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  • Mallory Hall

32 Fun & Unique Mother's Day Ideas on the cheap

Chances are, your mom would be happy with a simple phone call on Mother’s Day. But still – why not do a little extra for one of the most important women in your life?

Whether you want to make something with your own hands that she can treasure for years or you’re simply strapped for cash, there are many gift options that can fit any budget – large, small, or nonexistent. Here are some idea’s for Mother’s Day gifts that Mom is sure to love.

Easy and Affordable Mother’s Day Gifts

1. Organize a Recipe Card Binder or Box

If your mom spends a lot of time in the kitchen, consider gathering all of her recipes, making copies, and putting them in a decorative box or binder. Buy some tabs and sheet protectors to create sections and make her life a little easier. If you’re grown with a family of your own, include a few of your in-laws’ tried-and-true favorites to give her something new to make. Average cost: $3 to $6

2. Build a DIY Gift Basket

While you could always run to the store and purchase a prepackaged gift basket, it’s just as easy to create your own gift basket with custom products she’s sure to love. Purchase an inexpensive basket at any craft store and fill it with her favorite lotions, bath salts, candles, and other beauty necessities. You can also load it up with chocolates, candies, and homemade treats. Make it extra-special by filling the basket with items that reflect your mom’s personality. Average cost: $25 to $30

3. Purchase Magazine Subscriptions and Books

If your mom loves to read, why not buy her a discount card membership to a local bookstore? Each month, she will receive magazines and new release books for half-price, and she can choose whichever titles draw her interest. Consider purchasing a subscription from an online magazine retailer or buying an Amazon gift card to purchase Kindle e-books if she’s more technology-savvy. Additionally, you can purchase a gift subscription to Oyster Books, which provides unlimited online access to over 1 millions books for $9.95 a month. Average cost: $20 to $28, depending on duration and type of magazine

4. Create a Memory Journal

Every family has made plenty of funny, sad, and crazy memories over the years. While there are surely some moments you’d like to bury in the deepest trenches of the Earth, many are worth remembering. Ask everyone in the family to write down their favorites in a journal. It can be serious or silly, whatever you choose, and you can continue to add to the memory journal when the next Mother’s Day rolls around. Average cost: $5

5. Clean Her Car

Instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars at an auto detailer, gather up a bucket, a sponge, and some soap to give the family car a bath. Fill up her gas tank, vacuum the inside, and use glass cleaner on the windows and windshield.

If you can get your dad or another family member in on the game, try to create a distraction while you do it in secret – imagine her surprise the next time she gets into her car to run errands. This is a thoughtful and relatively inexpensive gift if you have the supplies on-hand. Average cost: $15 to $25 DIY; $100 to $150 professional detail, depending on size and type of car

6. Offer a Night Off

A mother’s work is never done, and every mom deserves a night off from time to time. This Mother’s Day, volunteer to cook a family meal or offer to take over errands and household chores for the day. Buy a gift card to mom’s favorite restaurant, or send her to the spa for some relaxation and pampering. This is an affordable, sincere way to let your mother know the day is all about her. Average cost: $25 to $30 for restaurant gift card; $50 to $100 for a spa visit, depending on services

7. Customize a Flower Bouquet

Flowers are one of the most tried-and-true Mother’s Day gifts out there. Yes, you could run to the grocery store for a last-minute bouquet, but how much more would it mean to mom if she knew you customized the arrangement yourself? Create a personalized bouquet at a local flower shop, check out some online websites for affordable custom arrangements, or pick some flowers yourself to make a wild arrangement. Average cost: $25 to $50, depending on size, type, and place of purchase

8. Give the Gift of Sleep

For moms of babies or young kids, this is the ultimate gift. Let her sleep in for once, and make sure she knows beforehand that she has the entire morning to lie in bed. Alternatively, consider setting aside a few hours during the day for a much-needed nap while you or another family member keeps the kids entertained. Better yet, take the little ones to the park or out to eat to give her some peace and quiet. Average cost: Free

9. Do Yard Work

One great, inexpensive way to show you care is to spend the day doing tasks in the yard that your mom would either do herself or pay someone else to do. Whether its washing the windows, cleaning out gutters, mowing, or tending to the flower beds, there are likely a few things that you can do to make Mom’s life easier and save her some time and money. Average cost: Free, plus possible costs for tools

10. Plan a Picnic

If weather permits, Mother’s Day can be a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy Mother Nature. Pick up pastries, fruits, and deli items from your local grocer and pack a fun picnic lunch to enjoy in an open field or nearby park. Free from all the distractions of everyday life, you can spend quality time with your mom and show her how much you appreciate her company. Average cost: $10 to $20, depending on cost of food

11. Go on a Day Trip

Consider nearby locations with activities such as cultural attractions, wine tastings, gardens, and beaches. Talk to friends and family members to get recommendations of nearby places, or consult the Internet to do your research. A visitor’s center could be an invaluable resource, or call local hotels for recommendations in the area.

To make the most of the brief road trip, make the journey itself as special as your destination. Have a nice chat, play Mom’s favorite music in the car, and take snacks and treats you know she’ll love. Average cost: Varies

12. Clean and Fix Whatever You Can

Give mom a break from the household chores by cleaning the kitchen and bathroom – or, if you’re feeling ambitious, clean the whole house. Doing it yourself is most cost-effective, but if you don’t have the time, consider hiring a professional cleaning service.

Find out what other tasks need doing around the house – from touching up walls with paint, to re-grouting tile, to organizing a closet – and take care of them. Kids can pitch in, and dads can take this chance to work on the “honey-do” list they’ve been dreading for months. Average cost: Free plus cost of parts for repair; $100-plus for professional cleaning service

13. Make Body and Bath Gifts

Although many people give bath and soap gifts for Mother’s Day, you can put a more economical and unique twist on it by actually making the items yourself. The Internet is loaded with some incredible recipes that are pretty easy to make, including fancy pantry soaps, peppermint foot scrubs, and homemade lip glosses. Find decorative jars and containers to hold the products, and complete the look with twine and attractive labels. Average cost: $10 to $30

14. Arrange for Surprise Takeout

While you’d surely like to treat your mother to a delicious meal on her day, what happens if you’re not in the same state? If you can’t be there in person, consider ordering her favorite takeout and arranging for delivery to the house. Ask the restaurant to include a note from you and keep it a surprise, but make sure that she’s home to accept the food – coming home to hours-old takeout on the front porch may not be the best way to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. Average cost: $8 to $15

15. Organize Brunch

Although a traditional brunch is always nice, why not try for something a little more unexpected and fun? Arrange a spread of some fresh-fruit sangria and afternoon tapas, or organize a tea party complete with sweets and little sandwiches.

For moms who appreciate wine, a wine-and-cheese tasting could be the ultimate gift. If kids are involved, an ice cream bar with fun toppings and candy could be a great way to get the family together to celebrate the day. Average cost: Varies depending on food served and number of people attending

16. Purchase Gift Certificates

Many mothers would surely appreciate a day trip to the spa, but if yours isn’t yearning for a day of pampering, give her a practical, much-needed gift certificate instead. Think of places that she frequents, and how her life can be made easier by the contribution of a few extra dollars. Examples include places like the garden store, coffee shop, grocery store, hair salon, and car wash. Average cost: Varies depending on desired denomination

17. Create a Tablecloth

You don’t need to be an artist for this one. Purchase a white canvas tablecloth and several fabric pens from your local craft store. Try to get as many family members as possible to outline their handprints and write a special message inside the print. As little ones grow older, they can continue to add to it so that Mom has a unique keepsake of the entire family. Other handprint crafts can include flower pots and plaster molds, or you can fashion handprint butterflies or flowers and include original poems with them. Average cost: $12 to $15

18. Cook Breakfast in Bed

Preparing breakfast in bed is a classic way to make mom feel special. While many mothers would surely appreciate the effort behind a kid-made breakfast, make sure an adult supervises so she isn’t left with cereal and orange juice or burnt toast. Also, it’s important to clean up the kitchen after the toddler-sized tornadoes are finished helping – don’t make her do that on Mother’s Day. Average cost: $6 to $10

19. Teach Her Something

Does your mom express envy of something you’re good at, or a particular hobby you enjoy? Perhaps she’s hinted at wanting to learn how to Skype, create print t-shirts, or take better photos with her smartphone. Take this Mother’s Day to teach her something new. Depending on the hobby, it can cost you next to nothing, and it’s a fantastic way to build memories and spend time together. Average cost: Free

20. Connect With Your Inner Writer

If you have a way with words, put one of your favorite childhood memories on paper or write mom a poem or short story to show you care. If the thought of writing makes you cringe, why not jot a note in a handmade card or make a list of things you love about her? Kids can also have fun with this activity, so ask what they love most about mom and help them write their answers. Average cost: Free

21. Make a Coupon Book

Coupon books are a favorite gift for every holiday, and Mother’s Day is no different. You can print off a coupon book from the Internet or simply make one on your own. If you go this route, however, make sure the coupons aren’t for things that are already expected.

For example, if it’s your responsibility to do the dishes, or if your kids are in charge of making their beds each day, don’t give mom a coupon for these situations. Some ideas to consider are a movie night, a night off from cooking, a car wash, help with gardening, or breakfast in bed. Average cost: Free

22. Bring Life to Old Photos

If you were born before the 1990s, chances are much of your mom’s pre-motherhood life is captured on film, not on digital photos. Since these can be difficult to display and may be prone to damage from accidents and time, use a nice scanner to digitize and preserve them. Consider doing the same with home movies so she can watch them from her DVD player or computer. You can use a service like ScanMyPhotos to make the process easier. Average cost: $0.16-plus per print, depending on picture sizes and amount

23. Turn Trash Into Treasures

If a store-bought gift is absolutely out of the budget, turn to the Internet for ideas on making crafts out of items likely to be lying around your home. Kids and adults are sure to have fun creating a desk organizer from cereal boxes or making a Shrinky Dink-style necklace using a plastic container. However, when you’re choosing a gift to make, try to pick something that won’t take up a lot of space – if it does, make sure mom would actually use it. Average cost: Free

24. Put on a Show

This is a fun idea that can include the whole family. Get everyone together and decide on a storyline for a play or performance, preferably one that mom can either watch from the audience or take part in herself. If you choose to include her, make her the heroine, of course.

The show can be anything that demonstrates your love and appreciation for her, whether in the form of song, dance, or acting. Have a video camera nearby to record the show so she can watch it again and again. Average cost: Free

25. Watch a Movie

Some of us rarely find time to snuggle up with a good movie, so why not arrange for mom’s own home-showing of a much-anticipated film? Design your own movie tickets and present them in an envelope as the gift. When she wants to redeem them, you can purchase inexpensive, movie theater-style popcorn buckets and fill them with candy bars, popcorn, and other treats. Arrange your living room to resemble a theater and include blankets to help her get comfortable. Average cost: Free; $5 to $10 for rental and popcorn

26. Record Memories in a Jar

Looking for a perfect yet completely affordable gift that lets mom know each day how much she is loved and appreciated? Well, get a jar, glass paint, and some pens and paper, and be creative. Include your mom’s name and any special decorative message, and write down fond memories on little slips of paper. Store these notes inside the jar so whenever mom needs a little pick-me-up, all she has to do is pull out a memory. Make sure you use good pens as you don’t want the messages to blur or run together. Average cost: $5

27. Indulge in Wine

Wine is almost always an excellent gift for Mother’s Day. Ask Mom if she has a favorite vintage, or if she’d like to try something new based on her tastes. Decorate the bottle with a ribbon and offer to help watch the little ones while she relaxes. Average cost: $10 to $30

28. Invest in an Appliance

Moms love gifts that make their lives easier and less stressful. Consider purchasing a blender, steamer, or Crock-Pot to encourage healthy, easy cooking that’s quick and cost-conscious. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on the product, since many can be found in discount stores or online. Take note of sales and use coupons when possible. Average cost: $25 to $45

29. Put Together a Hobby Basket

Think about what your mom does for fun when she’s not managing a household or taking care of others. Make a list of her interests and hobbies and create a gift basket centered around her lifestyle. For example, if she enjoys playing sports or working out in the gym, her basket could include several pairs of new athletic socks, a book on fitness, and a new water bottle. Average cost: $10 to $30

30. Start a Veggie or Herb Garden

Not only do vegetable and herb gardens cater to your green thumb, they also provide fresh herbs and veggies for cooking. With simple herbs, such as basil or rosemary, and several fruits and vegetables, you can start a home garden for your mom on Mother’s Day. You can find inexpensive planters and pots at a home and garden store, and you and your mom can continue to nurture the garden together long after Mother’s Day has passed. Average cost: $30 to $50

31. Frame Your Child’s Artwork

What mom wouldn’t squeal with delight at handmade artwork created by her children or grandchildren? Let the kids’ imaginations run wild, or create a theme you can continue for years to come. Poems, paintings, and drawings become extra special when they’re framed and displayed. Average cost: $10 to $20

32. Spend the Day Together

If you’re lucky enough to live near your mom, a simple visit can be the most meaningful gift, especially if you don’t come around as much as you’d like. Hang out and talk, watch a movie together, or experiment in the kitchen with a new recipe. If you live across the country or can’t be face-to-face, try connecting on Skype or FaceTime for a nice conversation. Average cost: Priceless

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