Valentine's Day on a Budget

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If designer chocolates don't fit in your budget, personal finance contributor Michelle Singletary has some alternative low-cost gift ideas for this Valentine's Day. She talks with Alex Chadwick about having a lovely Valentine's Day — on a budget.


It's Valentine's Day; and while the idea is that sweethearts will spend today cuddling and canoodling, the reality is lots of us will spend hours scouring malls and candy store shelves for the right gift, or at least the gift that is going to get us out of trouble when we get home. Here are the last minute ideas to keep your love life and money on track; two for one. A Valentine's Day special from our personal finances advisor Michelle Singletary.

Welcome back.

Ms. MICHELLE SINGLETARY (Personal Finance Columnist, The Washington Post): Thank you. It's so good to be here.

CHADWICK: So is it true that men spend more than women do on gifts?

Ms. SINGLETARY: They do. It's sad. They spend almost a hundred bucks on us and we spend about $30.

CHADWICK: On Valentine's Day?

Ms. SINGLETARY: That's right. That's right. It's definitely a holiday where men are expected to step up to the plate, if I could use that baseball analogy.

CHADWICK: I hope my wife's not listening to the program. I'm way, way behind. Okay. Well, why does this gap exist?

Ms. SINGLETARY: It's definitely turned into a holiday where the men need to prove how much they love the ladies. And I think it's unfair. I think all the men out there ought to call their honeys and say, I want more this year.

CHADWICK: That doesn't sound like the Michelle Singletary I know. The Michelle Singletary I know would say, men, you've been going overboard. You should save that money, put it away; and what we need actually Michelle is an excuse that would go over with the women in our lives to say why we are spending more like $30 or even $20.

Ms. SINGLETARY: You're absolutely right. I lost my mind for a second. You know, I love Valentine's Day because it does give us an opportunity to tell people in our lives that we love you. And in fact increasingly Valentine's Day is a day for people to give cards to their mom, and their dad, and aunts, and uncles, and favorite teacher; but really it does come down to love doesn't cost a dime. You should be able to pick up the phone and tell your baby I love you and not have to spend any money. That's in my world. In the real world...

CHADWICK: In the real world what are the last minute gifts you could get for someone you've forgotten or you haven't gotten around to; what should you do at this point?

Ms. SINGLETARY: Well, if you're really clueless and just don't have time, rush into your honey's favorite store and pick up a gift card; and if you're really stuck, you can do that. Think about the things that you can do at home that they would really appreciate. If it's your wife, you know, quickly on the computer they've got all kinds of programs now where you can type up a gift certificate for her to have a night off where you will cook dinner for the kids or, you know, let her just go out with her girls, or guys, and have a night on their own.

Here's one that you'll love, Alex, in my world of not spending any money if you're a lady. You know, look for one of those negligees that you haven't used in a while, put it in a box and give it to your husband; he probably won't even recognize it. And you can give him that for Valentine's Day.

CHADWICK: We love having Michelle Singletary as our regular contributor on matters of personal finance. And I love being able to say this today, especially Michelle your latest book is Your Money and Your Man: How You and Prince Charming Can Spend Well and Live Rich.

Michelle Singletary, thank you.

Ms. SINGLETARY: You are so welcome. Thank you and happy Valentine's Day.

CHADWICK: And if you have questions for Michelle, please send them in. Do that by going to our Web site, click on the contact us link found on the top of every page. Be sure to include Michelle in the subject line.

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