What to give Mom when you’re all grown up

This annual Mother’s Day or Christmas or birthday conversation is so predictable it’s aggravating: “Mom, what can I get you?” “Oh, I don’t need anything!”

She means it. Most mothers really don’t need anything. But handing her an overpriced store-bought card and saying “Thank you for being my mother” won’t settle your own need to show her how much she means to you.

Check out some of our suggestions for last-minute gifts we think mothers will love. Not only are they inexpensive, they come from your heart — which is what moms want most.

Gift Ideas for Moms (who don’t want anything)

The best gifts for moms from a grown-up son or daughter – while maybe not as homespun as when you were a child – will still reflect your heart and appreciation for her.

When my sons were young, their  “go-to” gift to me was a three-pack of wooden spoons. I was always thrilled – I went through wooden spoons like some women go through pantyhose. I used them for cooking and candy making, pushing things through other things, retrieving whatever had fallen between the stove and the wall, or letting little ones drum them on pots and pans. When they were old and stained they became paint stirrers, and I wrote on broken ones to label newly seeded garden rows. I still love the versatility and organic feel of wooden spoons; but now as a single person I no longer have need for a steady stream of them.

Some mothers have collections — maybe your mom collects pigs. She has pig statues and pig dishtowels and cute little concrete pigs in her garden. Every year since she first mentioned she loved them, somebody presented her with a pig or something  adorned with pictures of pigs. Now, 300 little pigs have wrapped their curly little tails around her life. She secretly wishes she could send half of them to the closest donation site. But she doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings – it just wouldn’t be mom-like.

Now, I’m not saying this is true for every pig-collecting mother, or for anyone obsessed by her particular object of affection. By all means, if you know your mother would love having one more knick for her knack, go for it. But it might be better to ask her if she would like you to pack up some of those dust gatherers and take them out of her house. Better yet, sell them for her and give her the cash. Green is the new pig.

Most mothers who have finished raising their children are at a different stage of life. They want order. Some want a stocked refrigerator without fingerprints and school schedules and magnets that say “I heart Mom.”. Others long for a day alone, a steamy bath and a steamier novel. Some mothers want jewelry; others are crafty and would love to have the raw materials to create. One of my favorite gifts was a cordless drill. We’re all different.

Mothers know about budgets, and they don’t want their adult children to spend money they don’t have on a gift that won’t be enjoyed. They want their children to have plump savings accounts and a debt-free life.

With a little creativity, you can be frugal and still make Mom smile on Mother’s Day. Here are some suggestions of inexpensive – but perfect – presents you can give your mom:

Plants and Flowers

Flowers are always on target. You could call that familiar 800-number or order a fancy bouquet (and if you do, shop around and use a coupon code to make it a better deal.)

Or you could save a vintage vase at a thrift store and shine it up with some vinegar, baking soda and hot water. Buy one perfect flower (or do some bartering with a green-thumbed neighbor) and surround it with twigs and a few ferns or grasses. Handwrite a message and tuck it into the arrangement.

Alternatively, look for FREE pass-it-on plants and plant them for her.

Photo Memories

Upgrade some favorite family memories. Remember when it was all the rage to have family pictures or movies on VHS tapes? I must admit my little television has a built-in VHS player and a DVD player, but maybe your mom is has done a better job with keeping up with technology. She would love to look at those old films every now and then.

Some stores like Costco offer a VHS to DVD transfer service starting at around $20; if you have the required software on your computer, you can copy and burn them yourself.

It will take some planning in advance, but another great gift idea for moms is to put together a photo book – either a handmade scrapbook or the kind you can make online.

Another idea is to buy a frame with several openings and make a photo collage of some of her favorite pictures. She’ll treasure those memories. 

Music for the Heart

While you’re burning those discs, you could also create a collection of Mom’s favorite songs. My oldest son gave me a homemade two-disc set of songs of different genres, all carrying a theme of love and optimism. I never grow tired of listening to it.

You could also gift her a subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited or Spotify and make her a playlist of all her favorite songs. Right now, Amazon has a free trial for Music Unlimited. 

What do you do for Mom when you’re all grown up and she really doesn’t need anything? Use these tips for frugal — but meaningful — gifts for Mother’s Day.

Soft and Cozy Socks

Everybody needs socks. Dads always seem to receive socks for Father’s Day, but four out of five moms have mismatched socks in their drawers, too. All right, that isn’t a true statistic, but I do believe dryers are portals for socks to escape to a parallel universe.

When shopping for socks for Mom, please don’t get her the ones that leave the red marks around her ankles, or are decorated with hearts or balloons or something like…pigs. Stay on budget and look for a pair of soft and cozy socks that she can actually wear without explaining why she is wearing them.

Buy her two pair of the same color if you can afford it, just in case the dryer eats one of each pair. You could also make this foot warmer to go with them. If your Mom budget is a little bigger, tuck in a gift certificate so she can order some private Mom stuff.

Practical Handmade Gifts

One gift idea for mom is to make a mousepad. I prefer to use a wireless mouse instead of the touch pad on the computer. This covered mousepad could be a FREE project using fabric scraps and a promotional giveaway mouse pad.

Homebaked Goodies

Stay home and bake. Remember all those cupcakes that sainted woman made for your school events? Well, pay her back by giving her cupcakes in her favorite flavor. Get fancy with the decorating — you don’t want her to relive all those elementary school parties. Oh, you say you can’t bake? Then get fancy and send her a sweet surprise that she won’t have to hide from the rest of the family.

Homemade Coupon Books

Mothers really do love to receive crafty little coupon books, and now that you’re older you can do a lot more for her.

So start cutting and stapling — get creative with the coupons, using ideas like “wash the car” and “take out the garbage” if you live nearby. Does Mom have a leaky faucet that you could fix with a few washers and some time?  She might enjoy sharing a summer day with you, complete with a picnic lunch at a nearby park.

It’s really about the thought behind the coupon book — but it shouldn’t stop there. We frugal moms want to reap the benefits of those coupons — so follow through with your promises.

Give mom the benefit of your grown-up skillset and offer to help her with things around the house. If her “love language” is acts of service, this gift will really show her you care.

Time Out

Give Mom an adventure. You don’t have to send her around the world in a private jet. She’d love a trip to the next town if it was carefully planned by you. Take her to the botanic gardens and hand her a list of plants to find, with a prize if she finds them all (or even if she doesn’t). Or rediscover her hometown by visiting favorite and new-to-her locations. Watch our Living on the Cheap network sites for events near you.

Sincere Appreciation

What’s at the top of the list for most moms? One of the best gifts for moms is a handwritten letter. In this age of texting and instant messaging, we still like to read handwritten messages from loved ones.

Reminisce about turning points in your life, and what you have learned from her over the years.  Tell her you love her.

She will treasure it long after the last of the pigs fly.

For more Mother’s Day ideas, check out our Pinterest Board. Get more money-saving tips, information about deals, and budget-friendly gift ideas when you subscribe to our free email newsletter. 

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With a little creativity, you can be frugal and still make Mom smile on Mother's Day. Here are some suggestions:

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