Let’s face it: flowers, chocolates, diamonds, movies in a theater, and five-star dinners are sometimes just too darn expensive and can leave even the most well-intentioned person with a serious case of buyer’s remorse on the morning of the 15th. But often we go ahead and fork over the cash just because we don’t have any other good ideas and we don’t want to drop the ball on such a special day. Here are some “outside of the box” ideas for Valentine’s Gifts that are just as meaningful, and won’t stress your wallet.
The Mix CD
This one has evolved over the years from the classic mix tape, to the mix CD and now the ease of the drag-and-drop digital playlist. But going just a little bit retro and having something physical that they can hold and cherish on Valentine’s Day is still very special. This was the first Valentine’s gift I ever gave my wife when we were still dating, and we still pull it out sometimes and listen to it. To get you started, here are my Top 5 Romantic Tunes from my mix: “Better Together” – Jack Johnson, “Moondance” – Van Morrison, “Crush” – Dave Matthews Band, “The Luckiest” – Ben Folds Five, “When the Stars Go Blue” – The Corrs w/ Bono.
Art Paper Valentine
This was the first Valentine’s gift I got FROM my wife, on our first Valentine’s day. She very neatly cut out a white paper heart with intricate geometric designs in the middle (similar to how you make paper snowflakes), glued it onto red card stock and wrote a nice love note on the inside. It’s easy enough to add glitter, ribbons, whatever else makes it special without being tacky, and it can be as large or small as you see fit. The only important thing is just to show you put in the time and thoughtfulness to make something special. To show your additional thoughtfulness, make it a few days ahead and mail it from work so it arrives at home or at their office for a nice Valentine’s surprise.
Elegant Dinner Date at Home
Pick a time to sit down together and scour the cookbook or the Internet for a fun new recipe that you’ll both love. If you live in an urban area, go on a quick date to one of the specialty stores you’ve never been to, but always wanted to see. If you’re not in or near a major city, buy the ingredients together where you usually shop, but buy it from the organic/local/specialty section – live a little! With either option, even though you will spend a little more than you usually would on groceries for one meal, it will cost significantly less than a fancy dinner for two at a restaurant. And you’ll get to pick what time you eat, with no waiting for a table, and you’ll set the mood however you like it. Just make sure the kids are with the babysitter. My favorite fancy dinner at home: Honey Cardamom Chicken with Arugula Salad, Mashed Potatoes and Asparagus Spears. Crème Brulee for dessert. On your shopping date, be sure to pick up a decent bottle of wine and couple of nice taper candles as well.
Write a Poem
Yes, it’s a little old fashioned, and yes, it may be a little intimidating at first, but remember that a poem can be funny, doesn’t have to rhyme, and makes a great impression just so long as you are you! When you pour your own thoughts and emotions into a gift, no matter how small, it will always count. Don’t be afraid to really express yourself. Just like with the paper valentine, a little effort goes a long way.
This usually works better for couples who are married or in a longterm relationship, but with this you can extend romance throughout the year with the gift of quality time and acts of service. Let your partner “cash-in” on things they love to do, but don’t always have time to do. Or it could be a way for you to volunteer to do the chore that they usually do (think of the one they dislike the most). This could include hand-made tickets or coupons that say “I’ll watch the kids while you get a pedicure/manicure/go to the driving range/enjoy happy hour with a friend” or “IOU $10 more dollars from the budget every month for Starbucks” or “IOU a night of making dinner/doing the dishes/laundry/dusting/yard work/bills” – anything to show your appreciation for what they do and to share the load a bit. Each coupon could be written on a 1/2-page of white or red paper and bound into a neat, creative booklet or just stapled together with a simple cover page. 6 Creative, Budget-Friendly Valentine’s Gift Ideas
Custom Photo Book
There are so many options online now that allow you to upload your own photos for a durable, hardback photo book and then have it shipped it to your door (Snapfish and Shutterfly are the two that come to mind). This has been one of the ways that our family creates meaningful keepsakes. I’ve witnessed many a happy tear when we’ve given or received a photo book as a gift. Most of the services allow you to include your own text on each page, select your formatting, and can be done for usually less than $30. You could include wedding photos, a trip you took, or if you’re in a new relationship, think about this: plan ahead for a special outing a week or so before Valentine’s (ice skating, night on the town, trip to the zoo, whatever). Take plenty of pictures together, and then secretly assemble those pictures in the photo book as a special token from the day. It could even be an original way to pop the question!
Whatever your plans are this year, if you usually go the traditional route, take this opportunity to create a unique, memorable and personal Valentine’s Day gift for your special someone. Your time, effort, and originality will certainly be rewarded down the road. Happy Valentine’s Day!