Joy is bringing you some of our smartest, most financially savvy content for the past year. In the crazybusy leadup to the holidays, it’s important to remember that making time for your happiness can make your life richer — as well as your wallet.
My girlfriend is allergic to flowers. Like, so allergic that if you bring a single flower into our apartment, instantly her eyes become puffy and watery and her nose starts to run. It’s miserable to watch. The first time I witnessed it (thankfully, not my fault), I was reminded of this Demetri Martin bit:
“I think it’s weird that when you give someone flowers, you’re really saying ‘Here you go, now watch these die — ‘cause I like you.’ I feel like you should give someone flowers when you wanna threaten them. ‘Here — you’re next. Better put your feet in water, ‘cause I’m comin’ for you.” – Demetri Martin
In that spirit (and because my goal isn’t to make my girlfriend sick), I’ve gotten more thoughtful and creative when I give gifts. But you, dear reader, don’t have to! You can just cheat off my paper! If you’re looking to give something more tangible than compliments, here are my favorite flower-alternatives (all under $45, which a quick Google search turns up as the average price of a dozen roses) that make flowers look like garbage. You’re welcome.
1) DIY Candle
A candle may be as boring and generic as flowers, but not when you make your own. Wow your partner with your craft skills by personalizing the colors and scents. You can even make one that smells like flowers if you want.
2) A Pinata
Have you ever hit flowers with a bat? It’s way less fun than and nowhere near as satisfying as smashing a pinata. And you get candy at the end! You can buy one or papier-mache your own in an afternoon.
3) A Tea Infuser
4) Baked Goods
Buying a gift is fine. Half the things on this list you can buy. But making something with your two hands? That’s way more meaningful. So try baking cookies, brownies, or cupcakes. The internet has recipes for every skill level, including “no skills.”
5) A Home-Cooked Dinner
Even if you think you “can’t cook,” you can whip up something simple. Search for beginner recipes online, and recreate a romantic restaurant experience at home. Think about the table setting, the lighting, the music… With the right ambiance, even a simple pasta dish will feel special.
6) A Reel Viewer
Commemorate your love with an adorable but outdated piece of technology. You choose 14 photos to go on a circular card, or “reel,” you then put your reel into the viewer, stare at the nearest light source, and crank the handle to turn through each photo.
7) A Mixtape
Let other people describe your love way better than you ever could. Create a curated list of songs that capture your relationship. Compile it with the modern equivalent of a mixtape: a customized Spotify playlist. Or for an old-school vibe, a USB drive that’s hidden in an old cassette.
8) A Hand-Knit Beanie, Scarf, or Blanket
This one requires a bit of skill and a solid amount of work. But think about how cute your partner will look in a new itchy, oversized, asymmetrical item you made with your bare hands. It will warm their heart as much as their ears.
9) A Scavenger Hunt
Does your partner love puzzles and do you have a lot of time on your hands? Then a scavenger hunt is the gift for you. First, pick a final destination and what will be there: a favorite restaurant for a romantic dinner, a bar filled with all your friends, a bookcase with a gift hidden in it. After that, let the riddles begin! Send your partner all over your house or all over town. It’s all about creating a fun adventure.
More versatile and more nutritious than chocolate, a wheel of brie or gouda actually has several excellent-gift qualities. Good cheese is a splurge-y item she likely doesn’t buy herself very often, it’s consumable (i.e. it won’t clutter up her home), and most importantly, it’s delicious.
11) Fake Flowers
This might seem like cheating, but actually, fake flowers are better than the real thing in nearly every way. They can’t die. They improve any and all of your loose vases. And, most importantly, they’re allergy-free. Well, unless your partner is allergic to felt and/or plastic. Then definitely skip this one.
12) A Succulent
This is technically not a flower either. It’s more of a tiny bush. Spruce up any room with a small, waxy, mint green shrub that’s really hard to kill.
13) A Weighted Blanket
It’s like a regular blanket but heavier! And better! Weighted blankets have small weights sewn in between their fabric, for added heft. The extra weight (they’re usually between 10 and 30 lbs) has been shown to reduce anxiety and improve sleep, but they’re also great for snuggling.
Unlike flowers, staying in the sun all day will kill you. This is a practical and necessary gift that sends the ultimate love message: “Stay alive. I love you.”