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Buying someone a gift for Valentine’s Day is a decision fraught with tension. Do you get them anything at all? Does chocolate count as a gift? What if they don’t get you anything and you embarrass them by getting them something? If you come to the decision that you want to put yourself through the hell of blindly attempting to predict another person’s tastes when it’s not Christmas or their birthday (why would you do this?), we’re here to help by telling you what not to do.

  • Gift cards. Gift cards are acceptable birthday presents for people you don’t know well, like a distant cousin, aunt, or uncle that lives multiple states away whom you never see and don’t know anything about. You should know at least a little bit about your significant other, or you at least make them think you do. Try a little harder.


  • Cologne/perfume. Unless the other person has specifically mentioned a brand or perfume that they want or like, don’t do it. They may have some obscure allergy you don’t know about, some terrible memory tied specifically to that scent, strong smells might give them a headache, or they just may not like it. Getting someone a gift like this is a trap: If they don’t like it, you’ll know because they’re not wearing it. They’ll be embarrassed, you’ll be embarrassed, everyone around you will sense your embarrassment and give you a wide berth. Not worth it.


  • A giant stuffed animal. Unless you’re buying a gift for a tween or child (why are you doing this on Valentine’s Day?), just don’t. At best, a gift like this is a sign that you are dating someone who is way too young for you emotionally (or God forbid, physically). At worst, this gift will take up valuable square footage for which your significant other most likely paying out the nose and embarrass them when their friends/parents/coworkers come over.


  • Jewelry. This comes with a few caveats: Jewelry is acceptable if it’s not a diamond ring, if it’s meaningful/personal in some way, or if it’s long enough into the relationship where you’re not having a feature-length internal debate about cost versus creepiness. If you are unsure of the potential implications, don’t go for jewelry.


  • Clothes. This is a veritable Pandora’s Box of emotional impact. If it’s too small, (s)he feels fat. If it’s too big, (s)he will think that you think (s)he’s fat, which is potentially worse for you. Make sure you know the correct size and have a good sense of their style and the cuts they like before you try this one out.



  • If you’ve been together for less than 5 months, don’t spend too much money on Valentine’s Day.
  • Food is generally a safe bet. Alcohol is practically iron-clad.
  • Something useful is always nice.
  • Flowers and chocolate are a cliché but are the norm and probably can’t be too offensive.
  • Something funny is usually a good bet too, but make sure you have a similar sense of humor.