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Read on for all 45 acts.
Remember the wise words of JLo this Valentine’s Day: Love don’t cost a thing. Or, at least it doesn’t have to. Going big on Valentine’s Day can feel good, but most people prefer getting something sentimental.
Really. Most gift-givers fret (and spend more money) on finding the perfect gift, when gift recipients just want to get something with emotional value. The allure of a great gift can fade away pretty quickly, but the same can’t be said about gifts from the heart. That little jolt of happiness that comes from a thoughtfully-given gift is a lot less likely to wear off.
45 free-to-cheap Valentine’s Day gifts that give back
It’s no coincidence that Valentine’s Day falls just before Random Acts of Kindness Week, leading up to the official Random Acts of Kindness holiday on February 17. No matter the size of the gift, the pay-it-forward effect can make it all worthwhile.
Getting a gift makes you 56-percent more likely to give again. And seeing acts of kindness produces the heart-healthy and blood-pressure-lowering “love hormone” oxytocin — so, everybody wins.
Whether it’s an experience, a memento, or some yummy food, there are dozens of ways to show someone how much you care: 1. Babysit a friend’s kids.
Totally free of charge.
2. Bake brownies to share.
Leave them out at home or in the breakroom with one of these free printables attached.
3. Buy a cup of coffee.
Bring a friend their favorite or bring back the Starbucks pay-it-forward chain in the drive-thru.
4. Buy bulk flowers.
Chip in with a co-worker to buy a few dozen roses. Hand them out individually to everyone at the office or on your team.
5. Call a friend.
In a world of texting, snapping, and liking, a quick call goes a long way. Call someone up to say hello, wish a happy Valentine’s Day, or give a word of encouragement.
6. Clean your parent’s house.
Shock might not describe the look on your parent’s or another relative’s face when you show up at their house with supplies and offer to clean for free.
7. Do a doorstep delivery.
Leave a treat or a small token for a friend at their front door. Send a text to let them know there’s something special waiting.
8. Do a favor with enthusiasm.
When you’re asked, do it like you mean it. Grab a new set of sticky notes and pens from the supply closet like you’re really happy to help.
9. Draw a bath.
Surprise your partner when they get home from work with a night of uninterrupted relaxation — a bubble bath, candles, candies, and several hours of quiet time, ready and waiting.
10. Drop gift card “bombs.”
Buy one or more $5 gift cards to various places and leave them out and about with uplifting quotes or kind notes.
11. Extend the offer of a massage.
Anyone who’s had a long day won’t be able to turn down the gift of touch, i.e., a foot or a back rub.
12. Fill balloons with love letters.
Kind of like a message in a bottle but much more fun to pop: Kids, partners, and even friends will get a kick out of reading through each rolled up message.
13. Finish an unwanted chore.
Let your partner, roommate, or family member off the hook by taking out the trash, organizing the closet, or scrubbing the toilet.
14. Focus on a pet.
Skip the sappy stuff and give the gift that a pet lover will appreciate — a brand-new toy or a Mason jar filled with dog treats.
15. Frame a special picture.
Taking the time to print out a picture of a family gathering, couple’s trip, or day out with your bestie says more than candy or jewelry.
16. Get gas.
Fill up your partner’s or friend’s tank without being asked, and they’ll never stop talking about it.
17. Gift yourself.
Pick one of your strengths and use it to benefit someone else — give a free haircut to an elderly neighbor, fix a friend’s car without being asked, or spend a few hours training a co-worker’s puppy.
18. Give more compliments.
They’re most memorable when they’re sincere. And they’re also totally free.
19. Give up your place in line.
Letting someone go ahead of you in a long line is simple, free, and impactful to anyone who’s feeling overwhelmed or busy.
20. Give up your seat.
Look for the same opportunity on the bus or the train to let someone else take a load off.
21. Hand out homemade cookies.
Make a dozen cookies and separate into batches of three. Tie a ribbon with a cute printable note on it.
Use this easy red velvet, white chocolate, and macadamia cookie recipe to get started: Combine red velvet cake mix, two eggs, half a cup of vegetable oil, a small bag of macadamia nuts, and one bar of white chocolate used for baking. Mix thoroughly and scoop onto a waxed-paper-lined pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in a 350°F oven. 22. Have a staycation.
Take the afternoon off and take your significant other or your family to a few tourist spots in your city you still haven’t carved out time to visit.
23. Hide money.
Tuck a $5 bill in a public place where anyone can find it, like a store shelf or under a centerpiece on a coffee shop table.
24. Leave a note.
Write a sticky note for a random car or desk – “Smile, it’s a new day!” or “Glad to have you on the team!”
25. Lend a hand.
Ask an elderly neighbor, stressed-out parent, or busy co-worker if there’s a chore you can help with or a task you can take off their plate.
26. Lend a novel.
Give a friend a book to borrow — or keep — that you know they’ll enjoy or that made you think of them.
27. Listen more, talk less.
It’s practically priceless because it’s so rare: Practice the art of listening and give people your undivided attention (and keep phones and devices out of sight).
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28. Make breakfast in bed.
Start your own annual tradition of giving whoever you’re living with this classic V-Day spread.
29. Make a love donation.
For that special someone, or even a loved one who’s departed, pick out an organization that they care about and donate $5 in their name.
30. Pack a lunch.
Make your partner or roommate a lunch the night before and surprise them in the morning. Whether it’s for a kid or a grown-up, don’t forget to include a note telling them how much you care.
31. Pack a picnic.
A welcome alternative when Valentine’s day reservations are hard to find: Bundle up and bring some wine or sparkling cider, chocolate-covered strawberries, bread, and cheese to a local park or even your backyard deck to watch the sun set.
32. Paint a rock.
Personalize it with an inspirational quote, inside joke, or special message to add to a friend’s garden.
33. Pay an expired meter.
Spend a few dollars and save a stranger much more in the cost of a parking ticket.
34. Put together a scrapbook.
Fill it with photos and memories from your favorite times together. Include tickets, playbills, and printouts of funny text messages and emails.
35. Review a local business.
Shopping local makes a difference. So does leaving reviews. If a small business in your community goes above and beyond, you can help them grow by letting everybody know about it.
36. Send a card to a soldier.
It’s not just for Christmas: Use Operation Gratitude to send letters or care packages and thank the men and women who serve.
37. Send snail mail.
Set a soft goal to mail one letter a day or week to a different person telling them why they’re special. And make sure it’s handwritten.
38. Send thank yous.
Beyond the thoughtful letter, take the chance to catch up on overdue thank yous, or send them for no good reason. The more specific, the better: Use this opportunity to tell people why they mean so much to you.
39. Speak to the manager.
Take time to tell a restaurant manager about your good experience — and leave a little extra for a tip while you’re at it.
40. Squeeze in self-care.
Spend at least 30 minutes today doing something kind for yourself, preferably something that makes you really happy.
41. Start mini planters.
Plant seeds in mini herb planters and give them as ready-to-grow gifts.
42. Treat a teacher.
Send a note, a small gift card, or a baked good to school with your kids — and remind them to thank their teacher for their hard work when they give it.
43. Visit a nursing home.
Drop off goodies or handwritten cards, or even give the gift of your time, to remind the residents that they’re appreciated.
44. Wash the dog.
Giving your fur-baby some extra TLC will make them feel great, while also crossing another item off your family’s to-do list.
45. Write a “best of” list.
Set aside a few minutes to write down the best qualities of the special person (or people) in your life. No matter how simple the gesture, they won’t forget it.
Fall in love with February homebuying season
There’s another reason to feel the love this February. Housing prices are a lot lower than they are in the summer, and February’s also a month where you’ll see deeper discounts.* If you’re ready to be home already, a Cornerstone loan officer can help. Find a house you love at a lower price and get closed in 10 days.
*”Winter Is the Best Time to Buy A Home.” ATTOM Data Solutions, 2019.
For educational purposes only. Please contact your qualified professional for specific guidance.
Sources are deemed reliable but not guaranteed.
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