The Pen is Mightier than the Dollar: Inexpensive Gifts

If you’re looking for inexpensive gifts that won’t break the bank, then you’ve come to the right place.

I want to share with you three of the best gifts ideas I’ve ever come across in a concept I refer to as: “The Pen is Mightier than the Dollar”

If you’re like me, you have been bombarded with media and advertising telling us we need to spend a lot of our hard earned cash to impress someone. When that someone is the person you’re in love with, it becomes an odd paradox.

Money is the number one source of stress in relationships, yet the number one recommendation is to spend more of it to make someone feel better?

I’ll chalk that up to being another one of the mysteries of life.

Anyway, for those who are willing to do some work outside of swiping a credit card and who are looking for affordable gifts, here’s my first idea: Create a Good Memory Jar

This year, my girlfriend and I started collecting our good moments by writing them down and placing them into a jar, hence the name, “good memory jar.”

Our goal is to fill up the jar before the end of the year, and then open and read each note on New Year’s Eve.

When we’re out together and share a laugh over a hilarious story, or we eat a great home cooked meal, or when we find ourselves enjoying a nice walk, we write down a short note about how we feel in the moment and what caused that feeling.

We’re actively looking for the good in our situation and that helps us block out some of the negative aspects of our day.

If you haven’t started this type of jar, then you can start at any point. It could be just a month or a season — start date and duration is entirely up to you and your loved one.

I expect we’ll keep our jar and we can find another day in the distant future to relive some of our favorite memories from 2016.

Check out the other inexpensive gifts in my guest post over at Allan’s blog The Practical Saver.

Spoiler alert: there will be tears of joy. Also, don’t worry, these are physical gifts as opposed to ‘unconditional love,’ which is a great gift, but not on my list of frugal gifts.

Master Distiller

16 comments… add one
  • Physician on FIRE May 20, 2016, 8:05 am

    From my good memory jar: The time the fake Sean Connery was on the SNL version of Celebrity Jeopardy and pronounced the category “The Pen is Mightier.” Hint: he combined two words, but I’m not telling which ones.


  • Apathy Ends May 20, 2016, 8:25 am

    I am self proclaimed “worst gift giver ever” – I hate the thought of spending money on something people don’t want so I usually vet the idea before buying anything.

    Your tips are going to help me out this year!

    • Distilled Dollar May 21, 2016, 1:59 pm

      Good to hear! When it comes to purchased gifts I’m in the same boat as you. The first time I bought my girlfriend flowers, they were the unscented kind…my gift giving skills were at about 50% that day

  • FinanceSuperhero May 20, 2016, 8:31 am

    More proof that the best things in life really aren’t things. I like this idea, Matt.

  • Amanda @ centsiblyrich May 20, 2016, 9:42 am

    Great idea! This would be good for a grandparent as well – grandkids write down the good memories they have with grandma or grandpa. They’d love it.

  • amber tree May 20, 2016, 3:07 pm

    Excellent idea. I will pitch the idea to my wife.
    It might work better than my try to have a daily gratitude log

    • Distilled Dollar May 21, 2016, 2:02 pm

      If you do follow up with the good idea jar, I’ll recommend leaving it out in a place you’ll both see frequently.

  • Matt Spillar May 20, 2016, 4:13 pm

    “Money is the number one source of stress in relationships, yet the number one recommendation is to spend more of it to make someone feel better.”

    Loved this line, it’s so true! Great reminder.


  • Financial Slacker May 21, 2016, 6:32 pm

    I’m always looking for new creative gift ideas. After almost 20 years of marriage, gifts that are personal rather than financial mean more. There are only so many items of jewelry that can be given.


  • Pamela May 22, 2016, 10:32 am

    This is not only a great frugal gift, but also a great marriage building tool to help stregthen a marriage during tough time. There is nothing like being reminded why you married someone in the first place (in those instenses when you may seem to wonder). There is nothing like a concrete reminder of memories that may fade from our minds if not reminded. My husband and I do a marriage retreat every 3 years through our church and we learn new activities and exercises to strengthen our marriage. This one would be top of my list. What a great idea!!!

    • Distilled Dollar May 22, 2016, 6:12 pm

      I like the idea of doing a retreat every few years! That sounds like it would be amazing. We tend to do mini retreats during the year but only a 3 day weekend road trip or something similar.

  • Martin - Get FIRE'd asap May 23, 2016, 12:54 am

    “Money is the number one source of stress in relationships, yet the number one recommendation is to spend more of it to make someone feel better?” —- I love this line too. I’m a firm believer in presenting gifts when I want to not because it is driven by some “event’ such as mother’s/father’s days or even Valentines Day. Does anyone realise these days were created by the purveyors of consumeristic, spendy stupidity?

    No, my rule is “Don’t buy me anything cos you may not get anything in return”. Seems to be working at last.

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