Whether it’s an anniversary present or a Valentine’s Day gift, the expectations can be high even when your funds are low. If your bank account balance limits the amount you can spend on a gift, then jewelry and other pricey presents are out of the question. However, you can still salvage a romantic day without spending a ton.
Remember that it’s the thought that counts, and if you put your mind to it, giving a memorable gift can be done on a tight budget. Crafting might not be your forte, but there are a number of gift ideas that can be created by just about anyone.
Wallet-Friendly Gift Ideas for Her
While going the “homemade” route when choosing a gift saves you money, does your wife or girlfriend really need another mix CD? You can do better than that! Show her you really care by giving something thoughtful and unique.
1. Ace of Hearts
A deck of card costs, what? Five dollars online on Amazon? Although your first thought when looking at playing cards might be of poker with the guys, you can turn them into a romantic gift for your girl.
Break out the paper, markers, and glue and pick up a couple of key chain rings from the hardware store. Using an office hole puncher, punch two holes along one edge of each card at the exact same points.
Next, use the backs of the cards to write out things that you love about her. If the decorative design on the back of the cards is too distracting, write them or type the passages on a small piece of paper and glue them to each card. Think of 51 reasons and leave the final card for a sweet message or title. To make it extra special, trim photos to fit onto the faces and backs of the cards where there is space. Alternatively, you can get personalized playing cards with a custom photo printed on each.
Finally, bind the cards together like a spiral-bound book by feeding the cards through the two key chain rings. Hello, $1 gift!
2. Hometown Tourism
If your girlfriend or wife has dreams of being whisked away on a romantic vacation, she’ll probably be disappointed when you present her with yet another bunch of grocery store roses.
Instead, make part of that dream come true by planning a “staycation” in your area. Look up your town or city’s tourism department to come up with activities and hot spots to check out over the course of two days. Book a hotel or bed and breakfast and surprise her with a quick, cheap getaway.
You’ll probably be surprised at what checking out local museums, listening to live music, and a dinner date will do to score you major props for thoughtfulness. Go on an impromptu vacation? Check. If you live in a large city, you can save money by picking up a CityPASS, which includes discounted rates for the most popular attractions.
3. Scrabble Love
Get your nerd on by giving your girl a sweet, thoughtful, and geeky gift. If you already have a game of Scrabble on hand, raid your own supply of tiles, or ask friends or family to donate a few letter tiles to the cause.
First, pick out the letters that spell out yours and your girlfriend’s names and purchase a cheap frame (less than $10 for a 5 by 7 inch picture frame). Arrange the letters so that your names intersect – if your names don’t share any common letters, use a third word, like “LOVE,” to anchor them together. Next, use a bit of wood glue to affix the letters to the cardboard backing for the frame. Decorate the piece with photos, dried flowers, or other scrapbook-appropriate items. Place the glass on top, and if the fasteners on the back of the frame don’t fit over the letters, use strong tape or glue to hold the backing in place.
Voila! Now you have a wall hanging that your girl is proud to display and point out to her friends. Triple. Word. Score.
4. Homemade Chocolates
Those pay-by-the-ounce chocolates you buy at specialty shops are a complete waste of money when you can make them yourself. Even if you’re a complete stranger to a stove, you can still put together some homemade chocolate candies as a gift.
Start by laying classic-shaped or square crunchy mini pretzels on a baking sheet, then place one Rolo candy on top of each pretzel. Pop them in the oven (preheated to 350 degrees) for about five minutes, or until the chocolates begin to soften. Take them out of the oven and immediately press a whole pecan into each Rolo and allow to set.
The result? Totally awesome homemade chocolate treats.
5. Historical Tour
Every couple has a history. Unfortunately, a lot of guys don’t completely remember it!
Try digging into your memory bank to come up with four or five locations that are important to you as a couple: where you first met, where you went for your first date, or where you first kissed. It’s the perfect excuse to literally take a walk down memory lane.
Depending on the type of transportation you use, it could be free or very cheap, especially if you use nostalgia to blow off expensive restaurants. Remember that time you went to that amazing burger joint together?
6. Overnight Kit
For those of you who haven’t made the leap to living together yet, it’s likely that your girlfriend still probably stays over at your place from time to time. Instead of requiring her to bring an overnight bag, show her that you’re not a total “commitment-phobe” by putting together an overnight kit to keep in your bathroom.
Fill a basket or a makeup bag with the essentials, like a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, her other favorite toiletries, and perhaps even an apartment key. She’ll love that she has a permanent place in your bathroom cupboard. If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, the way to a woman’s heart is probably through prime cabinet real estate.
7. Date-of-the-Month Club
Sure, your bank account might be low this month, but if you plan on topping it off in the coming weeks, a date-of-the-month club “membership” shows that you put some thought into the perfect present.
Grab 12 document envelopes from the office supply store and think of 12 great date ideas. We’re talking beyond the standard dinner and a movie here, guys! List the details of each date on a separate piece of paper, insert one into each envelope, and present them to her sealed.
To add intrigue, only list the date, the location, and how she should dress. Write the date on the outside of the envelope so she knows when to open them – one for each month. She’ll love that you’ve planned 12 thoughtful dates, and you buy yourself some time to save up for each one.
8. Car Decor
Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, whatever – your lady expects the world. When it’s a special day, you need to start the day off right so she knows that you planned something. A message on her car is perfect if she’s the one who rolls out of bed and off to work each morning.
Use a window marker to decorate the windshield and windows on her car with cute, sweet messages – extra points for hearts and other designs. When she trudges out to her car, you’ll score points by giving a cheap gift that everyone can see all day long. Just be ready to help her clean it up!
9. Coupon Book
The coupon book isn’t exactly earth-shattering when it comes to creating unique gifts, but it can be completely romantic if you make the coupons as specific to your relationship as possible. A lame promise to “vacuum the living room” might draw a roll of the eyes, but a coupon for one no-whining trip to see a chick flick means more if your girlfriend or wife knows that you’re a die-hard action fan.
Think of some of the things you know irritate her, like leaving the toothpaste cap off, and offer a coupon for a full week of clean bathroom counters. It’s more heartfelt than the cheesy love coupons that you can buy.
10. Breakfast in Bed
Breakfast in bed is pretty standard, especially when you’re looking for gift ideas and are short on cash. But instead of doing the regular pancakes-and-bacon thing, use a love theme for the breakfast.
Grab a piece of bread and use a metal cookie cutter to cut a heart shape out of the bread. Then, pop it into a greased frying pan turned on medium-high heat and crack an egg into the heart-shaped hole. The result? A breakfast perfect for Valentine’s Day or an anniversary. Serve it up with some fruit and mimosas, and she’ll be thrilled.
From a woman’s point of view, extravagant gifts are awesome, but we can always tell when they were hastily purchased at the last minute. However, you don’t need to drop huge sums of money to give a wonderful, heartfelt gift. Showing that you put extra thought into a present definitely scores high, so don’t let bank account shame stop you from making her feel special on a big day.
What are your best ideas for romantic gifts on the cheap? Have any of them totally backfired?