11 Gifts Moms Really Want That Won’t Break the Bank

Every year, families spend more money on Mom on Mother’s Day. In fact, Mother’s Day spending is expected to reach an average of $172.22 in 2016, just a few cents less than 2015’s all-time high, according to the National Retail Federation.

What is Mom getting? The NRF found that nearly 80 percent of consumers plan to buy her a card, and nearly 67 percent will give flowers this year. Other popular gifts that consumers plan to buy for Mom include:

  • Brunch or dinner at a restaurant (55 percent)
  • Gift cards (43 percent)
  • Apparel (35 percent)
  • Jewelry (35 percent)
  • Books and music (20 percent)
  • Housewares and garden tools (19 percent)
  • Electronics such as smartphones (14 percent)

As a mom of three kids, I appreciate being recognized for all that I do. But I certainly don’t expect my children or my husband to spend big bucks to show me their gratitude. Most of the moms I know don’t either.

So what do moms really want if they don’t want expensive gifts? A 2016 survey by online rewards program Swagbucks found that the top gift moms want is quality family time, with 45 percent of more than 10,000 respondents choosing this option.

Related: Best Mother’s Day Freebies, Discounts and Deals

I did my own informal survey of several money-savvy moms I know to find out what was the best Mother’s Day gift they ever received. So if you’re trying to come up with something to give your mother — or wife — this Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 8 (mark it in your calendar now), here are 11 things moms really want that cost little to nothing at all.

1. Gifts Made by the Kids

Yes, moms really do love those cards with their kids’ handprints, hand-painted flowerpots, and picture frames with glued-on beads or glitter. According to the Swagbucks’ survey, 66 percent of moms said that the best Mother’s Day gift they ever received was handmade.

“Any gift that my son takes the time to make for me — whether it’s a card or a book or something homemade — I cherish,” said Shannon McLay, founder of Financially Blonde. “I would rather know that my son spent his personal time rather than his personal money on something for me, and I can’t imagine that feeling going away.”

Last year, my oldest daughter, who was 10 at the time, interviewed her two younger siblings to come up with a list of all the reasons the three of them loved me, typed it up, and printed out for me. This is an easy, free gift that truly shows Mom how much you appreciate her.

2. Alone Time

Although plenty of moms want to spend quality time with their families on Mother’s Day, the perfect gift for some Moms is time to do whatever they want. “The best Mother’s Day gift my husband and kids ever gave me was a morning all to myself,” said Emily Guy Birken, a staff writer for personal finance blog PTMoney.com.

Birken said that when the kids woke up, her husband took them to get doughnuts and then to the playground. “I got to sleep in and enjoy a hot cup of coffee and a book all to myself,” she said. “It was lovely and only cost the price of the doughnuts.”

3. Sleep

Speaking of sleeping in, most parents, but especially single moms, suffer from a lack of sleep. Nearly 44 percent of single moms — about 12 percent more than two-parent households and about 6 percent more than single dads — get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, according to a 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Whether the Mom you want to acknowledge is single or married, working in or out of the home, she could probably use some extra rest. Think about what you can do to make that happen for her.

Holly Johnson of ClubThrifty.com, for example, said getting a break, such as her husband taking over the household chores for a day is a great gift. “He lets me sleep in, and I wake up to coffee brewing, the dishes put away, and a load of laundry in the works,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

Read: Money-Saving Tips From Reese Witherspoon, Angelina Jolie and Other Frugal Celeb Moms

4. Free Babysitting

If you have a friend or family member who is a single mom, a great Mother’s Day gift you can give her is free babysitting. Emma Johnson, a single mom living in New York City and creator of WealthySingleMommy.com, said an awesome gift is when her brother or a friend offers to take her children to a museum, movie, or a special day at their home.

“It gives me a break while I have zero guilt because I know my kid is cared for and having a great time with a loved one,” she said.

5. A Day Off From Being the Disciplinarian

Even if Mom’s preferred way to spend her special day is with the kids, Dad can make it extra special — and a little more relaxing — by being the parent in charge. “The best gift I received was a day off from parenting,” said Melissa Thomas, founder and CEO of Melissa the Coach.  “I just got to be ‘fun Mom’ for the day.”

Thomas said that any time her sons, ages 9 and 10, needed some type of parenting guidance that day, her husband took care of it. “It was exactly what I needed, and it was totally free,” she said.

6. A Mini Road Trip … and a Clean Car

Shake things up a bit — and avoid the busy Mother’s Day brunch crowd — by taking Mom on a mini road trip. Think of a place she loves or somewhere she hasn’t been before that has a great view or ask her where she’d like to go. You can make the trip extra special for her by either giving her control over the music selection or creating a special playlist of love songs for her, whichever you think she’d prefer, and remember some of her favorite snacks.

When you get home, go the “extra mile” and fill her gas tank and clean her car for her. I envy any mom who can keep her car clean because I can’t. So I love it when my husband takes my car to the inexpensive car wash that charges just $7 and has a free vacuum and returns my minivan to me showing no traces of all the mess my kids typically leave behind.

Johnson also said she would love to have her car detailed professionally for Mother’s Day — or at least cleaned inside and out.

7. Hug Coupons

McLay said that her 10-year-old son is not very touchy-feely, so when he gives her a hug, he usually pulls away almost immediately. For Christmas, though, he gave her a book of hug coupons redeemable for 30-second hugs.

“Immediately after opening them, I redeemed my first coupon, and at the end of the hug my son stated, ‘Wow, 30 seconds is a lot of time,'” McLay said. “Of course, for me, it felt too quick.” So now all she asks her son to give her for her birthday or Mother’s Day are more hug coupons.

Coupons of any sort crafted by the kids (or spouse) can be a great way to let Mom cash in on things she needs or wants — like help around the house or a neck rub — without costing the giver anything but time.

8. Groupon Dinner and Netflix Night

Cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week gets old, Johnson said, so she would love to get a homemade dinner that she doesn’t have to make on Mother’s Day. Skip the pricey Mother’s Day brunch and opt instead for an affordable “dinner and a movie” night.

If the only thing you can make is a microwavable frozen dinner, consider springing for takeout from Mom’s favorite restaurant. Check to see if the restaurant is having any Mother’s Day deals or if you have a restaurant app, coupon or Groupon deal you can use on Mother’s Day. For a classy touch, take the food out of the to-go containers when you get home and serve it on plates — then wash the dishes after dinner so Mom doesn’t have to.

To make a homemade dinner even more special, Toni Husbands, co-founder of Debt Free Divas, said she’d like it to be accompanied by a movie — a movie  written, directed and produced entirely by her husband and the kids. “Any choreography or lip-synching would send me over the moon,” she said. If you and the kids aren’t up for that, enjoy Mom’s Netflix pick that night.

See more: 36 Mother’s Day Deals!

9. ‘Honey Do’ Home Improvements

You know that thing Mom has been asking you to do for weeks — or maybe months? Mother’s Day is the perfect time to follow through for her. Whether it’s hanging some new shelves, painting, or reorganizing, you can finish a home improvement project for her that will take something off of her mind.

If she loves flowers — and you want to avoid paying $30 or $40 for a bouquet that will wilt in a few days — take her to a nursery and pick out some plants to improve your home’s landscaping. Then plant them for her.

My husband did this for me one year. I still remember it as one of the best Mother’s Day gifts he ever gave me because he hates yard work, which means that I’m the one who usually has to do all the planting.

10. Spruced-Up Personal Space

Another one of my favorite gifts was a framed black-and-white photo that my husband took of our daughters (before our son came along). It hangs in my office — next to a picture of our son — and makes me happy every time I look at their sweet, smiling faces.

Giving Mom something to spruce up a space that is just hers can enhance her enjoyment of that space. Whether it’s her home office, reading nook, craft room or other space where she enjoys spending time, you can create a special gift from you and the kids that both acknowledges how much you know that space means to her and how much she means to you.

11. Home Decor and Keepsakes

McLay said that another great, inexpensive gift she has received is scented candles. “As someone who is practically minded, candles seem like an indulgence for me to spend on myself,” she said. The best part about this gift is that she can take it with her when she travels so that “no matter where I go, it will always smell like home,” she said.

This Mother’s Day, think of something Mom wouldn’t usually splurge on for herself or the house and indulge her. If candles aren’t her thing but garage sales and collectibles are, take her to get a new addition. If you know she’s been wanting a new home decor accent piece like a throw pillow or you can make her some DIY bookends, take the time to give her that small gift that will mean a lot to her.

If you don’t know what your mom wants, it never hurts to ask. In fact, it’s better to ask her directly what she’d like than to spend a lot of money on something she’ll never use. More than anything, simply sharing your love and time with her is the best thing you can do.

Keep Reading: 25 Ways to Save Money on Amazon