By Gerri Detweiler
NEW YORK (Credit.com)—If you're on a budget, you can still find ways to show Mom you appreciate her without breaking the bank. Two of the most requested gifts are flowers and spa days, according to the Shoppers Trend Report from RetailMeNot.com. Gift certificates or gift cards are also likely to be a popular gift this year according to industry research firm IBISWorld, which predicts consumers will spend about $17.1 billion on Mother's Day gifts this year.
Here are tips for making the money you spend on these popular gifts for Mom stretch as far as possible.
If you are able to deliver flowers in person to Mom, consider putting together your own bouquet or centerpiece from flowers you purchase yourself. "The nice thing about DIY arrangements is the love that goes into them," says Louann Shenberger, a former florist who offers step-by-step instructions for flower arrangements on her website, Wedding-Flowers-and-Reception-Ideas.com. "Choose flowers that don't have yellow leaves and don't shed petals if you give them a gentle shake. Rose heads need to be tight and feel firm when you lightly squeeze them. Lilies are best if they are still partly closed. This means they just arrived and are ready to open to their full beauty soon." She also suggests calling your local supermarket or discount store and asking them when their flowers are delivered. Get there when the flowers do to get the best selection.
Don't live close to your mother? If you'll be sending flowers, Shenberger suggests calling a florist near her home directly and ask her to suggest an arrangement within your budget. "Ordering through a wire service costs the shop a fee, plus the arrangements are already planned and the cost is set for across the country," she notes.
You may also want to check out the flower deals your credit card issuer may be promoting. "Most credit card issuers feature online shopping malls that offer bonus points, miles, or cash back for purchases from certain retailers," says credit card expert Jason Steele. "And these bonuses are often the largest for the kind of gifts that are popular for Mother's day. For example, it is not uncommon to see 15x, 20x, or more bonuses for flower purchases."
Whether you choose to make your own arrangement or buy one online, Shenberger recommends avoiding the most popular blooms and colors. "Remember that flowers that are hot in demand during Mother's Day (especially pinks and whites) may have been stockpiled for a while at the wholesaler, ready to ship for the heavy demand that comes in that week," she says. "Choosing a mixture of different bright colors may result in fresher flowers."
Finally, consider a blooming plant instead of a cut arrangement to get the most value for your money. If you choose something that can be planted afterward, your mother will have a gift that can last for many years. If you live nearby, offer to help her plant it.
Subscribe to daily deal sites like Groupon or LivingSocial, or check your local newspapers for discounted spa services. Many will offer specials for Mother's Day. If you do give Mom one of these gifts, also give her cash for the tip, based on the retail price of the package, not the discounted cost.
You can also check directly with spas themselves to find out about Mother's Day promotions, and don't overlook hotels within driving distance. You may be able to buy Mom a package deal that includes a night away, spa treatment, and brunch, for less than those three would cost separately.
If you are really on a strict budget, and aren't too klutzy, you can take a DIY approach. Pick up some pretty (or fun) polish and offer to do Mom's nails yourself. While you are at it, pick up a box of chocolates, and perhaps some Champagne and orange juice for mimosas. You and she will get to spend time together, which is something many Moms will enjoy more anyway.
If you know Mom's favorite place to shop, then see if you can snag a gift card at a discount from a site that resells gift cards other people can't use. You may be able to pick one up for a discount of 2.5%-30%.
Just be careful: buy from reputable sites to make sure the cards are legitimate. And keep in mind that some of these cards may carry seasonal designs. That means Mom may get a card with a birthday cake or Christmas tree on the front!
If you plan to buy her a gift card in a store, consider using a credit card that will offer you maximum reward points for your purchase. For example, if your credit card offers bonus rewards for supermarket purchases, buy a gift card there.
Again, check out the promotions your credit card issuer is running. Chase Ultimate Rewards, for example, is offering cardholders 10% off gift cards to the Gap, Macy's, Cabela's and other retailers. Or you can redeem your reward points for a discounted gift card and use it to purchase your gift from one of these retailers. Cardholders can also redeem points for gift cards to Bed Bath & Beyond, AMC Theaters, Barnes & Noble and other stores and then give that gift card to Mom to spend as she chooses. Be sure to ask about shipping times, since redeeming points for gift cards can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the issuer's policies.
Whatever you do, try to do something. According to a NPD Group for Child's Play Communications survey, one in five moms with children under 18 said their families won't spend anything on gifts for them this year. If you don't have money to spend (or even if you do), consider doing something meaningful instead.
Gary Foreman, editor of personal finance site Stretcher.com, shared how one reader wrote an essay about "what my Mom means to me," then printed it from her computer using a fancy font and framed it. "There were all kinds of tears when Mom opened the gift," he says. He suggests teens and tweens give Mom "a 'clean up my room without talking back' card."
He may not be too far off in thinking that Mom would like a gift from the heart. The survey found that the top present moms want for Mother's Day 2013 is a handmade gift from their child. But the second most wanted? A day off entirely for herself.
"I think that things like flowers, candy, spas are all disposable (and) quickly forgotten," says Foreman. "I'd rather encourage something that would make a lasting memory for Mom -- and the giver, too."
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