You could buy a bag of small Hershey's kisses, and one of those really big ones, then write some cheesy but cute say like "There's always one that stands out," or something like that. Or get a few bags of different types of Hershey's kisses, and again, write something cheesy like "Wanna figure out haw many ways there are to kiss? "
Also, you could fill his car with balloons. But before you blow the balloons up, up can put a piece of paper with a reason of why you like him or why you find him so amazing, etc, in there for him to read when he pops it.
My friend, a girl, told me once that her sister gave her a 2-hour massage for a present and I think that is phenomenal! You could use that or variate it, cook him dinner or some sexy dessert, massage or give him a foot rub. Something he really likes. :) Something which is physically thought, so you have to do something for the present. :) Handmassage is heavenly, if you do it right. Same is with head and neck massage.
Are you at all artistic (or at least artsy-crafty)? Do you sew? Are you a good cook? Whatever you are good at, use that skill to make him something really nice. And make him a beautiful card, too. Then present it with a smile and a hug and a kiss. I'll bet he likes that more than whatever you would have bought if you had the cash.
Been there done that! IF you can get a box of chocolates from ANYWHERE take out the chocolate and write notes on little sheets of papers. Then fill the box up and give it to him. Either you can read then together while watching the sun set or he can read them at home by himself. Other than that go to a park and hang out or maybe to the beach. What ever happened to cheap dates our parents talk about huh?
Gifts for guys...meaningful but cheap...hmmm...Do you guys share any special moments that you could recreate? Would he like a gag gift or two like from the dollar store that shows you spent time picking it out and something you could laugh over? If all else fails, put on a lacy bra and underwear and wrap a big red bow around your tummy! Happy Birthday, honey, I'll blow your, uh, candles!
If he likes football raise money for a football. Or give him a kiss. Boys love that.
Flowers or some kind of scrapbook is what I suggest. It doesn't cost much to organize your pictures and put them in a pretty scrapbook and girls always love that for their birthday.
I'm going to have to somewhat disagree with blunty and agree with bigais here.
Your man will appreciate .things you can do. more than things you can make.
Tell him the truth. Tell him you had no money this time, but still really wanted to make sure he was happy and felt good on his birthday. and the rest is up to your imagination. Make him a card, maybe with some "favors" in it, things like that. Believe me, he'll like that.
Nothing's better than a GREAT _LOW JOB. Take it from a guy.