Crafting the Perfect Gift: Cheap and Unique Ways to Express Your Love

Okay, confession time: my girlfriend (and yes, to my politically correct readers, we use the term ‘girlfriend,’ but you are free to say partner as well, ’cause it makes me feel like we’re partners in crime and that’s kind of cool) and I have been dating for 6 years, and we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. We never have. Valentine’s Day, to me, means giving chocolate or cards to my friends and gifts from my parents when I was a kid. My mom used to give me a locket every day on Valentine’s Day, because lockets are my fave and they’re in abundance around the time.

We do, ironically, celebrate February 15, which has meaning to us – it’s the anniversary of our first kiss. So what do we do on Feb. 14? Nothing. We spend time with our friends, mostly. I make chocolate covered stuff for people, and bake cookies, or whatever.

The trouble with celebrating Feb. 15 is that our yearly anniversary is only a month beforehand, and it’s always an expensive ordeal. We’re doing photo shoots, going places, and we spend a lot on dinner and after-dinner drinks. And we’re also young, and saving for our future. So who can help but want a cheap, but creative, way to express your love to someone, whether it’s romantic love or not? This year, and every other year, I try to find ways to show her I love her beyond just a hefty diamond with an even heftier price tag.


(A photo of the front of my card to my girlfriend.)

Here are some ideas that might get you started, too!

1. Cards. Especially homemade cards. They can really say something special. In this modern day, when texting and Facebook Wall posts are everything, who doesn’t love getting something physical in the mail? As an online-shop-a-holic, I can admit I do. I also know my girlfriend does, because she checks the mail all the time. This year, I wanted to surprise her in a cute and secret way by mailing her something. Here’s the thing: when you live with someone, it’s hard to surprise them. Even if they’re out of the apartment sometimes, so are you. We both have classes, and internships, and I also work. It’s hard to get alone time in here to craft away without her seeing. So I found a cheap and sweet way to send her some love: I went on May Designs’ website and made a nice little Valentine’s card, and sent it to her at our apartment address, all for under $2. And she received it today, just a few days before Valentine’s. It brought a smile to her face as she thanked me for being sweet and thoughtful.

Maybe you don’t have $2, though, or sending it in the mail isn’t an option (some same-sex couples, for example, may still be in the closet in high school and living with their parents). But there are more choices! You can make a home-made card, or graphically design something cute for your sweetheart. Maybe you think your art skills suck, but someone who cares about you sure won’t! Also, your sweet gestures don’t have to be limited to a romantic partner. Cards can be a way to tell someone that you like them, or to make a friend or family member smile. My cousin Nicole sends me cards and postcards all the time, and just seeing her handwriting on a crazy card makes me giggle!


(A photo of the back of my card to my girlfriend, purchased from May Designs. It features a photo of us as well as some text.)

2. Make them a love jar. Or a love pack of cards. Or a love anything! The easiest way to tell someone you care is to remind them why you love them. Sometimes, saying “I love you” can be best accompanied with a specific reason why, or a good memory that you shared with the person. This year, for Christmas, I made my girlfriend an I Love You jar. It’s a jar filled with 365 things I love about her, memories we’ve shared, coupons she can redeem (i.e. This note leads to a home cooked meal), and future memories I hope to share. A gift like this literally keeps on giving, because the person has a chance to read it again and again. In my case, I made 365 notes so that my girlfriend would only get to read one per day, for a year, so that she’d feel loved all year. Some people may prefer to read it all at once, so instead of a jar like this, you could also use this Pinterest idea and write down your feelings on a pack of cards, or make them an animated flip book.

Overall, although this gift idea may cost money depending on what you use, you won’t rack up a lot of savings. I purchased my mason jar from Michael’s for about $1 (they are also sold at WalMart), and I picked up a pad of $5 scrapbook paper from there as well. You don’t even have to go for scrapbook paper, because photocopy paper would work just as well if your budgeted is really limited. Similarly, you can buy a pack of cards for about $1-2 at any convenience store, and pick up a Sharpie or Magic Marker for just a couple bucks to make the pack of cards.

These ideas can work just as well for friends and family, too. Last year for New Years’ Eve, I wrote my closest friends each letters listing what I love about them. It made them all cry! (We were also tipsy in celebration.) Sometimes my friends will find those letters and text me to remind me that they miss me. People really love things like this – it’s both an action and words, so it trumps, “Actions speak louder than words!” And who doesn’t love trumping a cliche?


(A photo of my 365 Things I Love Jar.)

3. Use their own words against them. In a good way. There’s nothing people love more than knowing you care enough to remember what they say. This October, that’s exactly what I did for my girlfriend. I bought both of us custom quote bracelets using a quote she had written to me in a note expressing her love five years ago. Although I did spend money (about $20 per bracelet at Katiebowhead – a great idea for anyone who wears bracelets, especially for best friends, which I’ve also done), you could also make something similar on the cheap. You could bead your own bracelet for someone, or you could make a shadowbox frame: purchase a shadowbox frame at WalMart or a craft store, use Sharpie to write the quote on glass, and then place scrapbooking paper in the back in lieu of a photo. (I’m going to do a post just on making shadowbox frames in the upcoming weeks.) You could also write them a note or letter using the quote just to surprise them, and make them guess to see if they know who said it.

People love seeing that you pay attention, so using their own words again will remind them that you do. Buying the bracelet only cost me around $20, but I could have easily created something even cheaper using the quote if I wanted to. And my girlfriend wears it all the time, which lets me know she cares.


(A photo of one of the quote bracelets that reads, “I looked in every nook and cranny.”)


(A photo of the other quote bracelets, that reads, “But my heart was with you.”)

You can find dozens of ways to show the people around them that you care, without spending too much money! You might be looking for an out-of-the-box idea because you’ve already written them a dozen poems and love letters, and something new and fresh like a simple card in the mail, or a jar of things you love about them can be just perfect.

Have a great Valentine’s Weekend, crafty people! I’ll be planning out a friends weekend with my besties, and ending with a celebration on the 15. We’ll see what do-it-yourself gift ideas I’ve got up my sleeve this year!


Love Always,



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