On your boyfriend's next birthday, step up your game by coming up with a gift or an activity that will take him by surprise. Skip the standard new shirt, favorite beer or whatever you traditionally give him. Instead, think about his hobbies, interests, or even a life-long dream and come up with a creative way to incorporate those ideas into a surprise gift.
If your boyfriend enjoys parties or getting together with friends, a surprise party might be a great option for his birthday, especially if it's a milestone , such as his 30th or 40th. Pick a location that will accommodate all the guests and won't be too hard to get him to without revealing the surprise. Enlist the help of friends or family members as necessary to set up the party, bring refreshments and gifts, and get your boyfriend to the party. Establish a signal so guests can prepare for his arrival and greet him with the requisite "surprise" yells.
Play to His Interests
You've already given your sports-crazy boyfriend a baseball jersey and a subscription to his favorite sports magazine in previous years, so pick a sports-themed gift that not only will thrill him, but surprise him as well. Well in advance of his special day, write a letter to his favorite athlete requesting a signed photograph for his birthday. Visit a sports memorabilia store or website and buy an autographed ball from his favorite pitcher or a football signed by players on his hometown team. If your budget permits, spring for tickets to a playoff or championship game or a weekend fantasy camp, where he'll get to train, eat, play and live with players from his favorite baseball team.
From the Heart
Being on a budget doesn't mean you can't come up with the perfect surprise for your boyfriend's birthday. If you're artistic, create an original piece of artwork just for him. Select a special photograph of yourself or the two of you together and make or buy a one-of-a-kind frame for it. Call his mom ahead of time and get the recipes for his favorite childhood foods, then make them for his birthday dinner. Scour the vintage record stores or online auction sites for a long-lost favorite record album. If you're an accomplished knitter, knit a toasty, comfortable sweater in his favorite color.
Go All Out
If you're looking for an extravagant surprise, pick something that is on his bucket list or a long-standing dream item that he'll never get for himself. Plan a getaway to the islands so he can swim with the dolphins, or buy tickets to that European capital he's always dreamed of visiting. Fly in family members or a long-time best buddy for a surprise visit. For your music-loving boyfriend, get front-row concert tickets and backstage passes to meet his favorite band, or arrange for him to get to jam with his favorite jazz combo at a downtown club.