A Guide For Guys: What to Buy (And Not Buy) Her for Valentine’s Day

Advice from a woman for all of you clueless fellas out there

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Let’s get a few things out of the way. This post is about what to buy your loved one for Valentine’s Day. I understand love is not about goods and services, and that some people prefer non-material gifts or no gift at all on this day. That’s fine. Handwritten notes, romantic picnics, road trips, homemade dinners and other intangibles are all sweet and frequently more thoughtful than anything that comes wrapped in tissue paper or in a blue box. That being said, many men ask me what to buy their girl for this special occasion, so I’m going to try to help you navigate the world of Valentine’s Day giftdom.

In order to know what to buy a woman for Valentine’s Day, you first have to understand your specific woman. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation, both literally or figuratively. One girl’s shoe fetish is another girl’s Apple product obsession. So, first ask yourself “Who am I dating, and what does she love?” If you tailor your gift towards her taste rather than cliché assumptions about what chicks want, you are already wining the gift-giving game. With that in mind, here are some suggestions.

What Not to Buy

Plain Old Candy or Chocolate: Unless your beloved specifically states she is a chocoholic, buying candy can be a dangerous game. First, it’s too obvious and easy to pick up a Whitman Sampler at your local drugstore, and there’s nothing romantic about a gift that is stocked in the same aisle as socks, cat food and sinus medicine. Second, chicks are in a better mood when we’re happy with our bodies. Do you really want to hand a woman a box full of “Do I look fat?” for Valentine’s Day? I didn’t think so. Proceed with caution.

Shoes Without Knowledge: Most women love shoes, but we are very specific about the kind of shoes we like. Different brands are viewed as desirable or less desirable to different women, and sizing can be a mess. If you are going to embark on sailing the rocky seas of shoes, make sure you take a good look at her closet and get to know her taste, size and brand preferences first. As far as gs go, high heels are sexy and sensible shoes are usually not. I will admit I once received sneakers as a Valentine’s Day gift and I was super excited, but I think some women might find that unromantic or worse – a hint that she’s fat and needs to work out more. I still think personalized sneakers are an adorable gift, but you better know your girl really well if you’re going to go that route.

Carnations: Unless you are in junior high and on your way to the chaperoned school dance, carnations are considered the bottom of the barrel. They cost about $1 for ten thousand of them, and lack any sort of sophistication or personality. Unless you a filling an entire room with flowers and need to come within budget, skip the carnations being sold on the side of the road and get your lady a respectable blossom.

Stuff She Actually Needs: I know this has been repeated a thousand times, but I still constantly hear about dudes buying their wife a new vacuum or set of kitchen knives. Stop that! If you want to hook her up with a new Hoover, go ahead and do it, just don’t present it as a gift on Valentine’s Day. That’s a purchase you give her on a non-holiday, just because. There’s nothing romantic about a package of socks – unless there’s also a diamond ring stuffed in that package. If you buy her anything that ever appeared on any grocery list ever, it’s time for you to go to charm school, STAT.

A TV … for YOUR room: When I was in college, my boyfriend bought me a brand new television. For his room. He justified the purchase by saying it was so we could spend more time together alone in his bedroom, because at the time he had roommates. At first, I was so disappointed. It seemed selfish and very unromantic. It turns out the purchase was thoughtful and smart because we were able to curl up and watch it in his bedroom without the constant presence of, like, ten other dudes. The best part? Six years later, he bought me another television, but this one was to go inside the amazing and beautiful new house he bought for us. So, I guess the first TV wasn’t such a bad present after all.

What to Buy

Exotic Candy or Chocolate: Get to know your woman’s taste and surprise her by hunting down interesting and unique treats. One way to do this is finding out her heritage, and special ordering candy from the country of her family’s origin. Pay attention to her quirky eating habits (for example: does she put hot sauce on everything?) and seek out the sweet versions of her favorite delectables. If a guy tracked down Sriracha-infused chocolates, I’d just about fall over and die of shock – and love.

Shoes With Knowledge: Personally, I love getting shoes as a gift. A pair of red-bottomed stilettos is a serious turn on. If my man buys me a pair of these, I will wear nothing but the shoes all night long to show my appreciation for his good taste. If a dude takes the time to know my style AND my exact shoe size? He’s a keeper and will be aptly rewarded.

Flowers with Meaning: Had your first date in a poppy field? Poppies it is! Does she brighten your day? Get her a giant sunflower. Is she a trendy minimalist? She probably loves orchids. A dozen roses are always a respectable bounty, but you have a real shot at showing her that you think she’s more unique than that. Better yet, get her roses on Valentine’s Day, but follow up with different kinds of flowers on a non-special occasion just show her you’re all thoughtful and romantic like that. Flowers sent to her workplace for no reason will make you a hero to her (and the other girls in the office.) Trust me.

Whatever She Doesn’t Need: Women love to be pampered, but in this down-trodden economy even a simple massage, an elaborate pedicure or even a cutesy new iPhone cover can seem like a splurge. This gives you the opportunity to show her she’s worth it by splurging on her. If you know she’s been dying to get tickets to a certain show or try a new restaurant but it’s way out of her price range, take her there and be absolutely frivolous about it. Buy her the good seats, get the best reservation in town and order overpriced appetizers and boozy drinks full of top-shelf liquor. Get her a manicure at a real spa rather than the cheap efficient place where she usually shells out only $10 for her mani. Ask her what she would buy for herself if money wasn’t a factor, and find a way to give her a piece of that experience that fits within your budget. It truly is the thought that counts, and these little things show you are indeed at least thinking.

A House: To wrap around the TV you bought for her. Maybe you can’t afford to buy us a home or even a new television to go in your rundown apartment. That’s okay. It’s the idea that you might want to start acquiring appliances with us so that maybe someday we will have a house, a yard, a dog and a white picket fence is what really appeals to us. So, when buying us presents, think about longevity. Anything that says you might want to stick around for a while. If you give us bundles of safety and shower us with sacks of security, we will give you the depths of our most secret presents right back. So, you see, Timmy, this wasn’t just all about material things in the end. It was about love. And shoes. But mostly, it really was about love.