Since some stores like to start stocking up for Valentine's Day in November, you've had plenty of time to mull over what to get your significant other. Despite the extra time, the task can seem especially daunting when your budget is limited.
If you did the chocolates-and-roses thing last year, or if you're just looking for a way to break out of the mold, this list of ideas should help you pledge your heart without pledging your credit card.
The photo album
Photo albums at discount stores come cheap and in a multitude of styles and colors, so it's easy to find one that your other half will like. Similarly, it doesn't take much time or money to print out some digital pictures at a store kiosk. Consider investing in some markers to decorate and personalize each page.
The mix tape
This gift still gets play on the silver screen, and if it's romantic enough for the movies, chances are it is romantic enough for your relationship. You can burn your soundtrack to a CD, or ditch the '90s and make an mp3 playlist. The decision is yours, though the CD means you can play artist with a permanent marker.
The gift certificate
Hate being stuck in a mall with your one and only for more than five minutes? Does the thought of sitting down to an action flick make you want to run for the hills? Show that you care by making a written promise to spend some time doing something he or she loves - and something you'd usually veto. Cut out a piece of paper in the shape of a gift certificate, and write your promise on there. Don't for get to include the number of times the certificate is good for, or your romantic sacrifice could turn into a never-ending nightmare. Put it in a small gift box with a ribbon, and you're ready to go.
The edible gift
While you can easily purchase a pre-decorated cookie or a box of chocolates, making your own homemade dessert gives you a chance to personalize your gift. Becky Hermann, inspiration specialist at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, suggests baking brownies in fun shapes using cookie cutters. To decorate, sprinkle powdered sugar over a stencil to spell out a name or phrase. Or, top your brownies with flavored frostings in mint or caramel.
Instead of buying roses that eventually wilt, why not construct a floral arrangement that has real staying power? To make your bouquet, Hermann suggests getting a foam cube and covering it with moss, cloth or paper. Poke several flower heads into the foam and then add some twigs to your design.
The coaster set
If your significant other likes practical gifts, consider giving him or her a homemade set of coasters. Flatten clay with a rolling pin or even an aluminum can. Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes, such as hearts. Hermann suggests using things around the house to impress a design on the clay. Rubber stamps also work well for this. Bake for 25 minutes at 275 degrees, or follow the instructions on your package of clay.
The wall art
This can be a simple gift that doesn't require a lot of cash. To make your own, Hermann suggests covering foam with a piece of fabric with a fun design on it. Glue the fabric onto the board, pulling the excess to the back and securing it with a pin. If you want to use paint, cover the board with canvas instead, using paint for a splotchy, abstract effect. You can also make a paper collage to cover the board. Add a ribbon to hang up your work of art.