23 Uncommon But Affordable Gift Ideas For Valentine’s Day

23 Uncommon But Affordable Gift Ideas For Valentine’s Day

For when you waited until the last minute or really don't know what to get for your special someone.

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As much as I enjoy chocolate, flowers, and stuffed animals, those things can get expensive or feel impersonal. If you're stuck on what to get your significant other for Valentine's Day this year, this list might help you.

Here are 23 uncommon (and affordable) gift ideas for Valentine's Day.

1. Socks

Fuzzy socks are usually the best, especially if it's cold outside. Second place goes to the socks with silly or cool designs on them, like these. Plus, who doesn't need more socks?

2. Succulent(s)

Flowers die pretty quickly, which is very disappointing considering how pretty they are. While your significant other probably wouldn't be opposed to receiving pretty flowers, succulents are a cute and longer lasting alternative. You can even get cute little pots for them. This is one of my favorites.

3. Back scratcher

For when you can't be around to scratch their back for them. It could truly be a lifesaver. There are hundreds of different kinds, but this one has a lot of personality.

4. Blanket

The softer, the better. Sherpa is especially wonderful, but can get a little pricey.

5. Diffuser and essential oils

Even if you and/or your significant other don't believe that the oils can help you in any way, there are so many wonderful smelling mixes to make, and most of them smell good on their own. Diffusers can also work as humidifiers, which is perfect if you live in a dry environment. Plus, diffusers come in all shapes and sizes, like this one that is minimalistic and pretty, and this one that is just adorable and perfect for the Disney lover.

6. Coloring book

Bonus points if you include coloring supplies. And honestly, kids coloring books are so much more fun and less stressful, because you don't need to worry about coloring in little tiny details or intricate designs.

7. Mug

I am an avid mug collector. I have at least six in my dorm, and constantly have to remind myself that I really don't need another one because I am only one person. If your significant other enjoys lots of hot drinks (or cold drinks) and could use a cute/cool/funny addition to their cupboard, I highly suggest getting them a mug. Make it personal, sweet, cute, silly, or funny. There is an endless selection, but there are some pretty great ones on Redbubble and at your local T.J. Maxx.

8. Spider catcher

I know that I am not alone in my disgust for all things creepy crawly. Needless to say, I don't want to get close enough to them to catch them, so this spider catcher is a wonderful way to trap it from a safe distance and toss it outside.

9. "Little Book of Mindfulness"

My boyfriend got me this little book for Christmas, and I am in love with it. I am also in love with how thoughtful he was. If your significant other is constantly stressing over school, work, or just life in general (and honestly, who isn't?), I highly recommend taking a look at this book.

10. Funko Pop! Figures (of their favorite character)

If you are unfamiliar, Pop Figures are basically adorable little figurines of pretty much any character you could think of. I recently received this little guy and I love looking over at my desk and seeing him. They're perfect for anyone that enjoys any kind of movie, TV show, music, and more. Hot Topic usually has an entire wall devoted to them, and most stores have them.

11. Stickers

Redbubble is my go-to sticker place. There are hundreds of thousands of stickers to choose from. It's like heaven. Plus, if you order 10 stickers, you get 50 percent off your entire order, and sales are almost always happening.

12. String lights

Personally, I am a big fan of these fairy lights because of the soft glow they produce and the minimalistic look they have. Any girl would love to have some pretty lights strung in her room, and who knows, boys might enjoy them too if you find the right ones.

13. Candles

Candles are a gift from Heaven. If your significant other isn't currently living in a dorm, definitely get them the best smelling one(s) you can find. I can highly recommend Yankee Candles and Whitebarn Candles or wax melts.

14. Something homemade and heartfelt

I am a sucker for homemade gifts. I love giving and receiving them. Some of my favorites are a jar full of memories, a deck of cards with reasons why I love him/he loves me, and handwritten letters. Take a scroll through Pinterest and you will find so many adorable and easily recreatable ideas.

15. Photo book

Photo books are perfect because they are both thoughtful and simple. There are multiple websites where you can have one created for you, or you could simply get a pretty photo album and stuff it full of pictures from your relationship.

16. Board or card game

Make sure the game you get can be a two player game, and one that you would both enjoy playing. This way you'll have something to do when you really don't know what to do but want to do something together.

17. Slim wallet

Trifold wallets can be bulky and uncomfortable in your pocket, and lots of wallets aimed towards females are even larger and more inconvenient to carry. Plus, carrying a purse everywhere just to carry that wallet isn't exactly ideal. I love the look and feel of Apache Pine wallets, and know that there are many other minimalistic and slim wallet choices to choose from.

18. Silly tea infuser

Regular tea infusers are just fine, and so is just letting your plain tea bag sit in your cup, but infusers like this make it so much more entertaining. It would be the perfect addition to the new mug you just picked out for your significant other, thanks to this post.

19. "What I Love About You By Me"

As I was looking for Valentine's Day gifts for my boyfriend, I came across this DIY book and thought it was adorable.

20. Journal

Bullet journals are especially popular lately, which makes them very accessible. Even if your S/O doesn't want to create a bullet journal, a regular journal would be a nice gift to receive.

21. Lotion

Smells good? Check. Makes your skin feel silky smooth? Check. You really can't go wrong with lotion. Unless you get them one that they're allergic to in some way. That's the only way you could go wrong with it.

22. Apron

If your S/O loves to be in the kitchen, they would certainly benefit from having a new apron from you. They would think of you every time they put it on to make something good to eat.

23. Anything that made you think of them when you saw it.

Chances are, they'll love it, or just love that you thought of them specifically when you saw this thing.

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5 Companies That Still Use Slave Labor

Let's talk about the modern slave trade.
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Growing up in a country where freedom is always a right and expectation — whether you live in the United States or one of the other 86 "free" countries — it is easy to believe that, compared to the well-known 1800s slave trade, we are doing pretty well when it comes to civil liberties, freedom, and overall social welfare. Documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) have been approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations, meaning that the vast majority of nations have agreed that every individual has the right to basic human dignity.

Despite this significant progress, however, there are 45.8 million people enslaved today, more than any other time in world history. The United States Department of Homeland Security has launched the Blue Campaign in light of this growing industry, hoping to raise awareness of the human trafficking that persists in local communities. Additionally, you can watch this video for a summary on the Global Slavery pandemic. I will write about the problem of human trafficking in the United States on another day; however, global slavery affects us whether it is in our city or halfway around the world. In fact, companies that you purchase from every single day use slave labor for their work instead of paying employees a fair wage.* Don't believe me?

Here are five companies that are using slave labor to make their products TODAY, and where you should shop instead.

Nestle

Nestle is one of the largest companies that has consistently carried out human rights violations all over the world. Not only did they illegally take water from California during the drought in 2015, but in the 1970s they got third-world mothers to use infant formula by selling it at reduced prices, and then when the mothers could no longer breastfeed, they raised the price of formula so much that many children were malnourished and starving.

Their most recent problems revolve around slavery in the cocoa industry. In 2009 several former child slaves sued Nestle because they were trafficked and forced to work on Nestle farms in Cote d'Ivoire. Another suit was filed by former child slaves in 2014, stating that "Studies by International Labour Organization, UNICEF, the Department of State, and numerous other organizations have confirmed that thousands of children are forced to work without pay in the Ivorian economy." In 2016, the Fair Labor Association executed an assessment of Nestle in Cote d'Ivoire. They claimed that 70% of Nestle farms were not trained on the prohibition of forced labor. Further, they stated that "there is no process in place to monitor, report, and remediate cases of forced labor at the farms." With this in mind, they did find evidence of potential forced and uncompensated labor. Additionally, they found evidence of child labor—many of these children never enrolling in school — in which children were getting paid little to nothing, and often working in dangerous conditions.

INSTEAD: buy from Ben & Jerry's or Theo. They will satisfy your sweet tooth and are Fair-Trade guaranteed.

Nike

Nike has REALLY cleaned up their act in the last several years, but with a standard of no slave labor, they still have quite a way to go. In 1992, activist Jeff Ballinger published an exposé in "Harpers" that revealed the story of a child in Indonesia working in disgusting conditions, and for a mere 14 cents per hour (far below the minimum wage in Indonesia at the time).

Since then, Nike has begun to report supply chain information. The most recent report claims that, in 2016, only 86% of their factories were up to the minimum standards they set. Though they give a good indication of how far the company has come, these standards are set by Nike and assessed internally, making it difficult to compare standards to a universal one.

INSTEAD: shop at Patagonia! All products here are Fair Trade Certified!

Starbucks

Starbucks claims a mission for ethical sourcing, meaning their company policy requires them to abide by a standard of "ethical sourcing" that they have created. They only have two Fair-Trade coffees available for purchase. After the development charity Oxfam reported that Starbucks was depriving Ethiopian coffee growers of $90 million every year, Starbucks was challenged by the public eye to “clean up their act,” and did so by creating their own “ethical sourcing” standards, that they implement themselves, and certify 99% of their coffee with. Whether or not these standards are viable, they are not Fair Trade Certified at this time.

The U.S. Department of Labor has a list of locations and goods that use forced and child labor. Starbucks lists coffees from countries such as Guatamala, Kenya, Costa Rica and Panama; however, none of these single-sourced coffees are certified by them as “Fair Trade.” Rather, they are all regions that are known to use child labor.

INSTEAD: buy the Starbucks Italian Roast and Café Estima; they are certified by Fair Trade! You can also order online from Café Justo, Jurang and Equal Exchange —entire companies dedicated to producing Fair Trade coffee.

H&M

A 2016 report stated that as of December 31, 2015, 31 out of 72 H&M suppliers were using illegal contracts. In other words, these contracts allowed for wrongful termination. Now I know what you are thinking: the current system of hiring/firing in the U.S. is full of problems, and it takes way too much work to fire a bad employee in most cases. Well, the situation in countries like Cambodia and India are a little different. Often times, employees of H&M will be forced to work for excessive overtime hours—far beyond the legal limit—with no increase in their weekly take home pay. They are also often working in sweatshop conditions, with no breaks and unsanitary environments. Moreover, the contracts allow the factory to fire a worker for refusing to work these long hours. In fact, a garment worker in Cambodia stated: "We often get sick around once a month. We don’t eat enough and work too much trying to maximize the piece rate. Also, we don’t stop to go to the bathroom. We often work through lunch breaks or go back into work early, so there is hardly any time to rest."

INSTEAD: shop at one of these other retailers that are guaranteed to have fair-trade labor!

Walmart

Well, this one is probably the least suprising yet. According to a 2016 report by the Wage Alliance on Walmart's value chain, Walmart refused to sign the 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh that 200 companies signed following the collapse of Rana Plaza. It also stated that all 14 factories in Cambodia were studied, and they all violated local overtime laws consistently, with some forcing 14 hour work days without overtime pay "in sweltering heat, without adequate supply of clean drinking water or any breaks." These same conditions were expressed by workers in factories in India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. The report continued to list countless instances of workers given severely less than they were promised, or even cases where owners of factories fled without paying workers at all.

INSTEAD: OK, I know it's hard to pass up Walmart prices. However, here is a full list of companies that are fair trade. Even if you start small, I know you can find a way to cut back on your slavery footprint! Want to know how many slaves work for you now? Visit the Slavery Footprint mission to find out.

*I use the term “fair wage” because many people who are enslaved are trapped in a cycle of debt bondage. This means that an individual or family works for pennies per hour to pay off an ever-increasing debt. Oftentimes this debt is passed down for generations. To learn more about debt bondage and other forms of slavery, visit the non-profit End Slavery Now, here.

Cover Image Credit: iragelb / Flickr

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Whether Your Perpetually Single Or Married AF, Here Are 5 Easy Things To Do This Valentine's Day

Make the perfect day even more special.

JBoyd
JBoyd
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The day that is full of love, smiles, and red faces. Valentine's Day! This is such a beautiful day because there are many people showcasing their love for one another, or people embracing to tell their biggest secret to someone (their crush). This day is one of my favorite holidays and I love how people make others feel especially special on this day. There are many things to do on Valentine's Day, but if you're single or in a relationship, I have the perfect things to do.

1. The Stars.

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This may seem corny, but taking the time to sit outside at 7 p.m. to look at the stars is lovely. Having that time to communicate with your significant other is relaxing and peaceful. This is a great way to enjoy each other's company and to cherish a moment of relaxation.

2. Yum, Num, Yum.

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Of course, I was going to tell you to go out to eat. Taking that time to eat dinner with your significant other is important. You can have that moment in time to just express why you love that person and you can do it over a great dinner. If you're not feeling anything fancy, choose a different type of scenery. Instead of prime ribs and asparagus, go get some good 'ole fashioned wings, ribs or a juicy burger. Step outside of the box.

3. Game Night.

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Having a game night with your significant other is not traditional at all, that's why you should do it. Monopoly, Chess, Checkers, Dance Dance Revolution. These are all great games to play with your significant other. Having that time to laugh and relieve stress with one another can really help you mentally. It may seem childish, but it is something different and is not a part of the status quo.

4. If you're single,  mingle.

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For all my single souls, it's okay not being in a relationship on Valentine's Day. There're still things for you to do. You can go out with your other single friends an enjoy their company. You can even try speed dating. Movie night by yourself isn't too bad neither, I've done it before and it is quite peaceful. Treating your mom, dad or siblings is not ideal, but it will make their day. Valentine's Day can be spent with anyone, not just someone you have "feelings" for.

5. MOVIES!

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There will probably be love movie marathons playing on TV the entire week of Valentine's Day. Enjoy a "chick flick" with your girls or guys. I know it may seem lame, but movie night is the best type of night to spend with family & friends. One of my favorite movies is Valentine's Day. It's such an awesome movie that focuses on a range of people and their Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day is the time to show everyone you care for that you love them. Whether you show them in small gestures or big gestures. You can give people thank you cards or send them a basket of edible arrangement. This is the day of love. Let this be the day that you embrace love, in every aspect that you can embrace it in.

JBoyd
JBoyd

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