I'm as romantic as the next gal. But the standard Valentine's Day fare just doesn't cut it for me anymore. The candy makes me fat. The flowers die within a week. The apparel rarely fits, and I have to sneak it back to the store so I don't hurt my husband's feelings.
Of all the things my husband does to show he loves me after nearly 21 years of marriage, buying me traditional stuff never tops the list. Filling out our taxes -- so all I have to do is sign -- does. But if he were to ask me how to spend $142 -- this year's average Valentine's Day spending, according to the National Retail Federation -- to show how much he cares, these are the things I'd want him to buy.
- 3.5 hours of garden care: I love gardening. But by July, you can cut the humid Virginia air with a knife, and I pretty much let my garden fend for itself. Garden care around here costs about $40 an hour. So I'll grow my own roses, thank you very much, if someone else will weed the beds.
- Stock: If you pick right, a share or 10 of stock is the gift that keeps giving. I'll take a share of Apple (AAPL), because I'm totally hooked into the Apple ecosystem.
- Massage: It's something I rarely buy for myself, even though the massage chains popping up everywhere have brought the price of a massage down to $75. Buy me a couple hours of deep-tissue massage, and I'm feeling fine. And a relaxed wife means a happy life for hubby, too.
- Five-gallon fish aquarium: Watching a betta fish swim and listening to water spilling from a filter would bring me joy every time I look up from the keyboard. A five-gallon aquarium kit, big enough for a single betta or a couple of GloFish, costs under $50 these days and usually includes a filter and light. Add the fish, an aerator and plastic plants, and you're still under $140. Don't forget the food.
- A session with a fee-only financial consultant: We have no financial plan or clear idea how we're going to afford retirement. We just keep working, spending and hoping for the best. A fee-only financial planner -- which ranges from $150 to $300 an hour -- could help us plan for our future -- what a concept!