So it's Valentine's Day next Tuesday, you're lucky enough to be in love, but you're so disorganised you haven't yet sorted out a present. Hit the right note and avoid the boring chocolate/roses option with our comprehensive guide to making a great Valentine's Day impression.
Main picture by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
While there are plenty of suggestions (several of them gleaned from my colleagues at FabSugar and BellaSugar , who are much better at indulgent shopping than I am), we've framed these as rules because of rule number 1:
1. It really is the thought that counts
Despite the corporate overtones, Valentine's Day is about the loving relationship between two people. Simply giving roses or chocolates doesn't say much about your relationship, and in particular doesn't say anything unique and personal about the bond between you and your partner. Before I get screamed at by florists and rose fanatics, that doesn't mean that flowers might not be part of the mix. After all, if your beloved hates roses, then getting their favourite flower instead is at least showing some knowledge. The big lesson: putting the effort in is important. Picture by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
2. It's OK to be kitsch
I personally think items adorned with hearts and flowers are revoltingly kitsch, but if your partner thinks Valentine's Day is important, it might be time to break them out regardless. Every solid relationship involves compromises, so there's no reason this can't be one of them. Picture by Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images
3. It's not the time for a work-related gift
Yes, your sweetheart might really be hanging out for a new iPad, or a shiny new Crumpler bag for work trips. While buying that demonstrates knowledge of their desires, it isn't a personal gift: it's about their career, not the rest of their life (and their future with you). Leave the practical items for another time, and consider something that isn't about the office. Picture by Michael Cote
4. Go practical for guys? Depends on the guy
Valentine's Day is overwhelmingly marketed as a female-centric event, and present suggestions for men often focus more on the practical or aim for understatement. This shouldn't be a hard-and-fast rule; again, it depends on the individual. Some blokes will actually enjoy a romantic gesture, especially if there's a surprise element they can enjoy. Speaking of which . . .
5. Experiences can be better than physical objects
We've pointed out before that spending on experiences usually makes for a happier life than spending on possessions, and it's a good rule for Valentine's Day as well. A spectacular meal, a once-in-a-lifetime trip, or a day in a spa will provide long-lasting memories, not just an object that will disappear the next time you move house. Just make sure you pick something you and your partner will both enjoy; this is not the time for sacrificial suffering. Picture by Gregory Moine
6. Deferring the dinner is OK
This year, February 14 is a Tuesday. That's not a great night for most people to go out, given that work is still on the next day. There's nothing wrong with organising a dinner for later in the week, at a time where you can both cut loose. Don't let social pressure force you out on a night when bookings are hard to get and exhaustion might kick in. Picture by Ryan Ruppe
7. A generic gift card is not going to cut it
We're certainly not opposed to gift cards in other situations, but there's no getting around it: they're generally a bit too impersonal for Valentine's Day. Two exceptions, per rule #5: an indulgent experience might make just as much sense as a voucher, since it's already going to be a deferred gift. (If you're organised to have something planned for Valentine's Day already, you don't need this guide, I suspect.) The other one? A voucher for a very specific store might make sense if you don't trust your own taste — but offer to go along for the shopping trip.
8. Clothes and lingerie are good, just get the sizes right
Clothing in general (and lingerie in particular) does fit into the "personal" zone, so this can be a sensible choice. Just make sure you know what sizes to buy. Do a little wardrobe-dipping pre-research, and don't spend unless you're confident you've got it right. (And then keep the receipt anyway, just in case. Picture by D Dipasupil/Getty Images
9. Don't spend a ludicrous amount (unless you earn a ludicrous amount)
Yes, you want your partner to feel special and acknowledged and not just fob them off with a $1 card from The Reject Shop. But by the same token, this is just one day in the rest of your life. If the only acceptable gift is a massively expensive gift, then your relationship might have other problems. Picture by Jason Merritt/Getty Images
10. Be better organised next year
Good gifts — especially personal gifts — take planning. Valentine's Day is on the same time every year, so if you're in a long-term relationship, you know it's coming up. Don't leave your thinking through until the last minute. (I fully expect to be offering exactly the same advice next year.) Picture by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Got your own Valentine's Day gift strategies or ideas? Share them in the comments.