Valentine's Day is the day of love (Ariel Skelley | Getty Images )

Think outside the chocolate box
Americans spend $1.5 billion on Valentine’s Day candy every year, according to the National Retail Federation, and about 75 percent of that goes for chocolate. That’s a lot of truffles—and a lot of people receiving the same unimaginative Valentine’s Day gift year after year.

If you’re devoted to the “sweets for the sweet” tradition, however, there are plenty of ways to satisfy your beloved’s sweet tooth without relying on the cocoa bean for inspiration. Head to your local French bakery for a selection of bite-sized fruit tarts, mix up a batch of homemade cinnamon rolls, or treat your Valentine to a dozen heart-shaped sugar cookies. If you want to skip the chocolates but still like the idea of offering your special someone candy on February 14, give that old theme a new twist with a juicy caramel apple or some old-fashioned saltwater taffy.

Looking for a healthier and more natural way to generate some sweet romance? Try offering your true love a few Medjool dates, which are known worldwide for their extraordinary sweetness, or a small basket filled with mandarin oranges.

There’s nothing wrong with chocolates, of course, and maybe it’s no wonder they have become such a popular Valentine’s Day gift. After all, people as far back as the Aztecs have considered chocolate a powerful aphrodisiac.


Give the gifts your Valentine wants—and you can afford
If you’re thinking that flowers are routine, jewelry is expensive, and candy is predictable when it comes to Valentine’s Day, never mind. Chances are your Valentine is more interested in receiving a gift with strong emotional content than one with a big price tag or a firm link to tradition:

  • Look through your photo collection and frame one that captures a special moment the two of you shared, or choose several images to create a photo montage or a slideshow of your relationship highlights.
  • Write a love letter, in your own hand, that spells out all the ways that loving and being loved by your Valentine enriches your life.
  • Recreate your first date, or another treasured moment from your past as a couple, and tell your beloved what that memory means to you.

Investing feelings rather than cash, and giving your significant other something that requires more thought and commitment than a quick stop at the corner drugstore or your local mall, can help to make your Valentine’s Day a night to remember.


Perform a grand romantic gesture
There are many sweet and simple things you can do to please your true love on Valentine’s Day, but nothing is as certain to capture your Valentine’s heart, and attention, as a grand romantic gesture.

  • Head home early so you can have dinner ready, candles burning, music playing softly—and be wearing something sexy—when your beloved walks through the door for an evening he’ll always remember.
  • Surprise your Valentine at work with flowers and a small gift, and then whisk her away to a mysterious destination where you can share a champagne sunset or a couples massage.

Fortunately, the grand romantic gestures that mean the most are measured by their creativity and thoughtfulness rather than their cost, so use your imagination.