How to Find the Perfect (Frugal) Valentine’s Gift

When it comes to holidays that place unreasonable expectations on our wallets, Valentine’s Day has got to be the worst. Every time early February rolls around, we’re expected to throw our budgets out the window to show our love.

If you really adore your husband, you’ll buy him a $5,000 watch or a new car with a bow on it, right? Love your wife? Upgrade her engagement ring to include the diamonds she deserves. At least, that’s the story all the television commercials and magazine ads are selling.

Obviously, most of us don’t fall for all the hype. Instead of buying four-figure gifts, we opt for presents that make sense with our budgets and financial goals. But, even then, our options aren’t always that great. Flowers, candy, and cheesy Valentine’s teddy bears may be budget-friendly, but they’re overplayed, folks.

So, when it comes to Valentine’s Day, what’s a guy or girl in love to do?

Giving Gifts According to Love Language

Part of the problem with Valentine’s gifts in particular is that popular gifts tend to be overly generic, lacking in meaning, or “one-size-fits-all,” according to Dr. Farrah Hauke, a psychologist in Scottsdale, Ariz. If you pick up a box of chocolates or a teddy bear without checking to see if your partner even enjoys such gifts, you’re not setting yourself up for success, she says.

That’s not to say that “generic” Valentine’s gifts are wrong. Hauke notes that which type of gifts are meaningful will really depend on the couple. A bouquet of roses might seem too cliche for one couple, but could be extremely romantic to another couple based on their shared memories or experiences.

This is why communication is key, Hauke says. “Don’t expect your loved one to read your mind about any aspect of your relationship,” she says.

To find the gift that’s most meaningful to your spouse or partner, Hauke suggests figuring out their “love language.” This is a term used to describe the way your spouse or partner shows or receives affection. For some people, it may be through words of affirmation or physical touch; others express love through acts of service and devotion or quality time.

“Based on which love language your loved one speaks, try to give a gift that comes from the heart and is special to them,” Hauke says. For some people, that might be a relaxing night at home with some stimulating conversation. For others, it might be a romantic dinner at a restaurant.

“Turn the focus on your loved one and tune out the millions of distractions,” says Hauke. “Try focusing on the meaning of Valentine’s Day and what makes your relationship special.”

Five Tips to Finding the Perfect Frugal Gift

If you’re like me, you probably hate the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on a Hallmark holiday. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to show your loved one you care without breaking the bank. Here are some tips that can help:

#1: Consider gifts that money can’t buy.

While you can “buy” your partner a gift if you want, there are plenty of ways to show you care that don’t cost a dime. As Hauke says, try to focus on your partner’s “love language” — not yours, but theirs — to find the perfect gift.

“For some, the best gift that can be given is quality time. For others, it’s loving touch or an act of service as simple as unloading the dishwasher,” she says.

If you want to make your spouse or partner happy this year, try thinking of what would make them feel special or appreciated. How does your partner like to express affection? Gifts that fall into this category, and especially acts of service or words of affirmation, are often free.

#2: Brainstorm gift ideas that relate to your shared memories as a couple.

As Hauke mentioned, it’s perfectly okay to give cheesy or popular Valentine’s gifts if they’re also meaningful. If your spouse or partner loves flowers, for example, or if you brought her flowers on your very first date a million years ago, buying a bouquet makes romantic sense.

Either way, try to come up with a gift that brings your partner into a romantic frame of mind and celebrates your relationship. Consider framing your favorite vacation photo, or giving a gift that relates to your spouse’s favorite movie, clothing brand, or store.

#3: Make something.

You don’t have to spend money to give your spouse or partner a Valentine’s gift if you can come up with something to make yourself. If your partner usually does all the cooking, for example, you could prepare a special, romantic dinner at home. Just make sure it’s something he or she likes. (And if you don’t know, ask!)

Even if you’re not crafty, you can still order an inexpensive “homemade” gift. Put your wedding photo on a pillow or set of coasters on a website like Shutterfly.com or Collage.com, or order a photo book with your favorite pictures and memories.

#4: Choose experiences.

If your spouse or partner is someone who hates clutter, consider giving an experience gift instead of another trinket. Study after study has shown that experiences bring more lasting happiness than things.

It doesn’t have to be anything pricey like skydiving — something as simple as a trip to their favorite park could work, although you could go for concert tickets or a visit to his or her favorite museum instead. Make sure you go with them on the experiences so you can both enjoy it — and remember it — together.

#5: Give them time away.

If it’s hard for your spouse or partner to get away for “adult time,” giving them a few days – or even a few hours – off might be the best gift ever. Even a full day of shopping or the chance to sleep in late and watch movies alone can be therapeutic when you’re overworked or watching kids all day long.

If your spouse’s “love language” is relaxation, giving them some free time is the best way to win their hearts this Valentine’s Day.

Final Thoughts

If you’re frugal or just tired of shopping for the perfect gift, Valentine’s Day poses a specific set of challenges. You may not want to fall for all the Valentine’s hype, but you shouldn’t ignore the holiday either if you expect to keep the romance alive.

To find the perfect frugal gift, the best thing you can do is figure out what your spouse or partner really wants. Unfortunately, this isn’t as simple as popping into a drug store on your way home to pick up a teddy bear or box of generic chocolates. To find a gift that will leave your spouse swooning, it needs to be special and unique.

According to Hauke, the best way to find the perfect Valentine’s gift is simple. “Ask them what makes them feel loved,” she says.

Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of Zero Down Your Debt. Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at ClubThrifty.com.

What’s your favorite frugal Valentine’s Day gift of all time? What do you plan to get your spouse or partner this year?

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