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The Best Low-Cost Mother's Day Gifts

Kimberly Palmer

Mother's Day is one of those holidays that's easy to dismiss as overly commercial. The cards, the flowers -- is the holiday really for mom or for the companies selling the related merchandise?

The latest survey from the National Retail Federation suggests companies are doing a pretty good job of convincing children, husbands and any other celebrants to spend lavishly on the moms in their lives. With the average American spending around $163 each, moms can expect some nice gifts on their special day. Jewelry, restaurant trips, flowers, books and clothes are among the most popular items.

What moms really want for the day, though, doesn't come with such a hefty price tag. For the most part, we just want to feel appreciated. We want to know that someone has noticed the endless dinners we've cooked, rooms we've cleaned, temperatures we've taken and kisses we've given and that they're glad we're there. Handmade crafts, breakfast in bed or even an extra hug can all accomplish that goal.

[Read: Great Gifts Under $10.]

According to PriceGrabber, which asked over 3,000 consumers how they planned to celebrate the day, most of them listed the traditional gifts of gift cards, jewelry and flowers. When they asked moms what they really wanted, their top answer was "quality time."

Of course, the right gift can also help tell mom she's special, and the PriceGrabber survey also suggested some ways of splurging on mom while also keeping costs down. Online comparison shopping can help, as well as taking advantage of discounts. (The Mother's Day section at PriceGrabber.com currently features deals on Keurig coffee makers and Dolce & Gabbana perfume.)

A recent RetailMeNot.com survey, though, warns that nine in 10 people think their moms have returned or exchanged Mother's Day gifts at least once. (In reality, only 30 percent of moms admit to actually returning a gift.) The survey also found that moms say they most want experiences, echoing the PriceGrabber survey, but RetailMeNot.com's moms specified a day at the spa or a nice meal. At the top of their least desired list? Candy, chocolate the flowers -- the go-to ideas for last-minute givers.

[See: 10 Strategies from Super-Saver Shoppers .]

Over at Brad's Deals, top Mother's Day gifts include affordable sapphire earrings and a matching pendant for $24 each, a North Face fleece for $40 and a custom T-shirt for $11. Brad Wilson, founder of the coupon site Bradsdeals.com, says his wife will be getting some rest and relaxation for the holiday. "With two young kids, my wife is always low on sleep and time to herself so the best thing I can give her is a little vacation," he says. But he's funding it with credit card points and miles to avoid overspending. (The exact destination and details of the trip will remain secret until presented to her on Mother's Day.)

At RetailMeNot.com, U.S. News Frugal Shopper contributor and RetailMeNot editor Trae Bodge offers a slew of gift suggestions, all of which are under $25. Her top picks include an activity book that young kids can fill out to tell their mom how much they love and appreciate her, hazelnut chocolate spread and a photo frame you can personalize. Bodge says she starts hunting for good gifts months before the actual day.

[Read: Thoughtful Mother's Day Gifts for Under $25 .]

Her own personal favorites include a wine and chocolate gift set for her mom at Wine.com and an on-the-go beauty kit from Ulta.com for her dad's partner. Her mother-in-law will get a Shutterfly photo pillow, and she's hoping for a $65 Pico Design heart pendant for herself. "I'm always on the hunt for unique jewelry," she says. More gift ideas for mom can be found at RetailMeNot.com, which features discount links to $10 pashminas and a wine decanter for under $20.

On Mother's Day itself, moms boards are often filled with laments about disappointments: Kids tried to cook breakfast but ended up making a mess (and guess who cleaned it up?) or husbands who forgot about the day altogether. To avoid that scenario, how about cooking up a day that let's your mom know she's appreciated: A card or poem that tells her how much you love her, an invitation to your home for dinner or an extended phone call that shows you care about your relationship with her.

None of those things cost anywhere close to what the average American plans to spend on the day, but they can make your mom happier than even a $100 pair of earrings -- although your mom likely won't turn down one of the suggested gifts above.

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