Heads up: Valentine’s Day is in two days! If you’re like a lot of guys, chances are that’s news to you. It’s not too late to put together a decent Valentine’s experience for your girlfriend, though. Luckily for you, there’s such things as the Internet and overnight shipping. But you need to start now.
We’re here to make things a little easier on you. Don’t have a good idea for a gift? We can’t tell you exactly what to buy because we don’t know you or your girlfriend. We can tell you what not to buy, though. You definitely don’t want to make the mistake of giving your girlfriend anything from the list below. Instead, go with our suggested alternatives. You’ll thank us. (And she will, too.)
Does anyone over the age of five actually like getting stuffed animals as a gift? They’re cute to look at for all of five seconds, and then they go into the box with all the other stuffed animals you haven’t looked at in years and can’t bear (pun mega-intended) to throw away. Stuffed animals say, “I thought about what to get you for less time that it took you to realize how little I thought.”
Better option: Give art. It’s still fun to look at, but you can actually hang it on the wall, where it can be enjoyed from a place that isn’t in the way. It doesn’t have to be a rare painting or anything — it can be a cheaper print or even something like a movie poster.
CDs and DVDs
Want to send the message that you’re hopelessly behind the times and still waste your money on physical media that were obsolete several years ago? CDs and DVDs are the perfect gift.
Better option: Buy your girlfriend a subscription to a streaming music service like Spotify or Rdio, or a streaming video service like Netflix. If you have a bit more money in the budget, buy a streamer box (which you hook up to your TV to play Netflix, Hulu Plus, etc.) like the Roku or AppleTV:
Exception: Mix tapes. They are cliched as hell, but they can still be kind of cute when done right. Go for the best of both worlds and give her the songs on this USB key that’s shaped like a cassette:
Tickets to something you like
Yeah, your girlfriend watches football with you on Sundays. That’s awesome, but you need to accept that she probably doesn’t care about your favorite team as much as you do. In fact, she might not really like football at all — she just likes spending time with you. Don’t get her tickets to something you like more than she does.
Better option: Pay attention to what she really likes and get her tickets to that — even if it’s a Maroon 5 concert or something you don’t really love.
Again, this is often a case of you giving your girlfriend something that’s probably a better gift for yourself. Yes, there are plenty of women out there who really do love gaming — by all means, get her a game if you’re sure you’re dating one of those women — but be very careful here.
Better option: If you want to give a game, try a board game. There are some great ones that you probably haven’t played (start with Settlers of Catan) and board games are more inclusive than video games — and they stay in style way longer.
Your girlfriend might love working out — and she might have an incredibly toned body — but giving anything related to exercise is still far too risky a move. You don’t want to send the message that you think she needs to work out or lose weight.
Better idea: Avoiding this category altogether is probably your best bet, but if your girlfriend does work out, giving a nice workout top is usually pretty safe. Something like this, maybe:
Kitchen or cleaning supplies
Unless your girlfriend truly enjoys cooking as a hobby and would love to receive high-end utensils as a gift, you need to avoid giving anything to do with the kitchen. It sends the message that you expect to have food prepared for you. The same goes for anything related to other household chores. This means no frying pans, no oven mitts (even if they’re cute) and definitely no vacuums.
Better option: Craft supplies. Get her something she’ll actually enjoy using. Maybe she likes drawing:
Or making her own jewelry:
Gift cards are the worst gift on Valentine’s Day. They’re also the worst Christmas gift, birthday gift and every other special day gift. They say one thing: I didn’t have the time to (or didn’t care enough to) actually pick out a gift for you.
Better option: Just give any gift and include a gift receipt — and don’t be offended if your gift gets returned.
Even if you get her one of the items on this list, it’s better than getting nothing at all. Even if your gift is a total disaster, you can at least feign ignorance and try to buy yourself a second chance next year. Getting nothing at all is unforgivable.
Better option: Something. Anything. (But preferably something good.)