Inspired Valentine’s Day Gifts on a Budget

I’d like to introduce readers to Laurel Gray, a new contributor here to the Frugal Dad community. Follow that link to read more about Laurel, and look for her posts once a week or so at Frugal Dad.

That often-maligned holiday, Valentine’s Day, is nearly upon us. Valentine’s Day has acquired a bad reputation because of the pressure that it places on all of us to come up with the “perfect” gift for our loved one.

Whether you are just starting to date or have been married for decades, Valentine’s Day can cause cold sweats and hand-wringing. Why all the consternation? Consider that the gift you choose not only needs to be thoughtful, sweet, original, charming, and personal—it also has to have a price tag that won’t derail your monthly budget.

The pressure can be enough to make some men punt and go to Plan B—one dozen red roses—and send many women running to the hand-tools section of the hardware store in desperation.

To help with the big decision, here are some his-and-hers tips for frugal Valentine’s Day gift-giving.

For Her

My top recommendation for a Valentine’s Day gift for an established relationship is a charm bracelet. This might sound a little ho-hum, but this gift is tops for frugality AND thoughtfulness. It works like this: the first year, you purchase the bracelet and a single charm. Sterling silver charm bracelets on Amazon go for about $20-30, and on sale you might even find a better deal. Single charms range from $10-20.

As years go by, you purchase a new charm every year, eventually building a bracelet that is both a testament to and a mirror of your evolving relationship. The charms can all have a Valentine’s Day theme, such as hearts, cupids, peas in a pod, doves, and so forth, or they can reflect an event of the previous year such as a memento of a vacation, a new hobby, or a favorite sport.

For the brand-conscious gal, there are lovely (but pricier) charms from Juicy Couture and Pandora. Regardless of how the charms are chosen, the end result is an utterly personalized piece of jewelry, built (and paid for) over years that will become a family heirloom.

For a budding relationship, a framed photo is a thoughtful, inexpensive gift. Loads of attractive frames can be found for less than $20, and then it’s up to you to select the perfect photo to put in it. She’ll love it, and so will your wallet.

If your significant other is a foodie, go to the local gourmet shop, and ask for help selecting several cheeses, some Serrano ham, crackers, and some nice olives and prepare a surprise Valentine’s Day living-room picnic. Add a bottle of sparkling cider or wine and have a romantic night at home for less than $30. Beats going to a restaurant and you will rack up big-time points for creativity and thoughtfulness.

For a super-thrifty gift, try a beautiful scented container candle. For less than $10, a candle is a long-lasting gift that will warm her heart.

If your Valentine’s Day budget is $0, don’t despair. There is probably some project around the house your wife or girlfriend would love you to tackle. You can make a coupon good for an attic-cleaning, a hedge-trimming, or some other “honey-do” item. Likewise, you can also write up a coupon good for a night out with the girls or an hour-long back rub.

For Him

Frugal men appreciate practicality, but also enjoy a gift that shows that their better half is paying attention to them. Listen to your DH’s pet peeves, and you will find a trove of gift ideas.

We live in a humid environment and my husband complained frequently about damp towels in our bathroom. I found a swim chamois sports towel that he can use to dry off, and then wring out and roll up without touching a conventional towel. He is deliriously happy with it. It cost $6.

For a runner or someone who works on their feet, try a pair of gel shoe inserts, which cost less than $20. For an extra touch, include a coupon redeemable for a home foot massage.

For the wine enthusiast, a welcome gift is a bottle of wine of a new variety (try a Tempranillo) or from a different region (Australia or South Africa). Ask for recommendations at wine shop or smaller market—there are often $10 bottles that are more flavorful than the higher-end wines. For the beer-lover, try a six-pack from a fun micro-brewery. Tie on a big red ribbon, and watch him beam.

Valentine’s Day should not be about flashy gifts or expensive baubles. Personalization is the best rule of thumb to follow. Listen to your other half, and you will have no trouble coming up with an inexpensive gift that he or she will adore.


  1. My opinion… its truly the thought that counts. The simplest gifts are often the most meaningful because they prove to your significant other that you care, and that you are paying attention. Sometimes, the greatest gift can just be spending time with one another, and other times a great gift could be the simplest little thing that makes someone’s life just a little better. Dollar signs don’t necessarily equal a good gift.

  2. Great article, and I’m pretty sure I want to be the author after reading her bio. Have a MEANINGFUL Valentine’s Day, everyone!

  3. I like the idea of gifts that you can build on year after year like the charm bracelet. Several years back my girls and I gave my husband a scrapbook for Father’s Day. Each year they add two new pages to it. One page features a photo of the three of them together and the other page holds a picture or sentiment from each girl.

    Valentine’s Day was starting to feel like a Hallmark holiday to me. So a couple of years ago I decided to start making Valentine’s gifts for my family and it’s been a huge hit. We also always have a traditional meal of Red Hot Love burgers, spicy fries and Baskin Robbins Love Potion ice cream. We started the tradition when we were young and broke. The ice cream was a big splurge for us back then.

    My focus is to keep the gifts and celebrations meaningful which can also be very frugal. You can read more of my thoughts on a frugal Valentine’s Day here:

  4. Good ideas, and I think guys can take note of these tips.

    Really, my idealistic view is that is should be the thought that counts. One can tell a lot about someone by their reaction to a thoughtful yet frugal gift!

  5. For Valentines Day, I am getting my boyfriend a prepaid cell phone. He keeps complaining about how much he is spending on his contract phone. I found a plan, Net10, where he can save almost $50 from his existing plan. This plan will include unlimited minutes, texts, and data. This means we can now talk all day long without worrying about overage fees.

  6. My valentine’s gift is costing .99 (plus a bottle of wine) and is going to essentially be the gift of conversation. A therapist friend of mine told me about this deck of relationship cards that has been turned into an app called The Questions. She said it was an awesome conversation starter for her and her dude, and my lady has been itching to have what I like to call “The Talk.” Which, don’t get me wrong, I totally don’t mind, it’s just sometimes hard to, you know, come up with the words and all that. Anyway, I checked out the website for these cards and the app ( if you are interested) and it seems like just the sort of thing my girl will dig. So it’s me, the app (which is literally on sale for only .99 through Vday), some wine, and hopefully all the right answers. And if that doesn’t go over so good, I’ll for sure borrow that “work around the house” idea. Not too shabby.