog post, you deserve to get something nice for yourself. Why not? A colorful striped J. Press ribbon belt ($39.50) is the perfect way to inject a little breezy color and life into your look. It’s a shot in the arm for stale office wear: you can pair it with jeans and khakis of course, but also try it with dress pants and a solid button-down for a playful but subtle twist on the expected.

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