Claudia Buck

Personal Finance: Last-minute presents for mom

Published: Sunday, May. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1D
Last Modified: Monday, May. 20, 2013 - 2:19 pm

Uh-oh. Did you forget it's Mother's Day?

Don't panic. No worries. We understand.

On behalf of moms everywhere, we've assembled some last-minute, low-cost ways to show her you remembered. (Even if you didn't.) Here you go:

Put it in writing

There's a reason why moms keep a box of those hand-scribbled notes and handmade cards from their kids. Even if you're a grown-up kid, take a minute to put something heartfelt in writing.

Tell her why you appreciate her. Share a funny family memory. List the five most-wonderful things she's ever done for you. Or the Top 10 funny – or sentimental – family moments, suggests Pam Farley, a Sacramento mom who blogs at "Brown Thumb Mamma."

Pick up the phone

Whether your mom is across the state or across the country, hearing your voice may be all she needs. Call her just to chat.

And listen. "Pay attention to what she is saying and nod your head and acknowledge her … stop texting your friends and pay the (heck) attention already. You have no idea what a gift this is, listening to your mother," said Sacramentan Margaret Andrews, who writes a humor blog,

An outing

With two kids and limited income, Farley said she and her husband always share a family-frugal outing. On Mother's Day, she picks the locale; on Father's Day, he decides. "We usually go hiking or someplace we normally wouldn't make time to go," like the Crocker Museum or Empire Mine State Historic Park.

Leave her alone

Especially in young families, sometimes all mom wants is a break. Alone. "Take the kids so she can sit around in her jammies and watch a sappy movie, or read a girlie magazine or soak in the bathtub with a good book," said Farley, whose kids are 7 and 1.

Or the reverse: Let mom have a day off to go wherever she pleases. While she's gone, buzz through the house, picking up, cleaning a bathroom or two, doing the dishes, making dinner.

"I would love to come home to a clean house," said Farley. "I'd think I was in the wrong house."

Shopper duty

If you want to help plump up America's economy, there's still time to dash to your favorite mall or retailer. The average consumer will shell out $168.94 this year, according to the National Retail Federation's annual Mother's Day survey. That's a big boost from 2009, when the recession crimped spending to $123.89.

Who are consumers buying for this Mother's Day? In addition to mom, it's their: wife (23.6 percent), daughter (10.5 percent), grandmother (8.5 percent) or sister (8.2 percent). But the majority – more than 65 percent – will be buying for dear ol' mom (or stepmom).

Frame it

Take a photo; Instagram it and print a copy on your computer. Or use some of your own artwork. Or pick out favorite childhood photos of the two of you or from a memorable family vacation. Pick up inexpensive frames at grocery stores or discount stores.

Michele Boal, co-founder of in San Francisco, said one of her favorite Mother's Day gifts was a handmade photo collage with a personal message from her then-8-year-old son.

Bloomin' good idea

If your yard is blooming, pick a bouquet. If not, head to the farmers market, a florist or the nearest grocery store flower stand. It doesn't need to be a $50 bouquet of red roses. Even a single stem, tied up with a bow and a sweet note, is enough. Don't have a vase? Stop at a dollar store or use a glass jar, dressed with a ribbon.

Didn't make reservations?

Try a picnic. Stop by a deli or gourmet grocery. Pick up your mom's favorite to-go dishes and head to a local park, picnic spot, even your own backyard. Bring a tablecloth, something to sit on, utensils, napkins and perhaps a bubbly beverage.

Or head to the kitchen: Breakfast in bed, lunch on the lawn, dinner at home. Make it festive, with everyone involved with the slicing, dicing, chopping and sauteing (age-appropriately, of course).

"The kitchen is the one place where everyone comes together, especially if there's good music playing in the background," said Boal.

Her kids, ages 15 and 9-year-old twins, enjoy surprising her with a breakfast-in-bed menu and making "Mama Juice" – the non-wine variety – by throwing fresh or frozen fruits and veggies – even kale – into the blender, with a little yogurt or ice.

Or bake something sweet. Even if it's from a boxed mix, a homemade treat says you care.

And with anything from the kitchen, be sure to clean up all the dirty dishes.

Green thumbs

What better time to plant a summer garden for mom? Pick up some seed packets and start digging. "No matter how much space you have at your home," says Boal, "planting veggies or fruits together in pots or a garden brings a lot of fun and laughter as you find worms and snails in the ground and flip top soil in the air."

'Listen to Your Mother'

In this case, it's a live, standup show celebrating the "complexities and absurdities" of motherhood, as shared by 15 local writers, bloggers and "everyday moms." It's tonight at 7 at the Crest Theatre in downtown Sacramento, part of a series of readings in 24 cities across the country.

For $25 a ticket, you can take your mom and laugh along to witty, sentimental, irreverent and lovable takes on momhood. Tickets are available at the box office, 1013 K St.

The Sacramento event benefits 916 Ink, which supports local youth literacy projects. And just a warning: Not all content may be suitable for young ears.

Mom's favorite things

Invite her to celebrate one of her favorite entertainments. "Say she's a 'Downton Abbey' fan," said blogger Andrews. "Instead of breakfast in bed, give her high tea at home. Bust out the fine china and your best tablecloth and serve some grocery store tea (or that fancy loose-leaf stuff), scones and cucumber sandwiches, cut into fourths with the crusts removed."

Invite her best friend or just the family. And to make sure it's royally authentic, said Andrews, "Make sure you call her 'Mum' all day. Or Her Majesty."


We're sure you've got your own creative ideas for celebrating mom. Feel free to share them with us online.

And better yet: Remember that you don't have to use these only on Mother's Day. Spread them over the next 12 months and you'll make mom happy all year long.

Call The Bee's Claudia Buck, (916) 321-1968. Read her Personal Finance blog,

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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