A Foolproof Gift Guide for Men on a Budget


I am blessed to be one of the rare women in the world whose husband is really good at planning gifts and birthday surprises. I’m not going to call anyone out, but over the years I’ve had more than a few girlfriends, family members, and online friends contact me, disappointed about a birthday or holiday gone horribly, horribly wrong. My friends are not high-maintenance people. I’ve never heard a woman cry because she didn’t get a diamond, a car, or a house. I’ve never had a friend call me because her breakfast in bed was too cold or the hallmark card she received at work wasn’t heartfelt enough. What I do hear, is that sometimes a holiday passes completely unnoticed. Sometimes the man in a woman’s life is completely overwhelmed and unable to do anything. Sometimes time and finances are so tight that a man gives up. Sometimes I hear complaints from men that women are just too difficult to shop for. I call shenanigans.

I know that money is often tight. I know that all of us get totally overworked from time to time. I know that women seem like mysterious enigmas wrapped in child-proof packaging, but in reality, we are ridiculously simple. I have thought about this topic a lot over the years, and I am ready to give you my foolproof, budget-proof formula for making the woman in your life swoon with happiness AND score you major, major bedroom points. It’s a simple, 3 point plan. Ready? Here we go:

1. Wish her a Happy ______(Birthday, Valentine’s, Anniversary, whatever), FIRST thing in the morning, and deliver it with a kiss. 
Seem like a no-brainer? I’ve had no fewer than a dozen conversations where the man in a woman’s life waited until 9pm to say something, or didn’t say anything at all. This is a BIG deal, and you can consider it part of your gift to her. As a woman, if you do NOTHING else on a special occasion, you need to at least acknowledge her existence. Put a reminder in your phone with an alarm, even if you never forget anything. When you kiss her, you need to MEAN it. This is no good-bye peck. Really good and kiss her. Make her knees buckle a little. I promise, even if you screw up the rest of the day, she’ll be in a good mood while you muck it up.

2. Pick a chore she hates, and do it for her.
If your wife or girlfriend normally cooks, and hates it, pick one meal and make it for her, even if it’s just toast and juice. If she normally does the dishes, tell her to take a bubble bath while you do them. If she’s been bugging you to change out the light bulbs for a month, suck it up and pull out the ladder. If you have young children, take them to the park for an hour while she reads a book. Most women desperately want to feel pampered on her special day, and if you can’t afford a mani/pedi or a spa treatment, believe it or not, crossing off something from her “to do” list will probably make her smile even more, and it wont cost you a penny.

3. Create a romantic moment.
Dig up old pictures of the two of you and tape one to the inside of a card (Hallmark, dollar store, folded piece of notebook paper…honestly, it won’t matter). Write “If it’s possible, I love you even more today.” Done. You’re welcome. I’m being flippant, but I’m totally serious. It’s that simple. If you’re more talented, crafty, musical, or have a few dollars, you can try a million different variations on this theme:

  • Write her a song, letter, or a poem. It doesn’t even have to be good. She’ll still have it tucked away in a shoe box when she’s 80 years old.
  • Buy a $6 bottle of wine and a 25 cent tea candle and lay a picnic blanket on your living room floor for a cheap, but surprisingly romantic date. Again, kiss her like you mean it.
  • Pick flowers from a field and tie a ribbon around the stems. If you don’t have a ribbon, use a twist tie, a zip tie, a rubber band, whatever. It’s seriously adorable to get hand-picked flowers.
  • Buy an empty frame for the future. Write a note to insert into the frame telling her what it’s for–a picture of your future children, your next pet rescue, your 50th wedding anniversary, or a picture of two grey haired sweethearts sitting on the front porch drinking sweet tea.
  • Try to remember three details about your first date and recite them to her while you drink coffee together after work.
  • Grab a camera, go to the park, and do a photo shoot of the two of you.
  • Go to a playground and sit on the swings, push her on the merry-go-round, or ride the see saw.
  • Take a long drive down an empty road. Stop in the middle of nowhere and drink some wine, coffee, sparkling cider, etc. Plastic wine glasses get you extra points. Super extra bonus points if you stopped at a place that appeared to be random, but was the place you first realized you loved her, or wanted to move in together, or decided to marry her.

That’s it! My three point plan ensures that your partner feels acknowledged, pampered, and loved. It helps if you space out the three steps throughout the day. It also helps if you do it totally on your own. Asking for help, advice, or memories is discouraged, because it makes her do some of the work (ie. “Honey, I really wanted to do something romantic for you today, but I just couldn’t think of what you’d really like to do. What do you think?”). It IS however, acceptable to give her two choices, provided that you’re fully prepared to tackle either one (ie. “Honey, I really wanted to do something romantic for you today. Would you prefer a picnic lunch under a waterfall, or a drive out to the middle of nowhere to dance under the stars?”). It is also important not to emphasize your lack of money. It is okay to tell her “I wish I could have taken you on a cruise, but I love just spending time with you.” It is inadvisable to repeatedly apologize for giving her a rowboat ride instead of a yacht. Above all, a woman just wants to feel like there’s nowhere else on earth you’d rather be than by her side.

I feel the need to add a disclaimer. My plan probably only works for about 85-90% of the female population. There ARE women out there who will only be satisfied by jewelry, fancy dinners, and spa weekends. I also think it’s fair to say that every woman would appreciate those things once in awhile. If you have always been low on money and time, however, and your lady is still with you…you’ve got a good one. Make sure you treat her right.



About ariesprimrose

Charlise Primrose is a 30..blahblah year old mom of 2 gorgeous sons, and wife to a genius. She spends her time cooking (and eating), trying not to let her writing muscles atrophy, and discovering the meaning of life in her coffee cup.
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7 Responses to A Foolproof Gift Guide for Men on a Budget

  1. Marie says:

    Wow!!! This article brought tears to my eyes. Well said!!! I totally agree with your foolproof method. I would love to have a foolproof method for men too 😉

  2. Heather Kahl says:

    I would just like to pretend for a few moments that you wrote this for my husband with my impending birthday approaching. I know that’s probably bullocks….but I’d just like to pretend.

  3. Teresalundy@gmail.com says:

    So well written Charlise. I am married to a jewelry, spa day, fancy dinner giving kinda a hubby, but I am a budget friendly receiving kinda gal. I must pass this along to my hubby.

  4. Marukh says:

    Oh yes, absolutely agree.

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