smart spending

What women really want on Valentine's Day

Write her a romance: Looking for something a little unusual? How about a personalized romance novel? At YourNovel.com, you choose the story line and they'll add you and your loved one's names to every page. Choose "wild" or "mild" story versions, in paperback or hardback. Keep in mind that you'll need to order by Feb. 9 for Valentine's Day this year.

"Bottle up" your feelings: Adrift in the sea of love? Why not send her a personalized message in a bottle? Check Message in a Bottle for a gift that will show her you know how to pour out your feelings.

Other "woman-approved" sites for Valentine's gifts include RedEnvelope and UncommonGoods. Check out Red Envelope's "gifts under $50" for lots of reasonably priced jewelry and other options. At Uncommon Goods, consider the wine-tasting chocolate kit ($30) or the infinite love paperweight, a bargain at just $18.

If you're able to spend more, here are some higher-priced gifts sure to please your Valentine:

Give her the royal treatment: Gift expert Ingram is partial to spa gifts for Valentine's Day. "Unless you already know which spa is her favorite, get a gift certificate through a service like Spa Finder or Spa Wish," she says. "That way, she can choose any of a number of spas in their networks. She can even use the certificate to get a massage or manicure while she's traveling." Since spa treatments aren't cheap, it's probably a good idea to put at least $50 on the gift certificate.

Be her handyman for a day: Has your gal hinted about wanting something a tad romantic around the house or garden, such as her own porch swing, a rose-covered archway or a soothing garden fountain? If so, create a gift certificate for the "romantic home improvement of her choice."

Remember, many women are particular about home and garden accessories, so offer to spend an afternoon helping her pick the swing or fountain online (try sites such as Smith & Hawken or Jackson & Perkins) or at your local garden center. Keep in mind that this gift might be a little more costly than others. Your labor might be free, but unless you're good with tools you may still need to spring for the swing, arbor or fountain.

Give a gift that keeps on giving: "One year, my husband made a donation in my name to the Nature Conservancy because he knows I'm passionate about preserving wild lands in the American West," says Leslie Petrovski of Denver. By donating to a cause she particularly cared about, Petrovski's husband followed gift expert Spizman's top tip: showing that he was paying attention to his wife's values.

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If you're not sure which nonprofit group to support, Alternative Gifts International offers a wide selection of charitable gifts to global causes you can buy in a loved one's name.

Show her she's a class act: Has your Valentine always wanted to learn to paint? Or maybe she gave up yoga classes after she had children? Show her you remember what she's passionate about (other than you, of course!) by giving her a gift certificate for a series of art, yoga or other classes. If you have kids, offer to watch them on the nights she's in class.

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