Affordable ways to honour Mom

High hopes and tight budgets can be a bad mix — but gifts that are memorable and meaningful don’t have to cost a lot. Whether you’re celebrating your mother, commemorating a loved one or sharing the day with other important people in your life this Mother’s Day, we’ve got some budget-friendly ideas for the occasion.

Eat in. The real treat behind a Mother’s Day meal is that is that Mom gets to spend time with family — but doesn’t have to do any of the work. Having a special meal at home (whether it’s hers or yours) is less expensive than a meal out and the more prep work you’re willing to do, the less you’ll spend on prepared foods. Get the whole family involved in the cooking and keep it simple — like fruit salads or a homemade dessert. (Need more ideas? Check out Entertaining on a budget and Barbeque on a budget.)

Remember, the trick is to keep the honouree out of the process — i.e. no prep, cooking or cleaning up — unless she genuinely wants to contribute.

Eat out — for less. If you want to get out of the house, take the meal with you for a picnic or outing to a favourite park instead. Packing a lunch doesn’t have to be boring — try wraps instead of sandwiches, salsa or humus with pita chips, or try packing a variety of salads and appetizers instead. (For some tasty ideas on what to take, see Six simple picnic ideas and Beat brown bag boredom). To make the occasion feel special, pack a colourful blanket or table clothe to sit on, some decorative napkins and a single rose as a finishing touch.

And if restaurants are still the preferred choice, try brunch, lunch or an afternoon tea instead of dinner to save on food costs. Also, if you’re able to go the day before or the day after (rather than the day of), you won’t hit the crowds or Mother’s Day “deals” that may be more expensive than your average meal out.

Share a homemade treat. It’s often said that the best gift you can offer is your time. If you’d like to take something along for your visit, pack some homemade goodies and some specialty teas or coffees to enjoy while you’re there. Homemade treats like jams, cookies, muffins, dips and salad dressings can be packaged in a simple basket with a tea towel liner for a unique gift idea — and they can be adapted to suit dietary restrictions and allergies. (See Heart smart gifts from your kitchen for recipes).

Bring the spa home. While a day at the spa is certainly luxurious, you don’t have to spend a lot to get some serious pampering. Treatments like a facial, manicure and pedicure can all be enjoyed at home, and you can even make your own specialty treatments with ingredients from your cupboards.

Even if you don’t get a chance to indulge, you can make your own body products instead. Some recipes can be made a head of time and used later — like bath cookies or scented Epsom salts. Because they use essential oils rather than chemical perfumes, they’re better for the body and can be customized to use a favourite scent. (See The do-it-yourself spa for recipes and resources).

Enjoy nature. It seems like everything became green overnight. A car ride in the country and a long walk, are simple and inexpensive ways to enjoy the budding trees and blooming flowers. Watch for wild flower or nature walks in your community, or special Mother’s Day or family events at gardens in your area. Take along a refreshing beverage, or stop for ice cream.

Help around the house. Mothers of all ages can use a helping hand sometimes, and spring is a season associated with many chores – such as spring cleaning, yard clean-up, home repairs and planting the garden. Spend an afternoon sorting and de-cluttering, or offer to help with some cooking and baking to make some freezer meals.

Tackle a project together. Do the family photos still need organizing? Is there an art or crafts project you can do together? It’s time to get creative — and perhaps a little dirty in the process. Learn or teach a new skill like cooking a special dish or old-fashioned recipe, painting or knitting. The materials for your artistic endeavour can be part of the present too, and you’ll have a product you created together.

Go vintage. Look for unique or one-of-a-kind gifts at consignment or second hand shops. A vase with some fresh cut flowers from your garden would grace any table, and vintage jewellery items are significantly less than new ones.

Help another mother. There are numerous charities and organizations that support women and mothers, like organizations that raise research funds and awareness for disease or support women’s rights worldwide. It doesn’t have to be a cash donation — put together a package of gently used clothes and toys you no longer need for a local shelter that helps women and children who are escaping violence.

If you know a mom who could use a hand (like a single mother), offer your babysitting services to let her go out for the day or plan a special outing for her.

Adopt a mom. If you know someone who won’t be seeing visitors, go for a visit and take along a treat. Go for a walk, read a book out loud or simply take the time for a good conversation. Volunteer to help out at a long term care facility, or visit people in your community who aren’t able to get out very often.

Share a photo. Forget formal portraits and think family candid shots in a simple frame (on sale from the local craft store, of course). Thanks to digital photography, it’s a snap to take pictures and have them blown up at little cost. Add a few creative touches to the frame like a faux finish or some tole painting, or get the kids involved in making an original work of art.

Send a card and a story. Whether you’re sending a note to someone who has been important to you or acknowledging a family member who has passed away, a card sharing a happy story and a picture can provide a meaningful reminder of how much someone has meant to you. Oftentimes people have photos in their collection of loved ones that other family members and friends haven’t seen. Now is a good time to share.

Buy a long distance phone card — for her or for you. Calling your mother, family members and friends on Mother’s Day may be a popular tradition, but it doesn’t have to run up the phone bill. Check out the rates on pre-paid long distance phone cards and compare them to your plan (if you have one). The cards are widely available at electronics and grocery stores, and can cover the once-a-year rise in phone charges.

Alternatively, a long distance phone card also makes a good gift for people who are on a budget. It provides them with the opportunity to call loved ones without worrying about the expense.

Plant a tree or a flower in her honour. Spring is the season of growth and renewal and many people choose to dedicate a part of their yard to honour a loved one. It could be a favourite perennial, or a plant chosen for longevity — like a tree or shrub. It could even be a portion of a garden or an entire garden.

A hand made and hand painted sign can mark the spot in lieu of a plaque. (See Memorial gardens for more information).

In the end, the most important thing you can do on Mother’s Day are to make the special woman in your life feel loved and appreciated. It isn’t just about biology — it’s an opportunity to “give back” to the women in your life that have made a difference. When in doubt, talk to your honouree, suggest some ideas and let her choose what she would like to do.