The holiday of love is almost upon us, and millions of Americans will open their hearts – and wallets – to show how much they really care. In addition to the traditional spending that accompanies dinners out and romantic evenings in, gifts make up a significant portion of the purchases made leading up to February 14. Here are the top treats purchased year after year, as well as how you can save when buying the best.
SEE: Be Mine, Frugal Valentine

Flowers
These are by far the most traditional - and shopped for - gifts in the arsenal, making up $1.7 billion in sales in 2011, according to CheapSally.com. While roses are seen as the official flower of love, they can become more expensive as the holiday approaches, leaving less in the budget for other niceties. Experts suggest that you don't wait until the last minute for floral orders. Purchasing even a week in advance can save 20 to 50% on pricing. Another option is to skip getting a dozen and settle for three that are nicely arranged in a bud vase. Florists can help you create the perfect look for your more modest arrangement without appearing cheap.

Jewelry
Shiny things, although costly, can be the most requested gifts on a lady's wish list each holiday. Men spent nearly twice as much as women in 2011, and the gap could easily be filled by something that sparkles. With an average purchase of $158, it's likely that small trinkets are more popular than those $1,000 tennis bracelets that adorn the fronts of holiday catalogs. For maximum savings, experts recommend staying away from diamonds and pink or red birthstones, which can be priced higher during the holidays. (For other gifts that cost more during Valentine's Day, read The Premium You Pay On A Valentine Gift.)

Cards
This small token of affection made up $1.1 billion of the $14.7 billion spent in 2011 during the Valentine's season, and considering the modest price tag that accompanies most cards, it's safe to assume that most everyone buys one. Whether you create one online with personalized photo services, or stop by the local drug store for a quick and easy version, the Valentine's card may be more like a "get out of jail free" card. Of the women surveyed by CheapSally.com, 53% said they would dump their boyfriends if they received no gift at all during the holiday season -something that won't happen if you at least buy a card.

Candy
This is one occasion where it may be OK to eat in front of your date; candy is consumed by almost everyone during the Valentine's season and made up for $1.5 billion in sales during 2011. Whether it's chocolate, fudge or those tiny little conversation hearts, you can't go wrong with a tempting treat with a well-meaning message. Save even more by stocking up after the holiday at a savings of up to 80%.

The Bottom Line
The length of a relationship will likely determine how much you spend this holiday, but even the newest romances deserve some formal acknowledgment. While the hottest gifts each year are really no surprise, they are an important part of the allure of the Valentine's holiday and a tradition that's been embraced by generations of women. (For more affordable ideas, see How To Spend Valentine's Day On A Budget.)

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