The best romantic gifts, whether for Valentine's Day, an anniversary, or "just because," are personal and from the heart. As such, they needn't be expensive--something handmade and one-of-a-kind may make a bigger impression than a trinket that anyone with a big enough wallet can buy. But even if you're not crafty, there are plenty of inexpensive but thoughtful gift choices that will touch the heart of your beloved.
Handmade From the Heart
The time and attention spent assembling a handmade gift says something special to your chosen love. For a new twist on the an old standby--the love letter--try constructing a message in a bottle. Buy an attractive glass bottle, preferably clear glass. Add glitter, heart-shaped confetti, rose petals, or whatever else appeals. Write your letter, roll it up, and insert. Seal the bottle with red candle wax or just a plug of colored crumpled paper.
Romantic Dinner Kit
Offer to cook your lover a romantic dinner and do it in style. Create a coupon good for "one romantic dinner" out of colored paper and put it in a decorated envelope. Tie the envelope to a pair of red taper candles with a strand of ribbon. Now you have an instant candlelight-dinner kit. If you're feeling a little more extravagant, add the aphrodisiac cookbook "InterCourses" to the gift package--perhaps with a few choice recipes bookmarked.
Or, skip dinner and go straight to dessert. A small package of high-end confections is still quite affordable, so pick up a small box of flavored chocolate truffles or sea-salt caramels from a candy shop or online vendor. Or simply buy a pint of premium ice cream and two fancy spoons, tie it all together with ribbon, and hide it in the freezer as a surprise--to eat together, of course.
Bath and Body
Bath and body products are one way to pack a lot of indulgence into a tight budget. Choose scents associated with love and romance, such as rose, cherry or tangerine. Or seek out slightly spicier choices like cinnamon, ginger or sandalwood. Don't limit yourself to soaps, scrubs and salts. For an extra-sensual gift, give a bottle of scented massage oil. Or for a more playful vibe, how about some bubble bath?
Not all jewelry has to be studded with gemstones to convey romance. One of the simplest and cheapest ideas is a chain with an attractive key as the pendant--the key to your heart, of course. Find your key pendant-to-be at any flea market or junk shop.
It worked in high school, so why not now? Give your lover a custom-mix CD that expresses your feelings. In fact, these days, you don't even need the CD--you can post your mix to a service like iTunes and let the world know how you feel about him or her. In this case, make sure to give your beloved a gift card and the URL to download from, too. If you do burn a CD, think about decorating its slipcover for an added romantic touch.
A Little Love Poetry
If you want to express your love in words, but feel hopelessly tongue-tied, maybe someone else can say it for you. Poetry can express many sentiments, and love poetry is a time-honored genre. Look for Tess Gallagher's "Portable Kisses," or Pablo Neruda's "Love Poems," or perhaps an anthology like "You Drive Me Crazy: Love Poems for Real Life" by Mary D. Esselman and Elizabeth Ash Vélez.