By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Tribune newspapers
May 4, 2012
Somewhere along the way, honoring mom came to mean a fancy brunch or extravagant flower bouquet, an oddly transactional approach that manages to be both generic and pricey at a time many household budgets are tight.
But the most meaningful Mother's Day gifts may be the ones that don't cost a cent, or at least very few. This is a day when it really is the thought that counts. So put down your credit card and summon that creative inner child whose macaroni masterpieces used to adorn the family fridge.
"I think homemade, simple gifts are always much more heartfelt than going to the mall and buying something," said Sara Tetreault, a Portland, Ore., mother to two teens who runs the "stylishly frugal living" blog "Go Gingham" (gogingham.com).
Because the holiday is meant to celebrate the bond between mother and child, give something that is personal to your relationship, said Meg Favreau, Los Angeles-based senior editor at Wise Bread, an online frugal living advice sit (wisebread.com)e. Sometimes a simple handwritten card that rekindles memories by recounting a specific story can be powerful, she said. Or plan an experience, which studies have shown makes people happier, for longer, than material gifts.
Of course, not all moms see it that way, so if she expects an iPad 3, you don't want to disappoint her on her special day, Tetreault said.
But if a spend-free Mother's Day is something the family can embrace, here are 10 ideas for keeping costs low and sentiment high.
Homemade cards. There's no reason to give your money to Hallmark when you can make a perfectly good and far more personal card on your own. In the Tetreault household, they have a habit of recycling cards they receive from others by "tearing out the pretty part" and using that to decorate homemade cards made with folded construction paper and art supplies procured for pennies at garage sales. If you write a thoughtful note in the card, telling a fond story about your mom or your relationship, it's often gift enough.
Memory lane. Especially as the years wear on, people care less about stuff and more about their personal relationships. Collect memories from your mom's friends and family members and make a scrapbook highlighting what people love about her or their favorite stories about her, along with photos, mementos, artwork and anything nostalgic, suggests Favreau. If scrapbooking isn't your thing, you could find a pretty jar (or basket or box) and fill it with slips of paper bearing those favorite family memories.
Picture perfect. Have a friend, ideally someone who knows their way around a camera, take a photo of you, your kids or your family and present it in a homemade frame, Favreau suggests. To do the latter, buy an inexpensive picture frame at a thrift store or dollar store and add your personal decorating touch. For example, coat the frame with mod podge (basically watery glue) then decoupage it with loving words cut from magazines, dried flowers or pictures that reflect her interests (flowers if she's a gardener; books if she's a reader).
Flower power. The best gifts are indulgences people like but wouldn't normally buy for themselves, so flowers, for all their impracticality, are a lovely choice. Rather than drop $100 online to send an overpriced bouquet, buy a skinny vase from a thrift store, tie it with a ribbon and insert a single rose or a couple of lilies or whatever flowers mom likes best, Favreau said. "The size of the bouquet is not indicative of the size of your love for your mom," she said. You could also plant a flower in a pot so she can admire it for longer.
Performance art. A favorite gift tradition in Tetreault's family is for her kids, 13 and 15, and her husband to stand before her and recite poems they have memorized in her honor. "It's just so sweet," Tetreault said, to hear what poems they chose and to know they took the time to memorize them. "I always make sure I have a handkerchief in my hand."
Quality, not quantity. Great things can come in small packages, so if your mom loves bath products, get her one nice soap or lotion rather than the basket assortment. If she loves chocolate, get her a single special bar rather than a fancy box. If lattes are her thing, a $5 gift card to her favorite coffee shop may make her smile. The point is to know what she likes and get her one thing, as opposed to a big production, Favreau said.
Room service. Add a sweet touch to the classic breakfast in bed by creating a door hanger, with food options, that mom can check off and hang on her bedroom doorknob so she gets just what she wants. Add a foot massage and DVD options on the checklist, as well as her preferred wake-up time, for a fuller hotel and spa experience.
The gift of time. Make a coupon book full of favors — washing her car, making dinner, giving a scalp massage — that mom can redeem that day or in the future. If there are kids in the picture, have them hide the coupons all over the house and send mom on a treasure hunt, Favreau suggests.
Get outside. Simply getting out of the house and doing something out of the ordinary as a family can leave a lasting memory. Pack a picnic instead of going to a restaurant, go for a hike or see if there are any free concerts in the local park. If mom has a green thumb, buy some veggie starts and prep the soil ahead of time, Tetreault suggests, so that when Mother's Day rolls around the family can hunker down together to plant a vegetable garden.
Daily deals. Half-price mani-pedis, massages, trapeze classes and anything else that might appeal to moms have become so common on daily deal sites that it's hard to justify paying full price for anything. Just be sure to read the fine print on business hours and expiration dates before buying, Favreau warns. One safe option that keeps on giving is a magazine subscription, which can cost as little as $4 a year for monthlies such as Better Homes and Gardens at Dealnews.com.
You still have time! Mother's Day is Sunday, May 13