The Key to Great Valentine’s Day Gift Giving

This guy is pretty darn special. 
This guy is pretty darn special.

Call me a weenie, but I actually love Valentine’s Day.

Yeah, I know it’s a silly Hallmark holiday. And yes, I know, candy hearts and all that crap are super cheesy. But I’m just never going to be too awesome to not celebrate the fact that I love people and they love me.

I mean, come on guys. Life is too short for that shit.

I had some of my best Valentine’s Days as a single lady. There was the time in college that my friend Rebecca and I had a laundry date (to be fair, we forgot it was Valentine’s Day until we went on a walk and saw one million couples holding hands everywhere). A few years back, my friend Margie and I went out for sushi and then drank a bunch of margaritas downtown Minneapolis. It was swell!

Now that I am attached, Josh and I have our own little Valentine’s tradition. He makes me dinner. It’s the best for a lot of reasons. I normally do 90 percent of the cooking (which I love), but not cookin’ jack for one night is delightful. Josh likes to use a lot more butter and salt than I do, so his food often tastes more delicious and celebrate-y. And he so adorably puts actual, real effort into it. Last week, I caught him reading a cookbook (not a normal thing), trying to figure out something to whip up for dinner.


I’m no expert, but I say the key to a great Valentine’s Day is showing someone how much you appreciate them with your time and effort.

That could be a homemade dinner or cookies… especially great if you’re not naturally inclined to cook or bake. Who cares if it doesn’t turn out? It’s just food! Plus, failure stories are the best stories. But you aren’t going to fail. You’re going to rock it.

And look, we’re not all DIY-ers, so it could also be a material thing, too. Just find a little something that shows you’re paying attention (a favorite album on vinyl, perhaps? A bottle of their beloved hooch from a small batch distillery? A replacement for the scarf they accidentally left at a Christmas party?).

Thoughtfulness = good gift giving.

The first Valentine’s Day Josh and I were together, I got him four fluffy, white bath towels. This was, of course, partly a gift for myself. Who wants to use those grody navy blue scratchy towels your boyfriend owned freshman year of college? No thanks. But the new towels were something he’d appreciate and would never, ever get around to buying for himself.

As he pulled the tissue paper from the gift bag, his face morphed from excited anticipation, to confusion, to awwwwww!

He loved them.

I think it worked for a few reasons. One, it showed I paid attention to the details in his life. Two, I don’t think you buy a sensible, long-lasting gift like towels for someone you’re only so-so about (we still have the towels). And three, I am sure he was like towel = shower = naked.

Anyhow, towels might not be the perfect gift for your significant other, but maybe one of these will get you thinking about how you can bump up the thoughtful factor on a regular gift.

A Spa Treatment+

Most obvious gift ever.

But here’s how you take it to the awww level: don’t just buy the gift card, make the appointment, too. I know plenty of people who are guilty of still not using a gift certificate literally years after receiving them. So get him/her a gift card for a massage, then make fake plans for something not that exciting (like going to Target to buy toilet paper). Then, drop them off at the massage place. Boom. Bonus if you go to Target and get that toilet paper during the appointment.

Fancy Beauty Stuff

Perfume for rich people & me!  |  photo:
Perfume for rich people & me!  |  photo:

Josh bought me this ridiculous bottle of Jo Malone perfume for my birthday. I’d been lusting after it for a year, but never pulled the trigger because $$$. It’s what I imagine a fancy rich person like Gwyneth Paltrow or Giada De Laurentiis might wear. I couldn’t justify the purchase for myself, but my husband decided I deserved such opulence. That made me feel extra-special. I spritz my neck daily and have hardly made a dent in the thing. So maybe consider spoiling your Valentine with a nice version of something they use every day.

Which leads me to…

A Comfy Robe

No housecoats allowed!  |  photo:
No housecoats allowed!  |  photo:

Lingerie gets all the press for V-Day, but honestly, I’d rather pick out my own. And by pick out my own lingerie, I mean I’d rather spend money on underwear that I am going to actually wear in real life. Consider buying your sweetheart a robe. I like this one because it’s comfy, but not frumpy.

Massage Candle

Who doesn't like booze scented oil on their back?!  |  photo:
Who doesn’t like booze scented oil on their back?!  |  photo:

I really like candles and I really like massages. Therefore, I really like massage candles. What in the hell is a massage candle? I am glad you asked! It’s a candle which, when burned, melts into massage oil. Sexy without being porny. This brand wins because they don’t use cringe-worthy words like Kama Sutra/Fantasy something-or-other AND it’s bourbon scented. The only caveat is that you’re also signing up to GIVE a massage, so don’t be chintzy about it (that’s where the time and effort factor in). 20 minutes, minimum.

A Plant that Basically Can’t Die

These things always make me think of the Karate Kid.  |  photo:
These things always make me think of the Karate Kid.  |  photo:

You could get your favorite person flowers. I love flowers! But if we’re talking a slightly elevated gift, why not try an planted orchid, bonsai tree or a succulent? The succulent is especially great because A) you have to try to kill them; B) they last longer than flowers… who knows? They may even outlast your relationship; C) they are pretty. They have some awesome bonsai options here and I love this simple succulent garden. Believe it or not, Home Depot normally has loads of awesome succulents and plants, and you probably need to go there anyway.

Nice towels

My favorite towels.  |  photo:
My favorite towels.  |  photo:

Okay, okay. Copy my idea and get your snookums some nice, oversized bath towels. These aren’t the ones I bought Josh, but they’re the ones I would’ve bought him had I known they existed. They’re big, sturdy, soft but not too soft (too cushy often means not adsorbent enough in my experience), decently priced and have a little texture, so they’re not completely boring. Plus, you use them when you’re naked. Perfect for Valentine’s Day!

* * *

Big plans for V-Day? I can’t be the only one who is kind of into it.

And if you hate February 14, you’ll love this story Chuck Klosterman told about MacGyvering his way out of an awkward gift situation. (Actually, everyone should listen to that story because it’s awesome).

PS Want to read about what pre-marital counseling is like? Here’s the details (and how Internet trolls were total jerks about it).

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Comments (3)

  • Ashley 6 years ago Reply

    I am a lover of super practical gifts. I’d be all OVER new towels or sheets! Or anything really that I needed and hadn’t bought for myself yet. Tim and I don’t formally make plans, but generally I try to make a more indulgent meal, topped off with chocolate chip cookies timed to come out of the oven when he gets home from work. I accidentally did this two Valentine’s Days ago and I have decided it is now a tradition. Now I need to get one of those candles! I was just talking about how nice a massage with warm oil would be…

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    I am all about ANYTHING that makes my house feel just a little more like a fancy hotel or spa. Nice sheets, towels, robes, rugs, nice tea… One day I hope to just live in a St Regis.

    Ashley 6 years ago

    I like that aspiration! Just lit a candle to make my work day smell better.

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