Q: My husband’s birthday is coming up, and I’m in a bind. Between a surprise emergency room visit, car repair bills, and a broken water heater, we are broke! I have always given him expensive gifts and pampered him on his special day, but this year I just don’t think I can swing it without going into debt. Any suggestions?

A: I’m so sorry to hear about your financial woes. It really stinks when things pile up like that, doesn’t it? I love this question, though, because this presents a unique opportunity for you that you might not have considered if you were flush with cash. Unless your guy is the type who equates dollar signs with love, you’re in luck. There are so many ways to celebrate him without spending a ton. You know him best, so use your imagination and think of something creative that speaks to who he is and what he likes best. Here are some ideas to get you on your way, though.

Is the way to his heart through his stomach? Cook his favorite meal. Make it nice with a beautifully set table, soft music, all that good stuff. A decadent dessert for two can top things off nicely. The power of melted chocolate and dim lighting cannot be overstated.
Is he sore and sleep-deprived after a long work week? End your evening together with a nice, relaxing massage. Turn off the alarm clock and let him sleep in while you wrangle the kids or take it one step further and do his lawn work or clean his car for him while he gets a little R&R.

Is he your real-life romance hero? Tell him! However you best express yourself, find a way to share with him the many ways that he’s the best guy for you. Maybe you’ve got a way with words and he’d love a beautifully written letter. You might be a musician or an artist—a song or a painting would be amazing and would remind him of the special birthday for years to come.

I’d suggest combining several of these low-cost high-return ideas so that you have a day’s worth of gestures. It will likely end up being one of his more memorable birthdays. Whatever way you choose, showing your love for someone doesn’t have to cost a lot-or anything, really- and the more meaningful your gesture, the longer he’ll remember his special day.

Monica Tillery, author of Kiss Me, Katie

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