When Cash Goes to Job Search, Try These Valentine's Day Freebies

Cash is tight. Anything extra goes to bills or dry cleaning those interview suits. But February 14th looms and your significant other is dropping hints. Jewelry commercials that disappeared after the December holidays are creeping back into TV line-ups. According to data from BIGResearch conducted for the National Retail Foundation, in 2009, Valentine's Day spending was down more than 15% to $14.7 billion. People spent $20 less, or about $102 on the holiday. That includes significant others, children, and anyone else to whom you might express love. If you can't drop $35 or more on a 3-course prix fixe dinner that's likely a limited menu in a crowded restaurant, you can roll the dice now.

Companies are out with their Valentine's Day giveaways. What it means is you have to give your name/address/email to a company and agree to get their marketing materials for a bit. But you could end up the hero, with a fabulous Valentine's Day surprise for your honey. And if you start getting those emails you don't really want, an opt out choice is in small print on the bottom.

These contests have different deadlines and rules. Not all states are eligible so it pays to read the small print. Some will leave you plenty of wiggle room to scramble for another gift if you don't win. Others run late so you'd better have a back up--even if it's just saying, "I Love You." And sometimes, that's enough.

1. Weekend at The Biltmore in Coral Gables, FL

The historic Biltmore Hotel is giving away a 2-night stay in a luxury suite, dinner at its Fontana restaurant for Saturday, February 13th and a champagne brunch on the 14th. The brunch alone is worth more than $150. If you win, however, you've got to make your own way to Miami. Entries are due February 7th and the winner will be announced on February 8th.

2. Gold/Pearl Necklace from Fuss Jewelry on Etsy.com

Etsy is a marketplace of creative artisans. Fuss Jewelry is offering a gold and pearl heart necklace for a Valentine's Day giveaway. Just leave a message on her blog and a winner will be picked February 7th.

3. Gift Basket from SkinMDNatural

SkinMD is a brand of skincare, but the winner of this basket will receive more than soft skin. How about a wakeup call with Starbucks coffee and a mug as well as a pound of See's candy, and a teddy bear. Contest closes February 7th.

4. Love-Themed Cookware from Vegetarian Times

If you're more of the DIY-type, Vegetarian Times is giving away baking tools including a King Arthur Valentine Linzer Cutter Set, nonstick heart-shaped pancake molds, a Nordic Ware French Heartlette Pan, Love Cookie Cutter Set, band a Nordic Ware Chrysanthemum Bundt Pan. And if you win, we'll never tell if you fry up some bacon with those heart-shaped pancakes! This sweepstakes ends after Valentine's Day on February 23rd with the winner drawn the 24th.

5. Trip for Two or a Year of Fondue from The Melting Pot

See a Hollywood premiere of Valentine's Day in person with The Melting Pot's contest. You can also win fondue for a year, movie tickets, or a $100 gift card. They'll be giving way 500 pairs of movie tickets, so that could still qualify as "date night." Contest ends January 31st and residents of Maine are not eligible.

6. A 1.5 Diamond Ring from Ross-Simons

You can win a 1/5 carat diamond ring. But if your significant other doesn't need or want a diamond ring, Ross Simons will let you spend $3500 on any piece of diamond jewelry. Deadline to enter is February 12th.

7. A Trip for Two or a New Car from Ford

Ford is also sponsoring a movie-themed contest. They are offering two prize packages. One is an all-expenses paid trip to the Hollywood premiere of Valentine's Day. The other package is like the first plus a new Ford Fiesta. This sweepstakes ends March 31st.

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