Valentine’s Day presents that let you say “I love you” without spending anything

We’ve already published a great list of long distance relationship gifts this year, but what if you’re strapped for cash? If you’re saving your pennies for plane tickets and want to find Valentine’s Day presents that won’t break the bank, here are 14 free Valentine’s Day presents (ok, ok, some of these may require postage, but that hardly counts).

1. Make a slideshow starring you

You probably have hundreds, maybe thousands of digital photos of the two of you smiling and smooching and doing fun things. Create a slideshow that tells the story of your relationship and showcases some of your highlights. Set it to music, load it up, and you’ve got something you can both watch again and again.

2. Tell them why you love them

Use the alphabet to name things that you love or admire about your partner. For example, beside “A” you might write: “you Appreciate other people”. Beside B you might write: “you are Brave”. Your partner will love receiving this.

You could also use Post-It notes to do this. Enlist the help of a colleague or roommate. After you’ve filled out a stack of notes, send these Post-It notes to your accomplice and ask him or her to plant them around your love’s office or dorm room for them to find on Valentine’s Day.

heart post it notes3. Make a playlist

Yes, this is the new and improved version of “make them a mixed tape”. Pick music you think your love will enjoy. Organize them into a Spotify playlist (or use another playlist website) so your SO can play during their commute or while they’re making dinner at the end of a long day. This TechApp piece tells you how to make and share music playlists online legally.

4. Send the scent of you

Did you know that your sense of smell can unleash powerful emotions and memories? That’s because the nerves that conduct information about smell link straight into the area of your brain that is involved with creating memories and processing emotion. You can tap into this to your advantage by sending your beloved something that smells like you. Take a shirt that you already own, wear it, spray on some more perfume, aftershave, or deodorant and send it to them.

smell like love

5. Write open-when letters

This is the gift that keeps giving for weeks. All you really need to create Open When letters is some stationary, some envelopes, and a pen. If you’re stuck for topic ideas this page gives you 30 Open When Letter Ideas, and this one gives you a ready-made printable with 100 love quotes.

6. Make and send cookies

It’s always fun to get sweet treats in the mail from your significant other. It’s even more special if they actually made them. If you’re strapped for cash, roll up your sleeves and grab a rolling pin.

You could always make the traditional crowd favorite, chocolate chip cookies. However, if you’d like to get a little more adventurous (or if your partner lives far away) try this recipe for Anzac Biscuits. They don’t go stale fast, so women in Australia and New Zealand used to bake these and send them to their army partners who were serving overseas during World War I. Hey, if something still tastes decent after being shipped across the ocean on a steamer, that’s a recipe worth trying, right?

anzac_biscuits7. Give them IOUs

My family moved a lot while we were growing up, and receiving an IOU in place of an actual present became a bit of a family tradition. I can’t say we enjoyed getting IOUs at Christmas, but I now believe that the good old IOU has its place, and that place is planning fun experiences.

Research has shown that money can buy you happiness if you spend it in on moments, not stuff, so get thinking about the sorts of moments that make good presents. What would be something special that you could do together during your next visit? A spa day with couples massages? Dinner out somewhere classy? Musical tickets? A hot air balloon ride?

If you want to keep this gift free, give your partner IOUs for all sorts of different personal moments served up by you (a half-hour massage given by you, a free pass out of cleaning up after a meal, etc).

8. Give them time and attention

Suggest that you have a regular “themed” Skype date once a week for a month. You pick the themes together. You could choose a book for you both to read and discuss, pick something to watch together on YouTube, find a series of questions to ask or answer, or play online games. There are so many ways to fill four dates with fun moments that go beyond daily chatter.

9. Make them a message in a bottle

Got a wine bottle lying around? Wash it out and get creative. Make your very own message in a bottle. Put a personal note inside or a special poem. If you want to get uber-creative you could create a puzzle or draw a personal treasure map? What sort of treasure would you be wanting them to find?? Well, that’s for you to decide.

10. Send personal “kind notes” for a week

Email them every day for the week leading up to Valentine’s Day with a personal “kind note”. Pick a quote about love or a poem. Tell them something that made you think of them this week. Share a special moment from the past involving them. Send them your ABCD list of things you love about them. Remember to save the best for last and end with a bang on Valentine’s Day.

11. Send a scavenger care-package

If you’d like to do Valentine’s Day or your anniversary on a budget this year, think about creating a scavenger care-package. Put together a care-package present from things you already own. You could include a book or CD they might like. What about some cold and flu medication, Vitamin C tablets, and a packet of instant chicken noodle soup for the next time they get a cold? You could send a stuffed animal, that bar of chocolate you’ve been saving for a rainy day, or a kitchen utensil you know they need.

This gift is limited only by your imagination, your belongings, and the size of your box. A note of caution, though: Scavenger care packages work best if the other person knows what you’re doing and why. So don’t forget to tell your partner what the game is. Better yet, why don’t you agree to both send scavenger care packages this year.

care package 112. Get crafty

Not everyone can sew, knit, or woodwork. I certainly can’t (not well, anyway). If you’re crafty, however, this is the perfect option for you. One of the most romantic gifts I ever received was a handmade wooden box with my initials carved into the lid. Inside the box were a dozen, laminated, photographs of sunsets.

Did this gift cost him much (apart from time) to make? No. The wood came from a fallen tree on his family’s property. He took the photos himself. But I still remember this gift more than 20 years later. So get thinking, and then get creative.

13. Make paper Valentine fortune cookies

You don’t have to be super-crafty to follow the instructions in this blog post and make your own, cute, fortune cookies. Use some gift paper you already have and make a dozen lovey-dovey fortune cookies for your partner. This is another gift you can hide around their room or dorm for them to find in installments.

fortune cookies14. Make a love journal

If you have a blank notebook lying around, think about repurposing it as a love journal. Cover it with wrapping paper or decorate it some other way. If you’re in a long distance relationship, bring it with you on visits or trips. Trade it back and forth and use it to write notes or letters to each other. You can also use it to keep a scrapbook of your experiences together. If you write one note to each other during every visit, it won’t be long before your little book will be overflowing with love and memories.

If you’re living together, try writing a note to each other every month for an entire year. At the end of the year you’ll have a treasure trove of memories to look back on together.

Whether you have some money to burn or you’re on a strict budget, I hope this list has given you plenty of inspiration for Valentine’s Day presents and different ways to say “I love you”. And if you want more inspiration, don’t forget to check out this longer list of long distance gifts.

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