From one broke college student to another, shopping for the holidays can be stressful, and the stakes are especially high when it’s for your significant other. While diamond-encrusted watches or endless bouquets of red roses sound perfect, some gifts just belong to the category of “pure fantasies.” So, if you're looking for cheap yet thoughtful gift ideas, I’ve got you covered. Your special someone will love your gift, and as a result, love you, too.
Jar of Hearts
Paper (preferably in various colors or patterns)
A jar (mason jars are great, but old Starbucks frappuccino containers work too)
A pen/marker/whatever writing utensil you prefer
Goal: Create a jar full of nicely folded messages to make your partner feel all warm and gooey inside.
1. Decide the theme for your messages. You could do song lyrics, your favorite things about them, how you envision your future together...the possibilities are endless.
2. Generate your list of words or phrases. You could wing it as you go along — but I always find it easier to brainstorm beforehand. Not all of us are natural romantics.
3. Choose how you are going to fold your paper. I recommend this guide for adorable yet relatively easy folding options.
4. Write one message on each piece of notepaper, and then fold. You can do this while watching TV (perhaps a rom com to get in the mood), unless you are super patient or enjoy repetitive tasks. Put all your folded papers in the jar, and you’re good to go!
5. Optional: add some finishing touches to spice up the jar (such as a ribbon, decorative tape, or designs with permanent marker on the glass).
CD and CD case, or a USB drive
Goal: Revive this classic romantic gesture in a world dominated by Spotify and iTunes.
1. Come up with a list of songs that are special to you and your significant other. Bonus: if you want to jazz it up, order the songs in a way that recreates the course of your relationship. Start off with tracks that reference flirting and first impressions, and then move on to deeper songs to signify the progression of your relationship.
2. Get the audio files. You can either purchase them, or download them from YouTube using a converter.
3. Burn the CD. This isn’t a skill most millennial kids have, but the extra efforts show how much you care! All you need is a disc, a CD drive for your computer, and a burning software (iTunes is the easiest, but there are plenty of other online options if you’re not a huge Apple fan).
4. Put it in a CD case! I highly recommend adding in a track listing and maybe pictures of you two together on the cover to make it extra memorable.
Optional: burning a CD is not the easiest thing to do. You could also buy a USB drive — customize its look — and put all of the songs on there. Or, if you are really lazy, simply make a playlist on any music streaming service and send the link to your lover. But only as an addition to a real gift, like a month’s subscription to that streaming service. Please don’t just give them a URL as a present — I don't want to be responsible for a breakup.
Goal: display your love to the whole world.
1. Hop on the computer and create a design, perhaps on Photoshop, Paint or any software you like. Some cute ideas could be fake jerseys for your favorite sports team (because real ones are so expensive), personalized band merchandise, or simply a cheesy couples shirt.
2. Make sure to read the instructions on your transfer sheets, because they vary by brand. You might have to flip your image before printing it or only use an inkjet printer. I know we go to Northwestern and genius supposedly runs in our veins, but trust me, that won’t stop you from ending up with a backwards design.
3. Follow the instructions (yes, again) to print your designs and then iron them onto the shirts.
Bonus: make sure to put something between the shirt layers (like cardboard) so that they don’t get stuck together when you’re ironing. 4. Allow the shirts to cool off, and you’re done! Make sure to snap some cute pictures together and use #couplegoals to milk the cheesiness even more.
Fabric paint (there are countless options for this)
Goal: give your sweetheart something to cuddle even when you’re miles apart.
1. Come up with an idea for your pillowcase decoration. This could be a heartfelt message, a nice pattern that matches the decor of their room or something you know they would love to see everyday (besides your smiling face).
2. Use a pencil to plan out your design on the pillowcase, unless you're naturally talented or overly confident.
3. Start painting! If you mess up, don’t worry — your clumsiness will only look adorable. Let it dry, and then stuff the pillow inside.
4. Optional: you can also use iron-on patches to add a different dimension to the pillowcase.
These DIYs may be cheap, but are definitely valuable. And hey, at the end of the day, it’s always the thought that counts. Happy holidays!