When it comes to clichéd holidays, there’s none quite so stuck in a rut as Valentine’s Day. You’re expected to shell out wads of cash for your significant other, even if they say they don’t want you to get them anything. (Hint: Even if it’s a small token, they still want to feel special when everyone else is getting flowers delivered to the office.)
Just like birthdays and presents for over the holidays, you have a chance to show your appreciation for the special person in your life, but that should probably require a little more thought than a quick trip to the Hallmark store. Hallmark won’t complain – Americans planned to spend almost $19 billion on cards, gifts, and dinners out last year – but make sure those items will be received well before simply throwing money at the gift problem.
Don’t get us wrong, some of your loved ones genuinely prefer a bouquet over any other gift, or a giant Whitman’s Sampler. If that’s the case, don’t change what’s working. But if you’d prefer to try your hand at something new, we’ve got some ideas for you to try.
1. Order a Flatterbox
If you think your special someone would appreciate words of kindness instead of the traditional overstuffed teddy bear, try compiling a list of reasons you love them, type them up, and submit them to Flatterbox. The company prints your accolades on quality cardstock paper, bundles them in a box, and ships them to you.
You could fill an entire box of cards from you or ask friends and family members to submit their thoughts, too. The boxes start at $49 and the cards can be customized for the right color. If you’re confident in your DIY abilities, you could buy a pretty box and cardstock yourself, adding a personal touch by handwriting the notes. That grocery store card with the cheesy one-liner’s got nothing on you.
2. Send a different kind of bouquet
Pinterest calls them Man Bouquets, but simply switching up the “stems” that go into a vase or jar means a creative bouquet can be good for anyone special in your life. Tape mini liquor bottles to small dowel rods, or add your significant other’s favorite candy and snacks into a bouquet shape.
The beauty of this gift is that you can customize it for anyone’s tastes, and get creative with the vase (some examples use baseball hats or cases of beer). You’ll score points for creativity, while also keeping costs much, much lower than your local florist or chocolatier would charge.
3. Use children’s fingerprint art
If you have young children, getting them in on the Valentine’s action for at least one gift might be the perfect way to celebrate your family together. However, there are ways to dress up traditional finger painting and avoid macaroni necklaces altogether. One blogger suggests dipping your children’s fingers in glass paint and printing them on a serving plate, mug, or other pottery item in the shape of a heart. (Two thumb prints overlapping.) In one craft you’ll be able to capture your children’s prints in a tiny, cute moment of time while also capitalizing on the nostalgia and sentiment of the holiday.
If you don’t trust your own creative abilities, craft shops like Pottery Works (where you paint and glaze your own pottery) should be able to help. Otherwise, you can try the DIY approach and follow Simply Kierste’s blog directions here.
4. Book a photo shoot
If the last time you stood in front of a camera was your wedding day, or you’ve never had an official shoot in the first place, your loved one might appreciate a portrait session with a local photographer. You can include a Valentine’s Day theme if you’d like (wear red, use confetti, etc.) or just go for the timeless approach of couple’s shots, either in a studio or outdoors.
Though choosing a photographer for a portrait shoot isn’t as burdensome as choosing the right one for a wedding day, you’ll still want to consider your significant other’s tastes when making the decision. Cost is obviously something to compare, but you’ll also want to check out the general style of the photographer. Each one will have their own ways of setting up shots and editing your photos, meaning you’ll want to browse through their online galleries to make sure the style is something you and your loved one will both appreciate. If you’re not sure where to start, Professional Photographers of America provides a few tips for selecting the right person for the job.
5. Go the practical route
Valentine’s Day is often about going above and beyond the call of duty in terms of showing your appreciate. But if your significant other is the type of person to ask for socks at Christmas – and really want them – try thinking of a more practical item to show your love.
We don’t advise going the socks route, exactly, but they might need a new wallet, winter boots, or have been talking incessantly about that new book that was just released. None of these might scream “romance” to the rest of the world, but spending your money on a practical gift they’ll appreciate and use might just be the way to your partner’s heart.
6. Give an experience
Younger people are starting to spend more of their money on experiences rather than a new bag of stuff to find a place for in their cramped apartments. Travel is increasing, not only for young people but for all age groups, fueled by a desire to see more of the world instead of budgeting for a new bedroom set.
With that in mind, plan out a day trip that highlights a hobby or experience you both enjoy. Head to an amusement park, check out a brewery you haven’t tried, or purchase tickets to a favorite band or show. (You’ll score bonus points if you choose their favorite, even if the activity isn’t at the top of your list. Selflessness goes a long way.) At its simplest, this could mean planning a night in, choosing their favorite romantic comedy, and making homemade heart-shaped pizza together. If you want to go all out, think about whisking them away for a weekend trip.
7. Get original
No matter what the gift actually is, showing that you’ve taken time to think about your loved one and their preferences will matter the most. If you’re stumped and looking for some inspiration, check out a site like Etsy, which provides a marketplace for all kinds of unique and artisan goods, but often without a hefty price tag. You’ll find funny t-shirts and home goods, one-of-a-kind jewelry and tools to make a romantic dinner or dessert at home. In most cases, you can purchase the goods directly from the site, or choose to make your own variation.