Cheap presents for loved one

10 Ways to Say ‘I Love You’ Without Spending (Much) Money

Claire Tak

Claire Tak

WealthFit Contributor

Have you ever felt conflicted about buying a present for your loved one? You want to show them how much you care, but you also want to be financially responsible. Don’t settle for one or the other—you can have BOTH! Give them a thoughtful experience and use the money to build your wealth together. Show your love by caring about the future, not just the present.

When’s the last time you were truly mindful about not spending money on a gift for a loved one?

Now think about the last time you received a gift from someone. It was probably new and shiny at first, but then later forgotten about, or maybe you ended up returning it.

As the saying goes, it’s the thought that counts, which is why gifts of experience and time are more meaningful. Love is not about money and there are lots of other ways to say I love you without worrying about the price tag.

A present doesn’t need to be expensive or store-bought. So, it’s time to embrace the gift of experience and not stuff.

Forgettable Gifts or Build a Wealthy Future

Every time you don’t spend money on a gift, you’re saving money that can be used to improve your future with your loved one. A helpful mental money trick is to take what you would’ve spent on a gift and throw it into any of the following:

Follow these practices to make a gift that stands out without money.

How to Make a Present Great without Money

Plan Everything Ahead of Time

Putting forethought and planning into any present shows love more than the gift itself.

Take care of all of the details.

If you have little ones, it may be challenging to find time quality time together to participate in all of these frugal gifts of love. The key is to plan.

Find a friend or family member to help out for a few hours. Or consider doing a sitter swap with another friend who has kids or arrange a playdate.

If your house requires cleaning, take care of all of it. There’s nothing quite like coming home to a clean and organized space.

Tidy up for your partner. Throw out the trash, make piles of clothes to donate, do the laundry, and get organized.

If you hate cleaning, that’s EVEN BETTER because it may make your mate appreciate your gift that much more!

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Surprise your partner and make her rethink how well she knows you (in a good way of course).

The element of surprise shows that you’re doing something you normally wouldn’t do, all in the name of love.

Perhaps it’s crafting a handwritten poem or singing a song. Or maybe it’s getting out of your comfort zone in the bedroom!

Communicate!

While getting creative with these gifts may take a bit of planning, you can keep it even more simple by simply talking. That’s right — communication! The lack of it is the no. 3 reason why folks are divorcing.  

A special way to do this is to leave a nice note (“You, me, some conversation… tonight?”) where your mate will find it (paired with a single flower or Hershey’s Kiss).

10 Ways to Say I Love You Without Spending (Much) Money

Here are 10 ways to say I love you, without spending money. Many of the ideas on this list are free or won’t cost that much (other than a trip to the grocery store).

1. Write a Story

stories as presents

Think back to a memorable moment with your boo. Then, bust out some pen and paper and write it down. Because handwritten notes are so rare these days, writing by hand adds a nice personal touch.

Maybe it was the last vacation to Peru or that time you went to a music festival together. Open up about what the time meant to you and why.

If you want to take it a step further, you can print out a photo from that memory (if you have it), fold it in half, and turn it into a card.

2. Show Your Love With Strong Hands

God bless YouTube. It’s a great resource to learn something new, including tips on how to give the best massages.

Then, schedule a time to give your mate a 30-minute massage. Light a few candles and play some relaxing jazz music.

3. Cook a Meal, Dessert, or Serve Breakfast in Bed

There’s nothing quite like a home cooked meal. Oftentimes, it’s healthier too. (Do you know how much salt, butter, and fat restaurants use?!)

If you’re not up for whipping up an entire meal, try making a homemade dessert.

If you’re watching your sugar intake, there are plenty of no-bake, low-sugar recipes online too. Google “the best keto desserts” — I promise you won’t be sorry.

breakfast in bed present

The ultimate food gift is one you wake up to.

Cook up your love’s favorite breakfast with coffee or tea and surprise them before they wake up.

4. Embrace the Great Outdoors

outdoors adventures as gifts

Do you live near the beach or mountains? Even your local park is a nice place to relax and spend the afternoon.

Getting prepared for the day is key to this gift. Add something special and fill your backpack with water, wine, yummy snacks, and snap some photos while you’re there.

If you want to take it one step further, have a picnic and bring a blanket.

5. Create a Music, Movie, Audiobook, or Podcast Playlist

Does your partner listen to the same boring songs from three years ago?

Freshen up the list and create a fun playlist.

If your mate isn’t much of a music fan, you can also create a list of favorite movies to watch together on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Don’t forget the popcorn!

If your partner is a bookworm, create a digital library from free apps. There are amazing audiobook apps like OverDrive, Libby, and Hoopla. (Note: You’ll need a library card before you can access the books.)

This is an awesome thing to do if your partner travels frequently for work and needs something to listen to on the plane or while she’s standing in line.

You can do the same thing with podcasts.

6. Make a Slideshow

Chances are you have a ton of photos sitting on your computer but have never categorized them in a meaningful way.

Take some time to get your photos organized and highlight the most memorable times you had together. Sit down and watch it together in a slideshow. Add some music too!

7. Make an “I appreciate you because . . .” Video

There are some easy-to-use video apps that can help you create some professional-looking videos in a snap. If you have an iPhone, you can use iMovie, which has ready-made templates for you to drag and drop photos and videos into.

My favorite is their template that makes your videos look just like a movie trailer.

8. Arts and Crafts

Remember when you were a kid and made drawings or paintings for your parents? There’s a reason why those gifts are so precious. OK, maybe it’s because you were a kid, but it’s also because it was handmade. By you.

Channel your inner child and get creative.

Pinterest is the best for unique and creative ideas for arts and crafts projects. The hardest part will be actually choosing which craft to do.

9. Visit a Museum on a Free Day

free day at the museum

Most museums have a free admissions day once a month—usually on the first Tuesday. Stroll through your local museum together and check out some art exhibits.

10. Make a Coupon Book

Coupon books are great ways to show some love through chores.

Here are some ideas for your coupon book:

  • Grocery store runs
  • Laundry
  • Feed the dog for 1 week
  • 10-minute foot rubs

There are even downloadable coupon books that are ready made online.

My Most Memorable Gifts

most memorable gifts

The best present I ever received was a homemade cake from my sister. No one had ever baked me a homemade cake before. I’m talking—really made from scratch—the bread, whipped cream, sugar flowers, and the written “Happy Birthday” lettering on the cake.

I was especially touched because it brought back fond memories of high school when we used to help out at our family’s bakery and make cakes together.

The best free gift I ever gave was a handwritten 7-day journal that recounted one of my visits to my long-distance boyfriend. At the time, I was living outside of the U.S. and it was hard to see each other.

When I visited for a week, I made it a point to write down all of the things we did each day and how I felt. Then, I stacked the papers together and rolled it up like a scroll and tied a red ribbon around it. I surprised him with it at the airport when I was leaving to go back home. He loved it.

So, the next time you need to buy a gift for your loved one, forget the traditional (and expensive) route and give the gift of experience.

What’s your favorite way to give without spending?

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Claire Tak

Written By

Claire Tak

Claire is a WealthFit contributor. Claire Tak is a writer and content creator. She writes regularly about credit cards, saving money, paying off debt. Her work has appeared on FOX Business, Bloomberg and Forbes. When she’s not writing, she travels and snowboards.

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