The most memorable gifts come from the heart. In that spirit, here are 20 heartfelt ways to delight your significant other, without breaking your budget.
Book a romantic hotel
Many hotels cater to business travelers—who go home on weekends—so nice rooms are often available at less-expensive weekend rates. Take advantage of this and treat your sweetie to a romantic night in a hotel. Whether you choose to order dinner from room service or see the town, this short getaway will help you both get away from it all for a little while.
Serve breakfast in bed
It’s such a simple idea that it’s easy to overlook, but don’t. Breakfast in bed, made and served with love, is the perfect way to start the day. Whether you’re serving a quick weekday bowl of cereal, or pancakes on Sunday morning, make it memorable: good china, a cloth napkin and a single fresh flower in a bud vase.
Give the gift of music
No music lover can ever have too large a collection, and individual songs are very affordable. Surprise your significant other by downloading one of his favorite tunes and emailing it to him. Whenever he hears it, he’ll think of you.
Shower your love with lovely quotes
Do a little online research to find romantic quotes that express your love, then write them out by hand. Sprinkle these love quotes around the house where you know your partner will find them, or find a special place to put one each day for a week or two.
Massage her cares away
When she gets home from a long day at work, surprise your love with a refreshing beverage or glass of wine and invite her to relax on the couch. Treat her to a relaxing foot massage that begins with gentle cleansing and ends with soothing lotion.
Give an unexpected gift
If you pass by a shop and see a new book by your partner’s favorite author on display, buy a copy and surprise her. If a bouquet of flowers reminds you of his blue eyes, bring them home. Some of the best surprises are the unexpected ones—gifts large or small that arrive for no particular reason other than to say, “I love you and I’m thinking of you.”
Create new traditions
You don’t have to be married to celebrate a special anniversary. Make your own celebration by commemorating special dates that only belong to you: the day you met, the first time you made love, or even the day you discovered you both love Star Trek movies. There’s no limit to the number of special events you can celebrate each year, so pull out your calendars and start planning.
Make a coupon book of special treats
Here’s an idea that never gets old: put together a handmade book of coupons for things you know your partner would love to receive from you—back rubs, shopping dates, breakfast in bed, games of catch—and present it at an unexpected time, i.e. not a birthday or holiday. This is a gift that can make any day special.
Text a love poem
Feeling creative? Put your inner poet to work on a short original poem or haiku that uniquely expresses your love, then text it to your significant other as a personal, private and special surprise.
Relive her favorite movie scene
Does your partner have a favorite scene from a romantic movie? Make her fantasy come true by restaging the scene, complete with friends as actors if the situation calls for it. Just make sure that when the scene ends, you are alone together.
Do a little online shopping
It wouldn’t be hard to figure out which online stores your partner favors. Perhaps, under the guise of buying a gift for someone else, you and your sweetie can go online shopping together, while you pay attention to items he especially likes. Without his knowledge, order the item and have it delivered to him at work.
Pack a love note with her lunch
Who doesn’t love to know they’re loved? Remind your significant other by penning a short love note—even three little words will do—and placing it in her lunch bag so she’ll find it in the middle of the day.
Buy tickets for something he loves
You may not love monster trucks or professional hockey, but if your sweetie does purchase two good seats to his favorite event and let yourself really get into it. Arrange some time beforehand and ask him about the event you’re going to see. When the program starts, give it your full attention and see it through his eyes.
Sing ‘your’ song
Do you and your love have a special song? Learn all the lyrics and perform it—a cappella or with musical accompaniment—at an unexpected time: while you’re walking through the grocery store, waiting for the subway, or putting gas in the car. The public display isn’t required, but it does add to the fun.
Lighten the load
For a gift that’s easy to give—but will be much appreciated—surprise your partner by taking over a household chore that he or she usually handles. For example, if she does most of the cooking, offer to plan and cook dinner for a week. If taking out the trash is his domain, take over those weekly duties for a month.
Do a little advance planning so you know the timing is right and you have all the supplies on hand. Then arrange a romantic bath or shower for two, complete with scented soap, a bath sponge, and his or her favorite hair care products. Having someone shampoo your hair is incredibly relaxing and sensual, so be prepared to move from bathroom to bedroom when the time is right.
Plan a mystery date night
When you want to treat your significant other to something a bit more special than dinner at the usual restaurant, plan a mystery date night. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just make sure you’re doing things you’ve never done together before: explore a new neighborhood, sample ethnic cuisine, or listen to a new kind of music. Tell your sweetie what to wear and to bring an open mind, and then have an adventure you’ll both remember.
Create a wallpaper surprise
Here’s a simple gift that makes a memorable impression. Choose a photo of the two of you, from your favorite vacation or a special moment in your relationship, and turn it into the wallpaper on your partner’s laptop, tablet or phone.
Give the gift of time
Check in with your partner’s supervisor to arrange for your partner to take an unexpected day off, but make it a surprise. When he gets to work he’ll be told he has the day off, and you’ll be there to whisk him away to a fun day you’ll spend together. Plan ahead by bringing him a change of clothes.
Write a love letter
Think about all the qualities you love about your partner and put them in a love letter, handwritten on fine paper. Take your time with this lovely project and include as many details as you can think of about how she looks, how she thinks, what she likes to do and how she makes your life special.