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Skip The Flowers And Jewelry For Your Valentine


And, switching gears now, you know Valentine's Day is just around the corner and maybe you are eyeing some nice chocolates or perhaps comparison shopping for roses or even something sparkly for your special someone. Well, our next guest, journalist and author Mark Di Vincenzo says hold on for a minute. You might remember that we spoke to him last month. He told us that there are bad times, good times and better times to do and buy just about everything. He's a contributor to Time magazine's Smart Spending column and, most recently, the author of "Buy Shoes on Wednesday and Tweet at 4:00."

So we thought this would be a good time to have him back to ask him, what should you buy this month, especially for your Valentine?

So, Mark, welcome back. Thanks so much for joining us once again.

MARK DI VINCENZO: Great to be back, Michel.

MARTIN: So, you know, of course, Valentine's Day coming up next week and I assume most people are thinking about chocolates, roses, perfume and jewelry - but you say, don't. Why?

VINCENZO: Well, I hope you've bought those things by now because February is not a great time to buy those things and it's because the retailers know you want them and they're not going to discount them for you. It's like jewelry is especially bad to buy this time of the year, especially in early February. They have these false sales where they drive up the price and then they put it on sale, so the consumer is not making out there at all.

The good news is, if there's a good place to buy any of this stuff - I don't mean this to be a commercial, but the warehouse stores probably have the best prices on things like boxes of chocolate and jewelry.

MARTIN: So, if you must - if you didn't follow your advice from January and say, you know...


MARTIN: early, you can still find some deals. But generally, what you say is February is one of the six gift-giving months. May, June, October, November and December, Christmas, when you're going to expect to pay top dollar, so don't do that. So what is February a good month to do or buy?

VINCENZO: Well, February is a good month to buy a lot of things. For one, cell phones. In the last couple of years, you could find buy one, get one free deals - one for you, one for your sweetheart. Also, cameras. The manufacturer sort of trade shows - they happen this time of year. They're introducing new models and the retailers need to make room for these new models. So the older models, which are perfectly good - they go on sale and, sometimes, up to about 40 percent off. If you can wait, the President's Day weekend is the best weekend, mostly...

MARTIN: To buy a camera so you can take a picture of your...


MARTIN: ...special person.

VINCENZO: Yeah. And...

MARTIN: And, if you're really into nesting, I think you were telling us there's another big ticket item that's a good thing to buy this time of year.

VINCENZO: Yeah. Furniture. New models are arriving this month and so, starting in January and then into February, you can find up to 40 percent off, especially living room and dining room furniture. These stores have to make room for the new stuff, so they want to sell the older stuff.

MARTIN: I think that might scare somebody on a first date, though, if you took them shopping for a dining room set. I don't know if I'd recommend that. I'm just saying I would appreciate that, but I don't know that I want to recommend to people that - and then we'll be answering letters from the people who say, why did he take me shopping for a dining room set? That's not what I - anyway.

So, even though Valentine's Day is a time for love and romance, you say - what if you want to do something for yourself? What is February a good month to do for yourself?

VINCENZO: Well, it's a good time to get checked out by your dermatologist. Your skin is at its most fair this time of year, so it's easier for them to see moles and blotches and things that could become cancerous.

MARTIN: OK. Now, some of us are not, as you said, fair - normally. Is this still - if you are of a different skin tone, is this still a good time to visit a dermatologist?

VINCENZO: You know, dermatologists will tell you that you should get checked out once a year and, as you know - as most people know - even if you are of an ethnicity that has darker skin, it's still going to be a bit lighter in the winter.

MARTIN: I'm trying to think of a joke, but I won't, but - so, finally, Valentine's Day isn't just about presents. It can also be about that romantic date night or weekend. Is there some place that is a particularly good deal at this time of year?

VINCENZO: Las Vegas is a great place to go in February, in the winter, when a lot of people stay away, so it's cheaper to fly there in February. It's cheaper to stay there in February.

MARTIN: Really? Anything else? What if you don't like Vegas?

VINCENZO: Yeah. New York City. You know, it's always crazy, but in February, it's sort of a slow time for tourism, relatively speaking. So it's a lot easier to get tickets to Broadway shows. It's easier to get them at the TKTS booth in Times Square. You can get coupon codes on the internet. A lot of box offices will accept these coupon codes this time of the year when it's slower, so you actually can save money by doing a Broadway show in February.

MARTIN: And, if you have already done your due diligence and you know that this is the right person, you're saying that New York is also a good place to get married in February, or to propose.

VINCENZO: Yeah. The Empire State Building is a very, very famous place to propose. No one knows exactly how many people, but it's probably in the thousands, and it's also a place where a lot of people want to get married. It only happens once a year. Valentine's Day is the only day of the year where you can get married at the top of the Empire State Building, but there's a catch. You have to enter a lottery. You have to apply, and then you have to get chosen.

MARTIN: Well, that's not fun, but in terms of that. But you're just saying you don't have to enter a lottery to propose. You can propose there at any time. Is that right?

VINCENZO: Right, yes. And it's a very famous place to propose and Valentine's Day is obviously the best day of the year to do that.

MARTIN: And - yes - I think it is. Well, good. Hopefully, it'll offer people some good luck. So, Mark, you know I'm going to ask you. What are you doing for Valentine's Day?

VINCENZO: Well, my wife is going to...

MARTIN: Let's make sure your other half is not listening.

VINCENZO: Well, she is going to listen to this interview, so I'm going to (unintelligible) on that.

MARTIN: Turn the dial down now. Turn the dial. No. Turn the dial down. Mark, what are you doing? We're putting you on the spot. Come on. Are you buying furniture?

VINCENZO: No. I'm not buying furniture. I'm going to a special restaurant in town.

MARTIN: Oh, OK. OK. Well, I won't put you on the spot and ask you which one it is and whether you're getting a good deal there, because that's too much pressure. So Mark Di Vincenzo is a contributor to Time magazine. He's the author of "Buy Shoes on Wednesday and Tweet at 4:00" and he joined us from member station WHRO in Norfolk, Virginia.

Mark, thanks so much for joining us.

VINCENZO: Thank you, Michel.


MARTIN: Just ahead, everybody's affected by gun violence and gun safety, so what's gender got to do with it?

GAYLE TROTTER: For women, the ability to arm ourselves for our protection is even more consequential than for men.

MARTIN: We'll ask our roundtable of women journalists and commentators in our Beauty Shop about why women are moving into the foreground and the fight over gun control and gun safety. That's coming up on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.