I Can't Afford A Valentine's Day Gift, So Instead I'm Planning A Surprise For My SO

Growing up, little holidays were a big deal in my home: Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, and — of course — Valentine's Day were all excuses to celebrate. Each year, my mom would give me and my sisters festive balloons, even more festive socks, and prepare decadent breakfast treats. Nothing was ever crazy expensive or indulgent, but every Feb. 14, she made us feel a little extra special. And if you can't afford a Valentine's Day gift for your boyfriend or girlfriend this year, well, I'd recommend taking a page out of my mom's book.

The key to pleasing your SO should never be over-priced dinners or extravagant gestures. After all, as The Supremes and The Beatles have reminded me on numerous occasions, you can't buy love. So if you're broke as a joke this Valentine's Day (same!), don't panic or max out your credit card trying to prove your love to your partner. Instead, let's put our heads together and come up with some adorable, thoughtful ways to show you care... on, like, a $20 budget. Yes? Great.

I asked a handful of men and women to share their greatest low-budget Valentine's Day ideas, be they romantic gifts or activities. And just... Wow, you guys. Here's what 10 ladies and gents have in store for their partners this Valentine's Day (or have done in years past), and my heart is bursting at the seams just reading these.

OK, this may be the cutest idea I have ever heard.

My boyfriend and I are both in-between jobs right now, so we can barely make rent, let alone splurge on Valentine's Day presents. We agreed to make each other's gifts this year. I have no idea what he's doing, but I planned out a scavenger hunt for us to do with a bunch of his friends. It's all stuff that we did on our first dates together mixed in with things I know he really wants to do, like going to the bar where we met and leaving notes for strangers in book stores. Silly stuff like that. I think it'll be really fun, and it's not costing me thing.

—Amy*, 26

This feels like something straight out of an indie rom-com.

I got fun donuts from a local bakery one year and my boyfriend and I snuck them into the Museum of Fine Arts (which was free!). The donuts were inappropriately themed (like, one had the words 'In the hole' with an arrow written in frosting) and I loved them. So did he.

—Rachel, 24

Love the cooking dinner idea (maybe skip the hearts, though?).

The last few years I've cooked my wife a nice meal at home. To make it more Valentines-y, I usually prepare venison heart. I imagine beef heart can be bought cheap at the butcher.


And this takes that dinner idea to new heights.

Last year, I bought a bunch of tea lights (you can get a pack of 10 for like $2) and a couple of bouquets of cheap bodega flowers. I covered my girlfriend's apartment in little vases of flowers and candles and just made some pasta for dinner because I can't cook. She was so surprised and excited, and it cost me like $15 total.

—James*, 27

Low cost, low effort, very high in sex appeal.

I'm planning to pick up some essential oils and give my boyfriend a massage. Super easy, cheap, and sexy.

—Francis, 23

Making something look like Love vomited on it is pretty romantic.

Go to the dollar store. $10 there gets enough decorations to make something look like love was vomited on it. You could make your car look like Cupid exploded inside it.


Then again, nothing says 'love' like Nutella.

My boyfriend got me a giant jar of Nutella last year with my name on it. I don't know how much it cost, but I can't imagine it was more than like 15 bucks? And it's the best gift I've ever gotten.

—Jane*, 25

I'm not sure where one buys this, but I've never wanted anything more.

Get them a cardboard cutout of Barack Obama. Done.

—Emma, 24

So, I wouldn't plan this one. But catching the flu def shows that you care!

My boyfriend and I were supposed to go to a fancy dinner one year for Valentine's Day, but I got the flu, so we ended up watching three seasons of Friends in my bed wearing flu masks. He still got sick. None of it was ideal. But at least we were together!

—Tori, 24

Rebellion and to-go cocktails are my favorite things...

Buy a bunch of their favorite candy and mix up some cocktails in plastic bottles. Then sneak it all into a movie theater and get tickets for something you know they really want to see (even if it's not high on your list). It's cute, fun, and kinda rebellious.

—Elizabeth, 25

Feel free to steal their plans! I promise I won't tell.

*Names have been changed. Quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Check out the entire Gen Why series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.

Check out the “Best of Elite Daily” stream in the Bustle App for more stories just like this!