What your dad really wants for Father’s Day: 5 of the best ideas (all cheap or free!)

A little thought can go a long way

A man holding a girl. (Josh Willink/Pexels stock photo)

Father’s Day is almost here, but if it’s been a tight year, money-wise, just know that you’re probably not alone in feeling like you’d rather save the more expensive festivities for another time.

We want to help. We thought we’d give you five ideas -- and sure, they’re not exactly groundbreaking; but it’s the thought that counts.

A little thoughtfulness will go a long way. If executed properly, we think the father figure in your life will LOVE ...

A little break

Well, first of all, ask yourself this: Is your dad extroverted, and would he LOVE to share Father’s Day with his loved ones? Or is he a little more introverted? Does his job run him ragged? Could he use some solo time?

If it’s the latter, we think this idea is perfect.

Basically, you know the guy best: Decide how much of a break he’d truly like. Just an hour or two away to run an errand or pick up some coffee? That’s a nice offer! Or would he rather take half a day to nap, lounge or get out of the house for a little solo adventure?

Women are NOT the only ones who want to kick their feet up or get some time away from the kids, especially if they’re little. Children are incredible, and such a delight to raise, but it can be taxing.

And if he’d rather be around the house, maybe pick up a few affordable items to have on hand: His favorite coffee, or beer or soda, for example.

Family time

All right, now we’ll turn the opposite direction and say, let’s flood those dads with love!

Even just taking the afternoon for yourselves as a family unit, making sure cellphones are tucked away or watching a movie together might be nice.

If your dad is older and you have children of your own, bring those sweet grandkids to him. Have them create little cards or projects. What grandpa wouldn’t love that?

Share a nice meal or snack -- it doesn’t have to be a seven-course meal!

Is your dad a morning guy? Swing by a doughnut shop or even a nice grocery store and snag a few.

Would he rather get together or celebrate the “holiday” once he’s slept in? Make plans to order a pizza, and let him choose the toppings, of course. You could cook, too -- whatever you think he’d like best.

If your father is far away, schedule some time to share a bite or a beer on Zoom or FaceTime.

Give him a day of 0 responsibilities.

If you’re grilling for dinner, YOU man the grill.

If there’s yard work or anything else that he’d usually do any other weekend, swoop in and beat him to it. It might seem like a small gesture, but acts of service can be really thoughtful, too.

Show him how much he’s appreciated, year round, by thinking ahead and handling EVERYTHING on this day.

Plan a date.

This could mean encouraging your mom to take your dad out -- maybe there are even some ways you could set the stage or buy the first round of drinks; even an appetizer -- or if you’re the spouse and you’re celebrating your partner, try to snag a sitter for even an hour or two if money’s tight.

There are lots of inexpensive things for the two of you to do. When you have young children, even just grocery shopping with the two of you, child-free, can feel like a treat!

Otherwise, drive around, go on a hike or binge some Netflix.

Remember: The key item to keep in mind is, this isn’t about what you would love most. Father’s Day is his day -- so make these decisions with him in mind first and foremost.

The creative presents, and “experience” types of gifts, are some of the best kind.

Go make some memories. This isn’t about you trying to force your perfect day on him. Just take care of the details and plan a few hours you’re certain he would LOVE. This can be as big or small as you’d like to make it.

This story was first published in 2020.