Cheap and unique Valentine gift ideas for men

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Just when you think the holidays are over, sneaks up on you and your unsuspecting budget! Since I am somewhat of a romantic and believe that the little things can help to keep a marriage interesting, I decided to try and come up with ideas and gifts that are almost free or at least under 20 bucks.

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February 14th can be overlooked as a commercial holiday or it can be used as an excuse to remind each other that love can help sustain us through difficult times. So go ahead and celebrate V-day without breaking the bank. Read below to find out how and start planning now!

First Up: fun & free Valentine gift ideas for him

Perhaps one positive outcome of these trying times is that folks are forced to get creative and go back to the basics when it comes to gift giving with next-to-nothing to spend. I tried two different gift-giving ideas over the last six months and it turns out these two projects come in as my husband's all-time favorite presents. A pleasant surprise to me and a reminder that an act of love can be even better than a purchase of love.

First, think about a hobby or interest that your man enjoys doing to help him reduce his stress. For my hubby, he is an avid reader and his many books enable him to escape at night when he gets home from his high-stress job.

So, I simply grabbed my kids' old play room book shelves and moved them into our bedroom by our bay window. Next I added an old lamp and scooted a comfortable chair over by the shelves. Last, I filled the book case with his favorite books and magazines, but left space for him to add as he pleases.

In less than 20 minutes, I had created a reading area just for him and he loved it! He sits there every night to unwind with a good book. Why did it take me all these years of marriage to think of this? Because the economy forced me to get creative.

So, if your guy likes to build car models, for example, take an area in your home and make him a hobby hutch. He will love it!

Although I have known since I met this man in 1985 that he loves peach cobbler, I just really never got around to making him one. After he asked me to please not spend money on his Dec. 9 birthday, I honored his wishes and only purchased a few grocery supplies that made the most delicious peach cobbler on earth! I went through cookbooks that I already had on hand and found a recipe that he thoroughly enjoyed.

Again, a practically free gift that gave him great pleasure as he gobbled down the cobbler in his new reading area. Get creative and you will surprise yourself with what you can come up! And take it from me that you can do it, because I am neither a baker or an interior decorator.

Both of these ideas work perfectly and similar acts of love could be your cheapest and best Valentine's Day gift yet!

Childhood Comfort Kit Why are the good ol' days called the good ol' days? Because childhood memories are filled with carefree good times so put together what I'm calling a childhood comfort kit filled with his favorites from long ago.

I called my mother-in-law to find out what sweets and snacks my husband loved when he was a boy back in the '60s. I then filled a basket with old time Orange Crush that the grocery stores now sell. I added his favorite nostalgic snacks and candies like a Moon Pie, candy cigarettes and PEZ.

You can put together a good amount of his all-time favorites for under $20. He will not only be impressed that you did the homework to uncover his long-forgotten faves, but he will also have fun forgetting about today's stresses while munching on yesterday's comfort foods with his sweetie by his side.

Antique candies can be found in Water & Ice stores and at

Why Not Spa Stuff for Men?! Spa gifts are usually given to women, but why wouldn't a man want to be pampered, too?

So, give your guy a spa basket with instructions on how you want him to use it. For example, fill his spa kit with a manly bath gel and send him off for a tub or shower. Then tell him that he is to report back to you for a back rub with massage oil that is also included in his basket.

Finish your gift pack with a nice bottle of wine and a candle. Like the Target commercials say, in this economy the new spa is the home spa, but why do the ads always show the man pampering the women? Go for it with your guy and relieve some of his stress with a nice back rub. And for us long-time married folk, this forces us to schedule some togetherness time away from the kids and the mortgage payments!

I found an inexpensive and nice massage oil called Aura Cacia Euphoria Aromatherapy Body Oil and wonderful wines at Sprouts Farmers Market locations. They even have a tasty chocolate Vino in their unique collection that are fair-priced and perfect for your Valentine's spa surprise for him.

For the Doting Dad For Dads of babies and toddlers, hand print frames are always a great gift that will touch his heart on Valentine's Day. As You Wish Valley locations have frames that are fun to make with your little one's hands and fun to give. Plus your baby's father can proudly place it on his desk at work. My gal pal, Kim made one with both of her kids' hands on either side and the cost came in right at $20. Creating the gift together also gave her some fun quality time with the kids. Plus she tells me that the photos she took of her 4-year-old daughter making the frame came out so cute that one of those pictures filled the frame perfectly. So the experience also became part of the gift to Dad....perfect for Valentine's Day.

One of my favorite inexpensive kid gift ideas for a Daddy that can be done in one day is the customized note pad. Simply take your child's artwork to any FedEx Kinkos and watch your kid's creation become a pad of personalized paper just for Dad. Two 52-page pads came in right around $20 and I'm certain that my husband has the most unique pads of paper in the office.

Photo gifts are also fun and many websites and drug stores offer all kinds of items that can display any photo you choose. My favorite item that my husband enjoys is the warm fuzzy blanket that has a shot of my son playing hockey on it and the sturdy clip board that displays his hockey portrait. I found quality clip boards for under $20 and a wide variety of photo gifts at a website called and at Walgreen's.

Manly Mags I never thought about giving magazine subscriptions as gifts until my Mom started the tradition several years ago. She ordered Health Magazine for me and Sports Illustrated Kids for my son. Now we both cross our fingers every Christmas and hope to find a renewal slip under the tree.

If your man is outdoorsy, give him a subscription to Field&Stream Magazine. For the fitness buff, surprise him with six months worth of Muscle & Fitness. My husband has grown up in a family of train lovers, so he regularly receives Model Railroader.

A magazine subscription is the gift that keeps giving because each time an issue comes in the mail, he is reminded of you, his sweetie! To keep your budget under $20, check where a big selection of special interest magazines average around $15 for a one-year subscription.

Plate Up Your Love Want a unique gift idea that will set you back only $3? Plate up your love with a cupcake from Sprinkles. This unique cupcake bakery originates from Beverly Hills and has only one location in Scottsdale at Camelback and Scottsdale Rd. With a variety of different flavors like chocolate marshmallow, pumpkin, ginger lemon, mocha, dark chocolate and many more, he is sure to love this plate of sweet stuff that comes in a special gift box. Pair it up with a love letter that is titled "Why You Are The Icing On My Cake" and thank him for how good he makes your life. Give him the best cupcake in town with a love letter and all for under five that is Valentine's Day on a budget!

So, whether you spend 20 bucks or 20 minutes putting together a reading area like I did for my hubby, you can bet that he will appreciate being appreciated on that fun day we romantics call Valentine's Day. Happy Heart Day to you and yours!