Love Your Mom and Your Budget

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By Jesse Campbell
Mother’s Day has been a national holiday in the United States for over one hundred years now. Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation in 1914 declaring that the second Sunday in May would be a day to celebrate and honor mothers. It’s been all flowers, cards, and Sunday afternoon phone calls since then.
By no means was Mother’s Day ever intended to be what we like to call a “Hallmark Holiday” – that is, a thinly veiled excuse to bilk consumers out of their spending money. But even if the spirit of the day is as pure as they come, it’s hard to look past the financial reality of what the day has become.
Consumers will spend upwards to $20 billion this year on Mother’s Day gifts and events. The average consumer will individually spend approximately $170 on their mother. (By contrast – and with no commentary attached – consumers spend about $90 each year for Father’s Day.) That puts Mother’s Day just on the other side of Valentine’s Day and the winter holidays as the third most expensive holiday.
Of course we should be celebrating mothers (they’re undeniably pretty great), but do you really need to break your budget in order to let mom know you care? Not at all! And you know who would agree with that? Mom!
According to a recent survey from, over 80 percent of adults say that their mother has shared some form of financial wisdom with them, and overwhelmingly that advice was to be frugal and live within your means.
That means spending with your heart and your brain. So what does Mom want for Mother’s Day? According to a separate survey, these are the things mothers say they’d like to receive on Mother’s Day:

  • Something Homemade/36 percent
  • Dinner/34.8 percent
  • Greeting Card/31.5 percent
  • Gift Cards/24.7 percent
  • Flowers /22.5 percent
  • Jewelry/11.2 percent
  • Books/10.1 percent
  • Spa/7.9 percent

Like almost all gift-giving occasions, Mother’s Day suffers from some serious escalation issues. It’s hard not to be aware of what you did last year and what everyone else is doing. We feel compelled to best our previous gift-giving, or at least equal it. Giving less feels insulting.
But if you asked your mom, chances are pretty good she’d confirm that it really is the thought that counts, not the dollar amount. Here’s how you can manage the basics and show you care without spending more than you can afford.
Something homemade
Moms are unabashed suckers for handmade signs of affection. Combine a little effort with a dash of thoughtfulness and Mom will love whatever you come up with.
Dinner is all about the experience of togetherness (and Mom not having to do any cooking). You don’t need an expensive restaurant to capture what’s special about a Mother’s Day dinner. In fact, you don’t need a restaurant at all. Try cooking Mom her favorite meal this year! It’s cheaper, homemade, and even more thoughtful than springing for an expensive meal. Browse our free eBook Cheap Eats for plenty of easy, inexpensive recipe ideas.
Greeting card
Make your own greeting card! The words you put inside the card are the best part anyway. So put your crafting skills to good use and make something unique and truly memorable.
Did you know, according to the Society of American Florists, Mother’s Day accounts for 25 percent of annual flower revenue? The demand for flowers is incredibly high around Mother’s Day and the prices reflect that. If you really want to get your mother flowers, consider getting her flowers a month early. Or, instead of giving her a bouquet of cut flowers, you could plant flowers in a flower box or flower bed, which is often cheaper and lasts much, much longer.
You probably know your mother better than most, so be creative and do your best to ignore the impulse to spend, spend, spend. There’s no reason you can’t show Mom you care and keep a balanced budget at the same time.
Jesse Campbell is the Content Specialist for Money Management International, the nation’s largest nonprofit credit counseling agency and a proud provider of financial education services. Money Management International is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
Views expressed are the personal views of the author, and do not represent the views of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, its employees, its members, or its clients.