Show her how much you care for, say, $20.
Sure, some people could be tempted to splurge this Valentine's Day after receiving cash out of the blue. Major automakers are giving out sizable profit-sharing checks. And tax reform has led to one-time bonuses for some workers at several big-name companies.
No wonder you're seeing TV commercials pushing high-priced items, like carpeting, for Valentine's Day.
Many people have plenty of excuses for splurging. But why?
Love does not need to bleed your bonus. Here are some thoughts about how to find cheerful, yet cheap, gifts for Valentine's Day. And how to use some extra cash for the long haul, too.
Go outside the box
The first instinct is to buy the flashiest box you can to express your love — the rich, red velvet, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates or the robin's egg blue trademark of the Tiffany Blue Box with classic white ribbon.
But if you want to really save money, avoid the obvious. Like, did you ever think about shopping at a pawn shop to buy Valentine's presents?
"Other than Christmas Eve, Valentine's Day is the busiest day," said Les Gold, the hard-charging president of American Jewelry and Loan in Detroit.
American Jewelry and Loan also stocks new jewelry including high-end diamond rings and bargain necklaces, not just someone's old jewelry that was once pawned and never picked up.
So I asked Gold to show me something under $50.
He pulled a sterling silver cubic zirconia necklace with a delicate heart pendant out of the case. The price? It's $20 on special — down from a regular price of $25.
Gold also showed me a large wooden and stainless steel cross, which he said is popular with many male customers. The piece is priced around $40.
And yes, Gold, who was a master of negotiating on truTV's "Hardcore Pawn," said he's willing to bargain on lower-cost items, too.
If you're on a budget, skip buying something that is gold, which was trading around $1,335 an ounce in early February. Look for other metals, such as stainless steel. Why?
"Because it's cheap — I'm sorry, inexpensive," Gold said.
Get out of the red for Valentine's Day
Seriously, it can be sexy to offer to pay someone's Visa bill for Valentine's Day.
Write a loving note, buy a red rose and tell your love, "Hey, I'm picking up a bill to help get your finances out of the red."
A chunk of money from a bonus check can be used to pay off credit card bills, pay down some student loan debt, or even set money aside for an upcoming expense.
Maybe instead of focusing on Valentine's Day gifts, pay the holiday bills from December.
Build a financial future for the love of your life
Nothing says "love" like: "I want to take good care of you today — and always." So take extra care with any windfalls so that you'll have money for the journey ahead.
Thousands of workers in the auto industry are looking at thousands of dollars in profit-sharing money after another strong year for the industry. But such payouts are not guaranteed each year. Far from it.
Many bonuses are subject to a different withholding rate for federal income taxes, as the money is viewed by the Internal Revenue Service as "supplemental income." The federal income tax withholding rate on many bonuses is a flat 22%. And more money is withheld upfront for Social Security, Medicare and some other taxes.
Yet even after taxes, such payouts can be far better than most income tax refunds.
Rich Guerrini, president & CEO of PNC Investments, has advised people with bonus money to consider putting aside some of the money in retirement accounts, such as a 401(k) plan or IRA, or 529 plans to save for a child's education.
How about slicing the bonus pie into thirds?
Leon LaBrecque, CEO of LJPR Financial Advisers in Troy, said he likes to suggest using one-third of a windfall for retirement, one-third to knock off debt or stash in a rainy day fund and one-third to spend.
"Knocking off a debt is just like making an investment, and it frees up cash flow," LaBrecque said.
Don't be afraid to shop for low-cost goods in luxury stores
Hop online to find a Valentine's Day gift and your eye can easily go to the pink or red designer handbags for $250 or $300.
But trendy websites — and even some luxury stores — can feature something cute that's more budget conscious.
Ashley Gold, 40, who is the daughter of Les Gold, developed a following while she was on truTV's "Hardcore Pawn" with her brother, Seth, and their father. She now has her own jewelry and accessories business at www.ashleygold.com.
Gold, who often markets herself as the "Pawn Chick," says her objective is to have fun with jewelry — but not spend a lot. While her website stocks some earrings in the $185 to $190 price range, she also has many items under $50.
One possible Valentine's item: Pink druzy earrings at $35. The site will will ship until Feb. 11 in time for Valentine's Day. Use the promo code: Valentine on the website for 15% off everything until Feb. 9.
In spite of all the marketing hype, about 44% of Americans say they plan to spend less than $25 on a Valentine's Day gift this year, according to an online survey conducted for Ebates, a cash-back shopping service.
Ebates, of course, points out it can be a one-stop shop for Valentine's Day flowers, chocolates, and jewelry — and is promoting double cash back through select retailers via Ebates.com from now through Valentine's Day.
Keep that Valentine's Day list super short
I'll admit I have a very bad habit of wanting to celebrate Valentine's Day, which I think is my all-time favorite holiday, by finding fun things for a bunch of people.
One year, we surprised the mail lady with a heart-shaped box of chocolates from my dog, who barks up a storm every day when she drops the mail in the slot.
We all have a long list of sisters, cousins, best friends, people who have been nice to us along the way.
And, of course, we have Galentine's Day — a totally made up day on Feb. 13 — when women can celebrate friendships with their gal pals.
Never heard of Galentine's? It was one of those crazy ideas cooked up on the "Parks and Recreation" TV show by character Leslie Knope, portrayed by Amy Poehler.
Looking for a gift for a friend, I spotted a Frida Kahlo Finger Puppet Magnet for $6.95 at the Detroit Institute of Arts gift shop.
Nothing wrong at all about searching for that perfect, cheap, or make that inexpensive, gal-pal gift. Just control that impulse to buy dozens and dozens of trinkets and cool stuff.
Contact Susan Tompor: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-222-8876. Follow Susan on Twitter @Tompor.