One of the biggest challenges in a relationship is keeping the romance alive. A recent Travelocity survey found the average couple spends less than 45 minutes per week doing things they consider romantic.
Fortunately, some of the most meaningful gifts are also free. With a little creativity and a small investment of your time, you can reconnect with your beloved in a memorable way. Try any of these meaningful ways to show you care.
Create a Modern-Day Mixtape
If you grew up in the 1980s, then you know the mixtape used to be the ultimate way to show you care without spending a bundle. Although hardly anyone listens to cassette tapes or even CDs these days, you can still create the mixtape experience to show how much you care. You just need to tap into modern technology.
"Create a playlist on YouTube or on a streaming service, such as iTunes or Spotify," said Kelly Smith, a writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder website.
Start by creating a free Spotify account — if you're not already a subscriber of Spotify Premium, which has a $9.99 monthly fee. Then click on "New Playlist," name your playlist and add your desired songs. You can search for titles or take advantage of recommended tunes based on the name of your playlist.
"The playlist should consist of all the songs that remind you of your partner," Smith said. Because you can't physically give your digital mixtape to your beloved, Smith recommended writing a note that outlines why you chose each song. "Because of the sentiment behind the gift, I guarantee they'll have this playlist on repeat," she said.
Reenact Your First Wedding Dance
If you're married, one of your most beloved memories might be the first dance at your wedding. Reenacting your first dance is a great way to melt your spouse's heart and give your relationship a romantic boost.
"Ask your partner to put on a fancy dress or suit and meet you in a room in your home," said smart shopping expert Trae Bodge. "Light the room dimly to set the mood and when they arrive, play your wedding song and ask them to dance."
You could even put on your wedding attire and ask your spouse to do the same to recreate the moment. And you don't have to stop at one dance. If you and your spouse like to bust a move, you can dance the night away.
Spotify even has a "Top 50 Wedding Reception Songs" playlist that you can use to keep the party going. Some of the songs are a bit questionable — "Gangnam Style" and "Sweet Home Alabama" don't really bring the romance. But, overall, this playlist offers a fun collection of songs sure to get your feet moving. If you're looking for something more subdued, play your own list of slow songs.
Whether you dance only to your wedding song or reenact your entire reception, you'll create a new memory that will last a lifetime.
Write a Poem
It's great to make your significant other feel appreciated, but be sure to show your other loved ones how much you care, too.
Emma Johnson, founder of the Wealthy Single Mommy website and host of the "Like a Mother" podcast, has written poems for each of her kids. It's a free, heartfelt way to express your love. Although Johnson is a writer by trade, you don't have to be a poet to craft an ode, ballad or even a haiku.
"Don't get hung up on the structure or trying to sound professional," Johnson said. "It really is the thought that counts."
Start by brainstorming what you love and appreciate about the person in question, Johnson said. If you're writing poems for your kids, you could include their talents and positive qualities, such as kindness or bravery when getting a shot. The important thing is to be specific.
"Share the details of a situation or describe a time, place, thing or person. Make it come alive," Johnson said, noting that the goal is to have fun. "The feelings you have when creating the poem will come through the writing."
Fill a Box With Love Notes
If you don't feel like you have the creativity to pen a poem to show you care, you could simply write love notes to your sweetie. Taylor Kovar, CEO of wealth management firm Kovar Capital, implemented this free gift idea for his wife when they were dating. After finding and decorating a box, he wrote out dozens of reasons that he loved her on pieces of paper and put them inside.
When creating your own box, you could include sayings like "You're nice to everyone you meet," "You're the smartest person I know" or even "You like my family (or at least pretend to)," Kovar said.
When you give the box to your sweetheart, suggest that he or she read just one a day, Kovar said. That way, your gift will keep on giving for months. Or you could use a slightly different approach. Zina Kumok, creator of Debt Free After Three, said that her husband once hid several notes around the apartment.
"Each one said a different thing he loved about me," she said. "It was so fun finding them in different places."
You could also try a more modern approach. You can send them a text message every day with one reason why you love them, Smith said. "They'll look forward to this each morning."
Do Chores for Your Sweetie
Romantic gifts are nice, but you also can show you care with a practical gift — especially if that gift involves doing something for your significant other that she doesn't like to do. Cleaning the house while your loved one is at work is a great way to say "I love you" with your actions.
"With crazy schedules, it can be easy for clutter to accumulate and laundry to pile up," Smith said. "Your significant other would most likely love coming home to a spotless home after a long and stressful day at work."
If there's something your loved one has been wanting to do around the house but never has the time for — such as cleaning out the garage or organizing closets — take on the task for him or her, Bodge said. Or, if there are items on the honey-do list that you've been promising to tackle, don't put them off any longer. Accomplish the tasks and let your spouse or partner know that you've finally fixed that squeaky door or unclogged the shower drain.
Create a Love Note Treasure Hunt
If an ordinary love note seems too ordinary, consider adding some excitement to the mix.
"Set up a treasure hunt where you leave cute notes around the house," Bodge said. Each note could include a reason you love the person and offer a clue about the location of the next message.
Or the clues themselves could be about things you like doing as a couple. You could write, "Go to the room where we love making meals together," or, "Go to the room where we fight over the remote, but I always give in and let you have it because I love you."
The clues should lead to a final destination, where you have something special waiting for your loved one.
"Maybe you are the gift at the end of the hunt," Bodge said. "Or maybe it's something else they'd really like, like their favorite movie cued up or a batch of their favorite homemade cookies."
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Set Up a Home Spa
If your loved one seems stressed of late, consider a gift that helps him or her unwind. Massages, facials and other professional treatments can come with a hefty price tag, so consider creating a spa-like experience at home for your loved one with items you already have.
"Set up a home spa for them with candles, soft music, bubble bath, a glass of wine and their favorite book," Bodge said. "Take care of their responsibilities so they can really take a break."
Give your significant other a massage or foot rub to complete the experience.
Make a Romantic Meal at Home
Elizabeth Colegrove, founder of the Reluctant Landlord blog, said that one of the best gifts her husband ever gave her was a home-cooked meal. A romantic dinner at home isn't necessarily free, purchasing groceries is often less expensive than buying a restaurant meal — and you won't have to stand around waiting for a table.
During her first year of marriage, Colegrove attended graduate school 40 miles from where she and her husband lived. Her husband was in Navy flight school and often away for training. Plus, they didn't have much money to spare for gifts after covering the cost of tuition and gas and saving for a down payment on a home.
"We were often passing each other in the night. So it meant the world to me when my husband got home early and made me his famous spaghetti," Colegrove said. "He had a bottle of our favorite Moscato wine, and we both had a relaxing night — no school or work talk allowed." Seven years later, she says it's still one of her favorite memories.
Even if you're not a great cook, your significant other will surely appreciate the effort you put into making a meal you can enjoy together. In fact, it might be even more meaningful if you don't usually cook because your partner will know you went out of your way to do something thoughtful.