Valentine's Day comes at a great time of year, when sagging spirits need that something special to spice life up. And while those of us who can be classified as hopeless romantics have been planning what we're going to do since the last Christmas wrap hit the trash, there's still almost a week to cut and paste some homemade Valentines or look for a special little remembrance for someone special.

Before you hit the love market, realize that romance is getting to be expensive. With long-stemmed roses at $30 a dozen, Godiva chocolates at $11 a pound and Dom Perignon hovering at $40 a bottle, it'll be costly to show your sweetheart a good time this Valentine's Day.

Though there's no pooh-poohing long-stemmed American beauties, this year try baking a heart-shaped strawberry cake and delivering it in secret, or surprise someone who might not get any Valentines with a mailbox full of the 69-cent variety. Candy-champagne-flowers-perfume routines are tried-and true for sweethearts, but this year why not give a rejected lover a heart-shaped cheese to show you still think he or she is okay? Or send your boss a pair of heart-emblazoned boxer shorts (anonymously)? Or get your sister a dozen red balloons with a thoughtful note? CAPTION: Your gift doesn't have to be red or heart-shaped, of course; here are some traditional and offbeat Valentine's Day treat: Picture 1, Someone rubbing you the right way? Present him/her with a rubbing done by your own hands from a brass of romantic Tudor England. Four brasses, especially chosen for their romantic theme, have been reduced to half price (starting at $2.25) at the London Brass Rubbing Center in the crypt of the Washington Cathedral.; Picture 2, If your heart is fragile, this handmade porcelain cupid and little girl with a big heart will give your message. $12 each. Jackie Chalkley (3301 New Mexico Avenue NW).; Picture 3, Tote lunch for two on February 14 in this canvas mini-duffle with hearts. $8.95. In The Big (1075 Wisconsin Avenue NW).; Picture 4, Do be cheesy for Valentine's Day. This appropriately shaped medium sharp cheddar weighs in at 1 1/4 pounds. $6.69. Hickory Farms (Congressional Plaza, Capital Plaza, Lakeforest, White Oak).; Picture 5, The Ultimate. From Godiva, a giant velvet box filled with mounds of the queen of chocolates. For a 14-ounce box, $25; for a 20-ounce box, $35. Garfinckel's.; Picture 6, Bring romance back with a linen heart-shaped box packed with two naughty pure silk undies. $25. Neiman-Marcus.; Picture 7, Serve tea on the big day with a fire-engine-red teapot and mugs with white hearts. Teapot $20.95, mug $3.95. The Design Store (Tysons Corner, Rockville, Springfield Mall, Georgetown, Gaithersburg).; Picture 8, Frame him/her into keeping a photo of you around at all times. $12. The Body Scenter (1618 Wisconsin Avenue NW).; Picture 9, If he's never liked any of the ties you've bought him, try this 14 1/2-ounce solid milk chocolate one with a red sugar heart for a tietack. $16 plus $2.60 postage. Order from The Horchow Collection (800/527-0303).; Picture 10, Look like a big spender but spend only $20 on this topaz quartz heart pendant. Nuevo Mundo (313 Cameron Street, Alexandria).; Picture 11, Give your satin doll some satin hearts trimmed in lace. $8 to $12. Crystal Cage (554 23rd Street South, Arlington).; Picture 12, The nicest gift is one you've made, and this fluted pan will make even pre-packaged cake mix look good. $6. Jarvis Kitchenware (1990 K Street NW).; Picture 13, Feeling burned? Try this heart motif potholder. $4.75 Appalachiana (10400 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda).; Picture 14, If you have doubts about a certain loved one coming through on the 14th, run out and buy this Magic Heart Wand: its "magical herbs" cast a bewitching spell. $7.95. Nicely-Nicely (1710 Connecticut NW).; Picture 15, If long-stemmed roses are out of the question; try long-stemmed hearts. They may not smell as sweet, but they last longer. $1.25 each.Design International (1323 Connecticut Avenue NW).; Picture 16, Support your loved one with these lipstick-red bookends by Fitz & Floyd. $26. Bloomingdale's.; Picture 17, Pillow talk. A charming red and white country print which put Laura Ahley on the map decorates this round pillow. $10 for cover and $10 for down stuffer. Laura Ashley (3213 M Street NW).