It’s time once again when the email queries of those seeking advice are answered with the wisdom of romance novels. Today’s letter reads:
Dear Smart Bitch Sarah:
You’ve been posting a lot of gift ideas lately, and while some of them are hilariously awesome and adorable and I giggle at the idea, the fact is, I’m broker than broke. I was low on funds before the market went down, and now that things are really tight, I’m having trouble with student loans for next term, rent, food, everything.
I do, however, have an awesome girlfriend, and I adore her. We started dating in October, and I’m so, so happy. I’d love to get her something special, but so far everything I come up with is way out of my budget. She’s from a pretty well-off background, and I can’t even think of anything she couldn’t easily get for herself. She loves romance novels (and she loves your site so I hope she doesn’t guess who I am!) but the idea of giving her one book doesn’t really encompass everything I want to say.
Do you have any gift ideas that cost next to no money? I feel cheap even writing that, but I’m really lost as for what to do.
Out of Funds, But Full of Love
First: yay! Yay that you are happy! Yay that someone in your life makes you smile! Yay yay yay! No matter how stressful, tense, or panicked the economic status of the US might make you and your student self feel, you have someone who makes you happy, and you make her happy as well.
Second: that’s your gift. Celebrate that. You, in fact, are a gift. Even if your girlfriend had every dollar in the world, you are the special thing that can’t possibly be duplicated and purchased. So: yay for you!
Third: How to put that in a gift?
Look, I’m as happy to receive the Tiffany box as the next girl, but the best gifts I’ve received are things that cost very little. Not everyone – come to think of it, not anyone I know personally – has ever tied a giant ribbon around a new car and parked it in the driveway. Personally, I’m a big fan of experience gifts, or tokens of larger significance, so aim for that.
A few options off the top of my head:
Pictures: if you have a digital camera, take some photographs of places that are significant to the two of you, from the sofa where you watch TV together to a restaurant where you ate a great meal, or the spot where you met. Whatever. Take your digital camera, zoom in, zoom out, lie down on the floor and shoot upwards, and take a bunch of photographs of those places. Pick the best three – make them black and white, even! – and have them printed on photo paper. Many printers have this feature, but if yours does not, you can get a 4×6 print through many local drugstores or Target stores for very little money.
Frames can get expensive, so even if they are pinned to a corkboard or placed inside a clearance frame from a local discount chain, or glued inside some sticks made into a square, homemade counts a lot. Just ask the parent of any child who has painstakingly hand made a gift. The effort and care are as much the present as the item itself.
Another idea: something you write. Words are so valuable, and even those who are full of words to share take them for granted (until they disappear and then you’re bereft without them). Write out all the things you adore about her. Score some paper in different colors, or even paper that’s plain white. Write in crayon, pen, or print them out, and cut them up into strips. Roll the strips up into tiny tubes. Place them in a jar, a wine glass, whatever, and when she’s feeling shitty, she can be reminded that someone out there thinks the world of her.
Or, as was featured here earlier this month (but damn if I can find the link right now) take a romance cover of a vintage book, and affix cut outs of key words from the story to it in a random pattern, making sure the words are meaningful and expressive of you and how you feel. Custom art + romance novel = AWW & WIN.
Don’t get hung up on the monetary cost or even value of your gift. Really. Consider all the billionaire tycoons who have every possible convenience, including acres of time with which to sulk in their Italian villas with their irascible female relatives instead of spending every waking minute running their multinational corporations, but who are utterly at a loss when confronted with the woman of their dreams. Women may be “bought for the billionaire’s pleasure” but they don’t remain there because they were paid for. Love is a much more valuable currency between people – one that does not decrease in value with the stock market. You can’t buy love, obviously, but just as important: sometimes purchases can’t express love adequately. So don’t feel like something with a lot of numerals before the decimal point on the price tag is the only way in which to share a gift with someone you love.
The world will be a lot happier this holiday season if there’s a few less scented candles in it, I think (achoo!), and if instead more thought and purpose are put into holiday gifts. From Etsy to items on consignment or even charitable gifts in honor of your loved ones, meaning is more important than money, in my opinion.
Wishing you and your girlfriend a warm, happy, and very special holiday.