Romance on the cheap

by Erika Torres

You know that old saying: “It’s the thought that counts?” It’s complete crap. People only say that to make themselves feel better about somebody giving them a crappy gift in the first place.

It should really be revised to: “It’s the meaningful thought that counts.” Too many people take this saying to mean that just because you get a person something–anything–that that somehow excuses you from putting any significant amount of thought into a gift.

I had an ex-boyfriend once who was the worst with gifts. A few times, he didn’t have enough cash to even buy me a gift. Then one time, he gave me a box of Ghirardelli chocolates.

What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, I hate Ghirardelli chocolates. Like, can’t stand the stuff. I don’t really like truffles, period. Give me a box of Sees’ Candy Nuts and Chews anyday, but don’t give me Ghirardelli.

You may try and reason that he didn’t know that I hated Ghirardelli with such intense passion, but let me assure you–we had dated approximately 3 years at this point. He knew.

In fact, he handed me the box by saying “I know you don’t like Ghirardelli chocolates, but I know you love Christmas, and it’s wrapped in a Christmas bow!”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Would the appropriate response be: “Um, thank you? Now I can just sit here and admire the Christmas bow on a box of chocolates I won’t eat?”

But you have to give the boy points for trying, right? Otherwise I just sound like a callous bitch. Except two months later, for Valentine’s Day, he bought me an underwear set from Victoria’s Secret, which included a thong–I hated thongs at the time and never wore them.

I kid you not, he handed me the gift by saying “I know you don’t like to wear thongs, but…” Apparently his girl friends at the time helped him pick it out.

I digress.

Eric and I are not big on gifts. In fact, we rarely do them. Not for birthdays, not for anniversaries, I don’t even think we did Christmas gifts this year.  It’s not that we’re un-sentimental like that (is that even a word?), it’s just that we much prefer to spend money on experiences rather than things.

However, every now and then, it’s great to go out of the norm.

Last month, Eric and I celebrated our two-year wedding anniversary. It was less than a week after Eric fractured his back playing soccer. We had made plans to have dinner at this fancy steakhouse, but ended up having to cancel since Eric could barely sit for an hour at a time without needing to lay down.

I was a bit bummed, but what are you going to do? I had resigned myself to accepting that we would be spending our anniversary at home on the couch.

So imagine my absolute surprise when I came home and found a card and a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates–my absolute favorite!– on our dining table.

Eric could barely walk at this point–like seriously 10 baby steps at a time–how the heck did he get me a card and chocolates?

Turns out, he texted all his friends to see if anyone was available to drive him to the store so he could at least get me something for our anniversary.

The card and chocolates didn’t cost much. Maybe $10 tops. But it was seriously one of the best gifts I’ve ever received, because I knew my husband had put such meaningful thought into the gift.

Has someone ever surprised you with a truly meaningful gift?


Related Posts


chandigarh shagun gifts September 19, 2013 - 4:50 am

Wow!! Ferrero Rocher is one of my favorite chocolate….I eat this first time when i was just 15 years old. It is very chocolaty and crispy from outside to inside…I love to take delicious gifts like this rather than giving to others.Thanks to remind my childhood days…:)

ImpulseSave May 9, 2012 - 5:57 am

That is so sweet! It doesn’t take much – but he knew just what do to to let you know he wanted to make you happy. What a guy! And happy anniversary – I hope you have many, many more!!!

Weekly Update 14 | Evolving Personal Finance May 6, 2012 - 3:01 am

[…] from Newlyweds on a Budget shared a sweet story about a thoughtful gift from her husband in the last third of her […]

Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals May 3, 2012 - 1:12 pm

Oh yum, I ADORE Ferrero Rocher! The crunchy hazelnut gets me every time.

Speaking of bad gifts from exes, my high school sweetheart once got me the EXACT same birthday gift two years in a row. I was less than enthused.

Best gift? When we were having trouble getting pregnant years ago, my husband bought me a Precious Moments figurine called “Dreams Do Come True,” along with a sweet card telling me that he knew he hadn’t been able to get me what I really wanted (a baby), and that he hoped the figuring would keep my spirits up.

I got a positive pregnancy test two weeks later.

THAT was the best gift EVER!

Sheila May 3, 2012 - 12:42 pm

That is so thoughtful and sweet. Happy anniversary to you both!! I love experiences along with a photo always make me happy!!

Lea May 3, 2012 - 11:54 am

Happy Anniversary! What a sweetheart your hubby is!

It’s so true that romance doesn’t have to be expensive. I have been noticing that my hubby was re-reading all his books and borrowing mine (you know it’s bad when he willing reads the Hunger Games), so I went to the library and got him a new book to read. Cost = free!

John | Married (with Debt) May 3, 2012 - 11:46 am

Cute story! My wife and I generally don’t get each other gifts, but when we do, no matter how small it is, they feel more special.

Jai Catalano May 3, 2012 - 11:05 am

Than that is the gift. The experience is the gift. I like that. I think had you said you just stayed home and watched the money come in and paint dry I would have said we need to talk. 🙂

Alice @ EarningMyTwoCents May 3, 2012 - 7:02 am

Awww! That’s so sweet! Happy anniversary to you two!

Teacher Girl May 2, 2012 - 6:20 pm

This is so sweet! I agree with you completely. Meaningful gifts, ones that have thought behind them are the best. It isn’t what you spend at all, but truly getting/making something that you know the person will love that counts. You have a keeper there, which I know you already know 😉

Adrienne May 2, 2012 - 4:12 pm

That is completely adorable!

I wholeheartedly agree with you on the meaning v. “thought that counts”. Amen sister!

Frugal Portland May 2, 2012 - 4:09 pm

Thing is, it IS actually the thought that counts. And when the thought is, “I know you don’t like this but…” the guy is being a jerk. But if the thought is, “I just really wanted to get you something special” then you’re much more inclined to cut his steak into little bites and feed him on the couch! Sounds like you picked the right one. 🙂

Jessica @ Budget For Health May 2, 2012 - 4:03 pm

Our two year anniversary is this month! I tried to give blood last week and my iron was too low BUT it wasn’t totally a waste of time because I got a $25 credit to use at I bought a $25 gift card for free to a sushi restaurant downtown and all we have to do is spend a minimum of $35. $10 (plus tip) for 4 11-piece sushi rolls and two soups sounds like a great anniversary celebration to me! I looooove ferrero rocher chocolates too! what a sweet hubs 😉

sara May 2, 2012 - 3:21 pm

Sometimes the real beauty of the gift is how hard it was for the giver to pull it together! When my husband was deployed, I went through a phase where I really lost my appetite. I was probably overworking myself, and had lots of long days and skipped meals, so I just never felt hungry. I had to really keep nagging myself to make sure I had enough to eat. (Boy are those days over). My husband ordered me a pizza- from Iraq. So, he waited for his limited down time, used all of that hour off to get online and order my favorite from our local Pizza Hut (thin crust, green olives, pepperoni), call Pizza Hut to make sure it would arrive at 6:30, and call me to make sure I’d be home then. The best part was that he didn’t feel so far away, for that one meal.

my honest answer May 2, 2012 - 2:03 pm

Aw that is such a sweet story! We’re not that big on gifts either. If we see something perfect, we buy it, and save it for the next occasion. But if we haven’t seen something perfect we’ve agreed never to buy something just for the sake of giving a gift.

shopping2saving May 2, 2012 - 1:48 pm

Awwwww GO ERIC!!!!!!! You’re right though, it is truly the meaningful thought that counts. I had an ex bf who bought me everything that I wanted. It was suffocating. He used to drop off Starbucks for me at school everyday and lunch everyday and then pick me up, pay for gas, and always buy me lavish gifts. It was way too much! Now with my current BF and my future husband, he rarely buys me gifts… but when he does, I appreciate it so much because he plans it out and stresses about it and you can really tell some thought was put into it. He likes to buy me things he knows I will use…like an ipod cover, a small mouse for my computer because I have carpal tunnel, my favorite candy, ice cream, and other things like that. It’s totally the thought that counts!

Jill May 2, 2012 - 1:27 pm

Aww that’s sweet!
I’m dating a guy right now and things are still fresh but I thought it was so sweet that he recently bought me a little ceramic rooster because he happened to see it in a store, and he knows I love chickens 🙂
I had an ex bf who gave me a plastic rose that sang “You are my sunshine”…did he want me to break up with him on the spot? I don’t know what he was thinking!

Remy @MLISunderstanding May 2, 2012 - 1:24 pm

Some people have the knack. A lot can be explained away by saying, “People who give good gifts listen to what the gift receiver wants and think about what the receiver would like and then get them something like that,” which would exclude your ex (How strange to acknowledge “I KNOW you don’t want this but…”!) but would also then make me a good gift giver. And, sadly, I’m really not. Other than a few really excellent flukes (that I worked hard for!), I find it hard to buy for other people, even after thinking a LOT about what they might want or need. This is why Santa-style lists are good.

This person I’m dating, though, has the knack.
Birthday last year: silver brass knuckle necklace to replace the old plated one from Hot Topic that was turning my skin green before I lost it.
Christmas: gift certificate to the little Korean spa I try to visit when I have funds, because they scrub off like the top six layers of skin and then dig their elbows into me and it is SO relaxing.
Birthday: a year’s subscription to Netflix streaming (after I had cut off the monthly subscription to devote that money toward debt payoff).
Entirely without (conscious) prompting and not actually something I would have thought to ask for, but absolutely WANTED. *swoon*

kim May 2, 2012 - 11:45 am

Yeah, he could easily have begged off, since he had a real excuse not to get you anything, but he put in real effort, painful effort at that. And that’s why it’s so sweet.

We’re also not big gift givers – for Christmas we buy something that we both want, and costs a more than our budgeted fun money. Two years ago it was an Xbox. Last week, though, he stated that we should get a vacuum cleaner for Christmas. That’s just…oh I can’t wrap my head around it!

Michelle May 2, 2012 - 10:59 am

That is so cute! And I agree, meaningful gifts are what counts.

lynne May 2, 2012 - 10:59 am

I’ve been reading your site for a while – I’m soon to be married and we’re trying to get ourselves set financially, too – but haven’t commented often. But! I love your posts and truly, it’s helped me/us talk about money in ways we hadn’t before! Thank you 🙂

But I just had to comment on this – we are not gift people either. Like you said, I’d rather EXPERIENCE than GET something. But simple, thoughtful gifts like that are awesome. Kudos to Eric for surprising you 🙂

LBC Teacher May 2, 2012 - 10:32 am

Also, I am doing the 5k at the OC Marathon this weekend…I’ll look for you!

LBC Teacher May 2, 2012 - 10:31 am

Aww, I just got a little teary-eyed. I love that he texted all his friends to get a ride to get you a gift, that’s VERY thoughtful.

Ana May 2, 2012 - 10:18 am

That’s so sweet that he did that for you. On our anniversary, we also did not do presents. We had a long weekend filled with nice meals and places to go and it was so much better than an expensive gift. And we only buy each other one present for Christmas. We just think its about being together as a family and not about presents. People that spend the whole day exchanging gifts make me cringe.

DCSquared May 2, 2012 - 10:17 am

AWWWW that was sooo sweet!!!!!!!!! 🙂

jobo May 2, 2012 - 10:12 am

aww! that is so cute! Eric, whatthaguy!! I love it. Happy anniversary, can’t believe it’s been two years already!! love it!


Leave a Comment