THINK of names like Cartier and Christian Dior and you probably think of plenty of dollars. Well . . . you have to pay for the best. But there is good news for those looking for something special for their dad without breaking the bank. These names can be affordable, even to those of us on a regular salary. I have been giving my dad the same Father's Day card for the past 24 years. Every year, since I was 12, I have added a new message and an extra kiss. Four years ago, I had someone help me write Happy Father's Day on it in Chinese characters. Mum puts the card and its tatty envelope in the mail and returns it to me promptly when Father's Day is over. I do not know what happens to the new card which always accompanies it. But that is not so important. It is the one with the cartoon skunk on the front that I've been posting off to him since 1970 that matters. The message inside is terrible and I would never give him such a corny card these days. It says ''Dad's like you are 'phew' and far between . . . from your little stinker''. But that card, which cost me $1 when I was 12, has become the most valuable and treasured part of my offerings to Dad on the first Sunday in September - which is when Father's Day falls in Australia. Cheap gifts can take on that kind of significance. One year, the new card I sent him had elephants dancing all over office furniture and the card said I could not send my dad an expensive gift because I was paid peanuts. I sent the card off with a silly message about him being worth more than peanuts, and included a bag of cashews. This was during my poor university days when cashews and recycled cards fitted in nicely with my meagre student's budget. These days, I can afford to spend a little more. And prowling around boutiques I thought I could never afford to shop in, I am pleased to learn that I can even afford to buy him something from Christian Dior, Chanel or even Cartier. Times have changed. Here is what a relatively small amount of money can buy for your dad from some of the biggest names in town. Most tend to be socks and key rings but . . . some of us are still working for peanuts. Aquascutum: cotton or wool socks ($150); leather pouch for holding his golf tees tidy ($395). A. Testoni: a gold-plated key ring with the name stamped on it ($280). Cartier: Santo de Cartier after-shave ($340); a cute Pasha palm-sized note pad in a rust red leather cover ($460). Cerruti: key ring ($195); cotton socks ($200); paisley print silk pocketchief ($295). Chanel: knitted silk tie ($600). Christian Dior: silk and cotton socks in pink, red, green or patterns ($160-$170); argyle pattern wool socks ($180); pocketchiefs in Swiss cotton with ethnic prints in assorted colours ($180). Dunhill: 50 millilitres Old Master's Scotch whisky ($58); Gentleman's Speyside Blend Scotch whisky, 700 ml ($650); Edition deodorant ($125); pocket-size leather photo frame which holds two photographs, in green or black ($495). Gieves and Hawkes: cotton socks ($150); silk pocketchiefs in solid colours ($150). Giorgio Armani: plain cotton socks ($150); Savon pour Homme soap ($120); shaving mousse ($130); silk bow tie ($335). Philippe Charriol: compact expandable square coin holder in grain leather, green or black ($220); matching card holder ($490). Pierre Balmain: plain silk bow tie ($270); patterned bow ties in pinks, yellows, blue and white ($350); belts in burgundy, black and tan ($390) and 20 per cent off suits and jackets. Salvatore Ferragamo: smart brown or charcoal soft leather key case ($430); silk pocketchief ($550); bow tie in seven colours, all printed with horses ($590). So, a prestigious parcel of, say, Dunhill Scotch, Christian Dior socks, Philippe Charriol coin holder and Giorgio Armani soap would come to less than $600. What a bargain!