“Well, it’s the thought that counts,” is probably the last thing you want to hear anyone say after you’ve given them a gift you’ve spent so much time and money on. Buying gifts for men can be difficult – and too often we spend much more than we should on gifts that just don’t hit the mark.
If you’re on a tight personal budget, gift buying for your man may seem even more difficult than normal. But fortunately, with a little creativity and elbow grease, you can whip something together that will have your beau smiling for days.
Affordable Gift Ideas for Men
1. Shaving Gift Basket
Cost: $24 to $45
Has your boyfriend or husband ever complained about how uncomfortable shaving can be? Many ingrown hairs and nicks are caused by cheap or inadequate shaving supplies. To solve this problem, put together a luxurious shaving kit with a nice razor blade ($6 to $20), a shaving brush ($5 to $12), and homemade shaving cream and aftershave.
To make homemade, natural shaving cream for approximately $8, melt 2/3 cup of coconut oil and shea butter together, then combine with 1/4 cup grapeseed oil, and 10 to 20 drops of your favorite essential oil (try sandalwood or oakmoss for a masculine smell). Squeeze out the contents of two vitamin E capsules, and whip until thick and foamy (a whisk or eggbeater makes this task a lot easier). Your homemade shaving cream will keep in a dark place for up to a month.
For homemade aftershave, combine equal parts clear rum and witch hazel, which are natural astringents. If you put the aftershave in a glass bottle, add some clove or tangerine peel to give an extra polished look. The total cost should be no more than $5.
2. Love Coupons
Cost: Free to $5
Love coupons may seem trite, but you can put a new spin on an old idea by personalizing them. You can play it safe with coupons for dates and kisses, but some humor and unique touches can go a long way in making your gift one-of-a-kind.
For example, create a coupon to watch that horror movie your hubby has been dying to see. Or, agree to clean out your boyfriend’s dirty glove compartment. Do your man’s feet need attention? Make him a coupon for a pedicure. Create love coupons that are a little out of the ordinary, and you might find that stepping out of your comfort zone will lead to some novel (and potentially hilarious) moments that you’ll remember for years to come.
To make your love coupons look good, buy a package of Altoids or a small, heart-shaped box of chocolates at the drugstore for a few dollars. Use the container of your choice to trace an outline on card stock or construction paper, making sure that your coupons are slightly smaller so that they can fit inside of the box. Using a paper-cutter or razor knife can help to make your coupons look a bit more professionally made. Glue one of the coupons to the exterior of your box, and decorate it.
3. Grill Master Kit
Cost: $5 to $15
Is your husband or boyfriend a master of the grill? If you want to aid his meaty hobby, make some homemade barbecue sauce and dry rubs and package them together in a “grilling kit.” It’s a similar idea to the shaving kit, but the ingredients are cheaper – for example, you can often find skewers and other grilling accessories at the dollar store.
If you’re good at sewing, grab a cheap apron (which you can also find at the dollar store) and embroider his name on it. Then, package the items with a ribbon and set them inside of his grill with the lid popped open – this saves the costs of a wicker basket, and can kick-start a spontaneous grilling party for two.
For a delicious, cheap chipotle dry rub, combine one part dried mustard, paprika, ground cumin, and salt, and two parts brown sugar and dried chipotle. Clean the label off a used spice bottle and create your own, naming the rub after your husband or boyfriend. Look online for printable, customizable labels. Then, print and use diluted Elmer’s glue to affix the label to the spice bottle. The cost to make this is approximately $1.50.
4. Work Survival Kit
Cost: $15 to $25
Everyone is bound to hit some rough patches at work, so make things a little smoother for him with a “work survival kit.” Here’s a sampling of the things you could include to make his 9 to 5 sweeter:
- His favorite snacks
- Little jokes and love notes
- Puzzles, sudoku or crosswords
- Pictures of his family, friends, and pets
- Novelty office supplies
If you want to get extra creative with the packaging, visit an army surplus store and purchase a canvas bag, addressing the card to your “office soldier.” It will be sure to put a smile on his face and have him thinking of you when the going gets tough.
5. Scavenger Hunt
Cost: Free to $15
Planning a scavenger hunt can be a lot of work, but the payoff will be much greater than if you just buy your man another set of polos. Try incorporating places and things related to your relationship, like where you had your first date, or his favorite coffee shop.
For an extra cozy scavenger hunt, plan it in your own home. Set up a series of photographs of the two of you around the house with clues written on the back. You can always end the search with a homemade, candlelit dinner in a unique location, such as the porch or the bedroom.
6. Bathroom Readers
Cost: Free to $20
Many men spend time in the bathroom tickling their funny bone or absorbing random trivia. If that sounds like your husband or boyfriend, consider investing in a series of bathroom readers you can get second-hand at a thrift shop. Invest in a small magazine rack from the thrift shop, and surprise your sweetie by organizing his new reading material next to the john.
If you’re really strapped for cash, create your own lists of interesting facts and jokes and bind them together – collect weird Guinness records, random trivia, and jokes, print them out, and bind them together in a pronged folder.
7. Year of Dates
Cost: Free to $10
Another common yet underrated way to create a thoughtful gift is to create a “year of dates” box. Get a dozen folders or legal-size envelopes and fill each one with a blueprint for a unique (and cheap) date. Label each folder for the next 12 months (so you have one date planned per month), and arrange them in a basket or box.
8. Personalized Fishing Lures
Cost: $15 to $30
Maybe you’re an especially crafty individual, and artsy gifts are your place to shine. If you’re in a relationship with a fisherman, why not make him a set of personalized fishing lures? You can use plastic beads on a wire and make whatever pattern or design you wish.
Shop online to acquire colorful beads, egg sinkers, brass clevises, a lure, split rings, and stiff wire (preferably copper because it doesn’t rust – but a paperclip does the job if your budget is especially tight). You also need a spinnerbait, but can make one out of a bottle cap for an extra DIY touch. All of these items can be purchased in bulk on eBay, so you can easily make dozens of these lures on a lazy weekend.
To start, take the wire (cutting it at the desired length – no longer than four inches) and curl the end with a pair of needle-nose pliers. Slip a split ring onto the curled end of the wire, setting it into the small loop (this is where you will attach the hook). Close any gap with your pliers, so that the split ring doesn’t fall out. Use wire cutters to trim away any excess wire, and then straighten the loop with your pliers so that it hangs straight down, in line with the rest of the wire.
Next, place your egg sinker on the open end of the wire, letting it fall down to the loop you just made. String one bead of your choice onto the lure, and add the spinner to the clevis and thread them through the wire, letting them fall just above the first bead. String a few more beads of your choice onto the lure, and then create a second loop at the top of, cutting off the excess wire once again with wire cutters.
While the process may sound complicated, it’s actually quite simple and only takes 20 to 30 minutes per lure. This instructional video can provide more detailed instructions.
If you’re not the craftiest person, never fear – there is a shortcut. Buy wooden lures and get some colorful sharpies to write things like, “#1 Husband,” or “Best Boyfriend.” Then agree to spend the day fishing with your water-loving man. Who knows – you might even catch some free dinner.
9. Evening Under the Stars
Cost: Free to $30
Be his stargazing guide and pick up an astronomy book from the library. Then, set up a night beneath the stars: Lay out beach blankets or fill a kiddy pool ($10 to $30 on Amazon) with pillows for comfort, string up some Christmas lights on the porch, and pour out a couple of glasses of wine.
If it’s cold outside, warm things up with a terra cotta space heater. All you need is a few bricks, a terra cotta pot, and tea lights. Arrange four bricks so that they create a little rectangle. Then, set the candles in the middle and cover with the pot. You’ll be amazed at how well this actually works as a space heater.
10. Surprise Sports Party
Cost: $10 to $40
Does your boyfriend or husband always seem to want to invite friends over for the big game? If so, throw him a surprise sports party. You can contact his friends before a big game, and get the necessary snacks and refreshments. If you want to make the party extra affordable, do some coupon-clipping before shopping.
11. Learn About Each Other Box
Cost: Free to $5
Do you think you know your spouse or boyfriend better than anyone else? Could he say the same for you? Try the “learn about each other box” for a fun, activity-based surprise.
Simply fill a jar with a bunch of questions you could ask each other before bed, such as, “Who is the funniest person you’ve ever met?” and, “What would you bring if you could only bring three things to a desert island?” Look online for ideas if you don’t want to think of them all yourself.
12. Heart-Shaped Meal
Cost: Free to $15
If you need a gift in a pinch, a heart-shaped cookie cutter can save the day. Surprise your man with heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast, or cut out some meats and cheese for a lunchtime platter. It’s a great touch for a lazy afternoon in front of the TV or out by a pool. Add some homemade lemonade or iced tea for an extra thoughtful touch.
13. Year-Long Praise Box
Cost: Free to $5
Purchase a note card box at the convenience store and several packs of index cards. Then, write 365 things you love about your main squeeze, and number them 1 through 365. Every day for a year, he will wake up to something lovely and sweet that’s sure to stroke his ego. Just be sure to start this project early so that you have plenty of thoughtful praise to really warm his heart.
14. Gift Basket
Cost: $20 to $40
If a lot of these ideas seem too sentimental for your number one, why not try making your own “man” gift basket? Fill a chest or ice bucket with his favorite beer, beef jerky, a foam finger, and a movie or video game he’s been keeping his eye on. Then, plan a day out with your friends and leave him to enjoy his new toys.
The man in your life knows about your financial situation, and he isn’t going to demand plane tickets to Paris for your anniversary. A little thoughtfulness goes a long way without causing much damage to your pocketbook. Plan your gifts in advance, and remember that every day there are opportunities to show you care, not just on birthdays and holidays.
Do you have any special gift ideas for the budget-conscious?