10 Ways to Give a Romantic Valentine's Day Gift on a Budget

View as:

FREE LOVE

Valentine's Day is the perfect time to show a loved one how much you care, but the costs of traditional gifts such as jewelry or fine dining can get uncomfortably high -- and some people just object to the commercialization and commodification of a day that's supposed to be about loving each other. Instead of plunking down dozens (or hundreds) of dollars for the holiday, try these gift ideas instead.

CREATE A PHOTO GIFT

Photo gifts are a good way to give a unique gift without forking over too much hard-earned dough. Walgreens will put photos on a mug for a coffee lover for $12 or make them into a wall calendar for about $25, with each month highlighting a special memory. Many stores also have kiosks for uploading, ordering, and even printing favorite shots that can be given as gifts in a matted frame.

GO ON A WINERY TOUR

Check out the local wine scene with a tour and a tasting. Wine-tasting events are often complimentary or relatively inexpensive, and frequently begin (or end) with a tour of the winery. Either book a tour on Valentine's Day itself, or give a card with the promise of a romantic wine outing soon.

GIVE THE GIFT OF TIME

Being busy makes it difficult to really kick back and enjoy favorite pastimes. Giving a significant other a day to spend alone can be more valuable than expensive jewels or giant bouquets of flowers. It might mean providing the space and time to indulge in a hobby, or taking the kids out to allow a warm bath and hours to read in absolute peace.

DO THE OTHER PERSON'S CHORES

When a relationship has advanced to cohabitation, it's likely both partners have settled into doing certain chores around the house -- perhaps one does the dishes and the other tackles the laundry. For Valentine's Day, take on all the chores, ideally as a surprise. This can score a lot of points when a partner returns from an errand to find all the housework already done.

SEE A BUDGET MOVIE

First-run movies can be expensive, although costs vary widely from city to city. Add drinks and snacks for two, and the price tag in a place like New York could be $40 or more for a few hours of fun. Instead, look for theaters that specialize in second-run films and charge considerably less, or hit a new-release matinee that doesn't cost quite so much but is still a little more special than watching Netflix on the couch.

SHOP THRIFT STORES

Thrift stores have some impressively low prices not only on tired clothing and household goods but for unique finds such as vintage dishes, estate jewelry, and treasured books. With enough knowledge of the recipient's taste and some time spent digging around, some really special (or hilariously quirky) gifts can be found for pennies on the dollar.

GO OUT FOR DESSERT

A fancy dinner that leaves pockets empty can be more stressful than romantic. As an alternative, head out for dessert after a home-cooked meal, whether it's to a speciality chocolate store to shop or a restaurant to sit down for pie. Even a dessert paired with wine costs less than dinner and drinks while retaining the feel of a romantic evening out.

GIVE A PLANT

A houseplant lasts far longer than cut flowers, which are likely to droop and drop petals within two weeks max. Think about what your beloved might like a little better than the romantic -- but cliché -- red rose. Fresh herbs? Violets? Succulents? Any would be a handsome gift that keeps on giving.

COMPILE A ROMANTIC SOUNDTRACK

Like the mix tapes of yesteryear, a custom CD or Spotify playlist can express feelings that might be tough to put into words. Music can be the key to unlocking a host of beautiful memories, such as a first date or a wedding, so load that playlist and share it. Burning it onto a CD provides an opportunity to make a personalized set of liner notes, as well --  another chance to be creative, bring up inside jokes, and express how much a person means to you.

WRITE A LETTER

Costing no more than a piece of paper and an envelope, writing a sweetheart a love letter may be the ultimate Valentine's Day gift. In an era of texting and typing, taking pen to paper gives a gift an extremely personal, romantic feel -- even before the letter is read. Share what the other person means to you, why you're glad you're together, and your hopes and dreams for the future. This gift is likely to be treasured more than any expensive token.

Monica Beyer

Monica Beyer is the author of two books and has been a freelance writer since 2008. Her work has appeared at SheKnows, Babble, Mental Floss, Good Magazine, and Good Housekeeping. As a mom of four kids, she's mastered stretching her dollars until they squeak.

See full bio