If you’re a mom (or married to a mom, or have a mom), you probably know that it’s Mothers Day this weekend. So that means it’s time to go out and spend money, right? After all, the average American spent $172 on Mothers day gifts last year. I can see how that could happen pretty easily. If you’re part of a couple, and you have kids, you may need to get gifts for three moms (his mom, her mom, and her).
Note – What do I usually get? Plants. What do I give? Plants. Luckily everyone likes plants, and they don’t cost anywhere near $172. They also last for years (as long as you buy perennials), can be eaten (herbs, veggies, fruits) and help me in my goal of expanding my garden. So dear husband, if you’re reading this, I’m good with plants again. Just ask me what I need for my garden this year (hint – herbs, veggies, and a few new perennial flowers)
I’m going to propose something different this year. Instead of just spending money on trinkets or something that , why not give the gift of financial freedom? Sounds boring? Well, personally I can tell you that I would love to get that as a gift. But then again, I also write a blog about money in my spare time. So I’m probably not a “normal” mom.
This year, I’m also receiving a special gift from the personal finance community. How so? Read on to the end to find out.
How Can You Give Financial Freedom?
Spending money is the easier, and more socially acceptable, way of celebrating various events in life. Mothers day, Fathers day, birthdays, graduations, weddings, holidays…the list goes on. Every single holiday or special event seems to demand that you get out your wallet and”show” how much you care. If you’re part of a family seeking financial independence, you need to really think about this tendency. Sometimes it’s worth spending money on something – but many times its not.
Now, unless you’re already financially independent, you can’t actually gift financial freedom to the mom(s) in your life for this Mothers Day. (Although if you want to give that to me, go ahead and send a check!)
But what you can do is gift something that is consistent with the path of financial independence and financial freedom. This means putting some additional thought – instead of money – into a gift that will actually add value to the mom in your life.
In addition to saving money, gifts consistent with the path of financial independence are more thoughtful than those you get by spending money Anyone can whip out their wallet or credit card and pay for more “stuff”. It takes zero effort or thought to pop down to Wallgreens, pick out a $5 card from the Hallmark aisle, grab a gift card, and sign your name. Not everyone is willing to put the time and effort into alternatives. To me, it’s much more meaningful to receive one of these “FI” gifts than it is to see a bunch of money spent on “stuff”.
Here’s some “typical” things people will spend money on this Mothers Day. As you read these, I want you to consider how little thought and effort goes into them:
- Taking the moms in your life out to a Mothers day brunch – just like everyone else
- Buying a $5 Hallmark greeting card – That you found at Walgreens the day before Mothers Day, when you realized you almost forgot it was Mothers Day
- Getting flowers – that will die in a week. I hate getting flowers for this reason. I prefer plants.
- Picking up a gift card – this one can be nice if it’s something for a special treat that you know your mom won’t pay for themselves. But if it’s just something you picked up in the grocery store, sorry, it’s not very thoughtful.
Six Alternative Mothers Day Gift Ideas
Since it’s now only a few days before Mothers day, you might be feeling like it’s “too late” to get a thoughtful gift. This is totally not true. There are tons of thoughtful gifts that the moms in your life would love to get, that either don’t cost anything or involve spending money in a way aligned with their goals (instead of more “stuff”). And pursuing financial freedom is all about spending in ways aligned with your values.
So instead of the “more traditional” ideas above, give some of these a try:
- Have the kids make a card for mom, or grandma. For the cost of a piece of printer paper you’ll have a wonderful card. Or you can create a memory book, like I had my boys do when my grandmother was dying of cancer (warning – this post made my friend Green Swan cry). This is an amazing book that we still look back on fondly, two years later. You can do it more simply by having the kids make the book on printer paper and staple it together, or you can go all out like I did using supplies from craft stores bought using coupons
- Brunch at home. Don’t go out for an expensive brunch (geez, they really gouge you!) at a crowded restaurant. Instead invite all the moms in your life to your house for a homemade brunch. Brunch out can cost $20-$30 (or more) per person. For the cost of feeding one person at a brunch in a restaurant, you can have a gourmet brunch at home. What kinds of things could you cook up? It all depends on your comfort level with cooking. Here’s some options for all cooking levels:
- Coffee and OJ
- Scrambled eggs
- Fruit – get some berries
- Potatoes – anything from cooking up some frozen hash browns to making your own
- French toast – I like to get the cinnamon swirl bread, make a batter of eggs/milk/vanilla/cinnamon/nutmeg, dip the bread, and cook it in butter. Just a few minutes on each side will get you perfect french toast
- Pancakes – This is the recipe I use, and it comes out perfect every time
- Champagne – so you can make your own mimosa by adding some of that OJ
- Not a cook? No worries. Go out and pick up some donuts or bagels from a local place (ideally not the grocery store!), fruit, coffee/OJ, and champagne. That’s still an awesome brunch at a fraction of the cost
- Free or Discount Photos – The Gift of Memories. You can get photos from Walgreens for a small cost (normally there’s coupons), pick up a frame at AC Moore/JoAnns/Michaels/Hobby Lobby/etc. using a coupon (all the links above will take you to their coupon pages), and put the photos in the frames. Ta da! A lovely thoughtful gift for $5-$10. If you have some more time, you can also create a photo book from Shutterfly. Here’s a link for a free 8X8 photo book (note that if you get one, I’ll get one too)
- Donations – Most of us don’t need more “stuff”, but we do like to see donations go to a good cause. Perhaps the mom(s) in your life would like to see a donation go to a local children’s hospital, a school, an organization that helps women return to work, wildlife rescue, the church, or some other cause that they’re passionate about. You can give a donation, and then print out a piece of paper explaining what was given. Give that with the homemade cards, and you have a winner!
- Gifts aligned with her goals and dreams – What are the goals and dreams of the moms in your life? Figure this out, then make sure your gift is furthering those goals. For example, perhaps the mom in your life wants to start a new section of their garden – plants would be the perfect gift. Or she wants to pay off credit card debt – pay down the debt with the money you would have spent on a gift, then make a thoughtful card to explain it. She wants to start a side business as a photographer? Lessons might be a good gift, or perhaps some second hand equipment from someone giving up their side business. The key here is not to just pick up any old thing “because it’s mothers day” – spend time discovering what she really wants, and think of something you could gift that would get them a small step in the direction of that goal
- Make the ordinary extraordinary – You could go out to a local festival with a thermos of coffee and some homemade muffins. Have a Chopped championship in your home. Make some homemade pizza with her favorite toppings. Buy some bagels and toast them over a grill in the park. Drive to a park you’ve never visited, bringing a picnic lunch and a blanket, and have lunch outside. Google “free things to do this weekend” plus your state/location name, and find something new, fun, and free. You can take something ordinary and make it extraordinary by putting some thought into it.
Five Important Family Financial Lessons From a Creative Mothers Day
Longtime readers know that I’m all about using everyday events to learn – and teach -financial lessons. There’s no better time than these Hallmark holidays to be really conscious of the lessons you’re passing on by your actions. By looking toward one of these alternative ideas, you’ll:
- Add real value to the life of the mom(s) in your life – not just more stuff. This will teach your kids that the best kind of gifts they can give others isn’t things, but experiences, helping others through donations, memories, or helping others to achieve their dreams
- Show that thought and effort demonstrate appreciation, not stuff. By making the ordinary extraordinary, or organizing a brunch at home, you’re showing your kids that it’s the thought and effort you’re putting into the ideas that are the best gift.
- Get the kids involved, and teach them to work. Too many times adults will create something “on behalf of” their kids. Now that’s fine when they’re one year old, but if they’re three or over they should be an active participant. Whether that’s setting the table for the brunch, making a card, helping to cook (if older), or packing for the picnic, this is a great time to teach your kids that it’s their efforts – and work – that show appreciation
- Teach kids that you can use your creativity (or Google) to find less expensive alternatives. If you’re always buying a gift from a store at the last minute, or buying a fancy expensive card, your kids will be watching and adopt that behavior when they get older. But if you show them that creativity and frugality are fun, and that it’s their efforts (not their money) that show others they care, they’ll adopt that behavior when they get older. Which kind of adult do you want to raise – one that whips out the credit card to solve their problems? Or one that spends in alignment with their (and others) values?
- Giving the gift of financial freedom is the best gift of all. Yes, these ideas don’t give you financial freedom directly. But what they do take you a step closer to financial independence. How? You’re not taking a step closer just because you’re saving money. You’re getting closer because you’re adopting a new mindset, one where you don’t spend money to show love/demonstrate appreciation/get stuff. Instead you’re learning to spend only in direct alignment with goals and dreams.
My Special Gift
At the start of this article, I mentioned a special Mothers Day gift that I’m getting from the personal finance community. I’m so happy and excited to finally be able to tell you all about it!
After driving into work one day, listening to one of my favorite podcasts Stacking Benjamins (be sure to stop by my favorites page for my top list), I got a message on Twitter from Joe Saul-Sehy to check my e-mail. So I did, and shockingly it was an e-mail inviting me to be on the Friday roundtable on Stacking Benjamins! Apparently Greg McFarlane, one of the regular Friday guests, was unable to make it (perhaps busy with his side gig of nude modeling?) and since the episode was airing right before Mothers Day, Joe thought of me. So that night I found myself on Joe’s dad’s shortwave with Joe, Paula Pant, and Len Penzo.
That episode is airing TODAY – and I’m so excited! I hope you’ll tune in to the podcast, and I hope that I don’t sound as nervous as I was feeling. I couldn’t believe I had the opportunity to talk with the folks I’ve been listening to on my 45 minute commute for years. Even now it’s hard to believe that it really happened – I probably won’t believe it’s real until I hear the episode air. So a big THANK YOU to Joe, Paula, and Len for the Mothers Day gift!
My husband and kids also participated in this gift by getting out of the house so I could record without kids screaming or talking in the background. They went to the library for about an hour instead – so also thanks to my husband!
See, that’s a great example of the perfect gift. It didn’t cost any money; it’s in perfect alignment with my goals and dreams; and it’s very thoughtful. A great gift for Mothers Day.
Happy Mothers Day Everyone!
What ideas do you have for a creative, fun mothers day gift that brings your family closer to financial freedom? If you’re a mom, what would you REALLY want to get? What did you think of the podcast episode? Let me know in the comments!
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