Frugal but Thoughtful Mother’s Day Gift Suggestions

Duck with Ducklings Photo by Petr KratochvilWhile gifts are a great way to show that you care, an important thing to keep in mind is that most mothers and grandmothers would probably prefer to spend quality time with their families on Mother’s Day rather than receive a fancy and expensive gift. The most frugal and meaningful gift would therefore be a family get-together: watching movies at her house, a backyard barbecue, playing games, a picnic at the park or going to the zoo with her children and grandchildren. If you do have such as family outing, make sure someone takes lots of pictures and provides her with an album or photo CD of the day. This is, of course, unless your mother lives with you and your kids and what she would like most of all would be an entire day of peace and quiet to herself at home.

As for actual gifts, we believe most mothers would appreciate something you made or put some thought and effort into. Below are some suggestions for Mother’s Day gifts. Ideally, you would do some of these things all year round, but Mother’s Day is a good time for them too. Not all of these ideas will suit everyone, but hopefully some of these will work for you and your mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, wife, or any other maternal figure in your life.

Note: Not all of these suggestions are really “frugal” as in “cheap”, but they are frugal in that they are ideas for prudent, useful and practical, but still meaningful gifts that show you’ve put thought and effort into it and, therefore less likely to go to waste as many commercial Mother’s Day gifts tend to.

Hobby Gift Baskets

A few suggestions for baskets you can assemble. You can often find nice baskets at dollar stores or at thrift stores for a very low price. Many of the items recommended in the following list (i.e. books and music) can be purchase used and still in good condition. Used items often clean up nicely with a bit of rubbing alcohol and a paper towel. And even purchased new, these items still make useful gifts with lasting benefits.

  • For the Literary Mom
    If she likes to read, scour used books stores and library sales for books she would like (mysteries, vintage books, classics, etc. – paperbacks suggested) and assemble a book basket. You could even include a few snacks to enjoy while she reads (cookies, chocolates, cocoa, tea or coffee mix).
  • For the Crafty Mom
    A basket of yarns, fabrics, sewing, knitting or crochet supplies. You could pick out a craft instructions book, find a project she might like and assemble the necessary supplies for that project.
  • For the Musical Mom
    CD’s, sheet music, and music books. You might pick a particular theme such as Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy, romantic piano, or Italian opera or music from her youth. For older moms, you might have to include a CD player. For pianist moms make or buy a cushion for the piano bench (the unpadded ones are incredibly hard even for young bodies).
  • For Moms with Pets
    Assemble inside a new litter box or pet bed: treats and necessities such as grooming supplies, pet vitamins, hair catching tools, odor control, collars and leashes, training equipment, hair bows, super odor suppressing cat litter, car restraints (seat belts), and/or an obedience class paid for by you.
  • For the Gardening Mom
    An assortment of seed packets with flowers, spices, fruits, and vegetables. The frugal mom may save a lot of money growing her own produce. For areas with insect problems, herbs such as lavender may deter bugs from the home. You can also include a book on using herbs for health and beauty and include seeds for the plants described.
  • For Culinary Moms
    Collect free recipes online to present on index cards or a handmade book. You might choose recipes based on a theme, such as appetizers, a certain ethnicity, a favorite ingredient, or health benefits. You might wish to include few kitchen gifts like a baking pans, knives, silverware bought on clearance (we got ours for under $5), cheese graters, rolling pins, seeds for herbs or young herb plants. Instead of a basket, you could give a blender filled with fruits and smoothie recipes.
  • For the Scrapbooking Mom
    Scrapbook supplies and the promise to provide future memories for her to document. Look for creative scrapbook materials such as pretty paper salvages from greeting cards, gift wrapping paper, and nice packaging from things you buy. Ribbon, beads, lace, small toys, letters of the alphabet cut from magazines, cards, and used books. Doilies and decorative embellishments can be purchased at half price or less after a holiday. Glue and scissors might be useful too.

Home and Garden Help

  • Clean her house for her (this is one of those that may not suit all personalities)
  • Tidy her garden or yard for her
  • Go through her house and look for things that need minor (or major) repairs and maintenance and fix them if you can, or arrange for professional assistance if necessary
  • Clean all her windows, inside and out. This is a sure way to brighten a life.
  • Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries if needed. Install a carbon monoxide detector if she doesn’t have one.

Favors and Services

  • Make a nice breakfast and clean up afterwards
  • Wash her car, vacuum the interior, clean the upholstery and carpet, take it for a tune up and oil change, check and inflate the tires if needed, and preset her favorite radio stations.


  • Buy some flowers to plant for or with her (small plants and flowers are often available for under $1.00 at garden centers and even drugstores like Rite-Aid)
  • Instead of cut flowers, which while nice, are not very frugal because they only last a few days, you could give her a vase for putting flowers from other flower gifters (this way she’ll think of you every time someone else gives her flowers)
  • Give attractive artificial flowers that last all year round. You could even fashion them into curtain tiebacks or trim a hat with them (just use hot glue).

Health and Fitness

  • If she doesn’t get enough exercise due to weather, time, environmental or other constraints, consider a Pedal Exerciser that she can use while sitting at home – i.e. on the couch while watching TV. (We bought one of these for ourselves when we lived in the Bay Area where it was cold in the winter, and our grandmother took it because she said it was perfect for her situation.)
  • Dumbbells in a pretty color. For the non-athletic mom, you might get a pair of 2 lb. dumbbells.
  • Make slipcovers for her stationary bike, treadmill, or other exercise equipment.
  • Spend the day with your mom, watching DVDs and pedaling or doing some other aerobic exercise.


While pets are not considered a frugal gift for the giver or recipient, they can bring a host of other benefits that make the cost worthwhile. Pets are especially good for elderly people who live alone and can use the companionship and are capable – physically, mentally and financially – of caring for them. If your mother lives alone and is fond of animals, a nice gift would be to help her adopt a pet. There are thousands of cats and dogs in need of good homes, and studies have shown that pets bring many health benefits, both physical and mental, to their owners including:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Lower stress and anxiety levels
  • Fighting depression and loneliness
  • Faster recovery after illness
  • Overall better health and fewer doctor’s visits

However, don’t surprise her with a pet. Rather, discuss it with her ahead of time and if she likes the idea and is sure that it is a commitment she is capable of taking on, go to a local animal shelter, pet rescue or other pet re-homing organization together and spend some time choosing a suitable pet for her. Be sure the animal you choose is suitable for in various ways:

  • Type of Pet
    While both dogs and cats provide companionship, dogs tend to be more interactive and require more attention and maintenance than cats. Cats and dogs are not the only types of pets to be had, however. Birds, mice, gerbils, hamsters, chinchillas and guinea pigs also provide a presence and can help fill the space and quiet of an empty apartment or house.
  • Size and Weight
    Make sure the animal is a size and weight that she can handle. If it is a dog, it should be a weight that she can easily control when walking on a leash.
  • Age of Pet
    For elderly persons, mature pets are often more suitable, as they do not require as much physical interaction and activity as young animals, and will have reached a more stable mental, social and emotional level.
  • Home Environment
    Make sure the animal will be compatible with the living space. Size isn’t necessarily the only factor to consider, but disposition. A small but high energy dog may or may not be suitable for a small living space, and there are older and larger dogs that can live happily and comfortably in smaller living spaces.

There is no end to the benefits and happiness pets can bring people, especially elderly people who live alone, so if you think your mother might be a suitable candidate for pet ownership, here are a few links to websites with more information on pet ownership for the elderly:

Again, remember that pet ownership, regardless of the size or type of pet, is a responsibility not to be taken lightly and sprung on your mother without prior research and consultation with her.

These are just a few suggestions. Whatever you choose to do, remember that what your mother will appreciate most of all is the thought and effort put into the gift and not the monetary value of it.

Puppy Photo by Petr Kratochvil

Happy Mother’s Day!

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4 thoughts on “Frugal but Thoughtful Mother’s Day Gift Suggestions”

  1. Great article! I love Mother’s Day because it’s a day to give appreciation to all the hard working mothers out there.

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