Frugal NationFrugal Nation

On Mother's Day, skip the flowers

A new survey says she might prefer a spa day or a smartphone. Here are some frugal ways to get them.

By Donna_Freedman May 1, 2012 2:02PM
Image: Happy women (© Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images)Thinking of sending flowers for Mother's Day? A new survey says your mom may prefer massage to posies.

The survey, commissioned by the Ebates cash-back shopping site, shows that 48% of U.S. moms crave a spa day more than a bouquet.

Fortunately, there are frugal ways to get either one. Or both.

Bonus: Experiences mean memories. Gifts, though well-meaning, sometimes mean more things for mothers to dust.

"Moms typically don't need more 'stuff.' Experiences and time with the people we love are much more appreciated and treasured," says Los Angeles resident Karen Hoxmeier. (Post continues after video.)

Her own mother will receive a four-week cake decorating class, to be taken alongside her 15-year-old granddaughter, a "Cupcake Wars" devotee.

The shared experience "will create fond memories," Hoxmeier says.

Why not think outside the (flower) box this year? Here are a few ideas for non-floral gifts, and ways to save on those purchases.

A different kind of bouquet

Tricia Meyer of the Sunshine Rewards shopping website suggests enrolling mom in a "wine club."

"For the cost of a nice bouquet of flowers delivered, you can send a wine club gift for a couple of months," Meyer says.

Recipients get wine delivered along with "tasting notes" about the vintage and the vineyards: "It becomes an experience more than a gift." A site called Wine Club Reviews & Ratings can help you find a match.

If you live near your mom, create your own wine club by promising to bring over a new variety at least four times a year (more often, if you can afford it). Bring along Mom's favorite snacks, too.

To save more:
Order the wine club through a cash-back shopping site.

A cheaper day out

"Groupon" has become the catch-all phrase for social buying deals, but new sites pop up every day. Spa treatments -- massage, mani-pedis, haircuts -- are among the most frequently advertised specials. Movie-ticket deals are becoming more common, too.

If you're giving these things to a young mom, tack on an offer to babysit. (Be specific: "I'm available any Friday night or weekend day this month. When do you want me to come over?")

Incidentally, Groupon sells gift certificates. If your mom is a dealista, give her a GC and let her choose her own fun.

To save more:
If the deal you want is from Groupon, buy it through a cash-back sites -- in other words, getting a discount on your discount. Also, check the secondary market for these vouchers through sites like Deals Go Round and Coup Recoup.


Daily deal sites
Deal sites are increasing in number, too, so much so that the choices are dizzying. Find a few sites you like and stick with them.

In "The 102 best money websites," MSN Money columnist Liz Weston cited Dealnews, and (owned by Hoxmeier, who's quoted above) as standouts.

These sites let you give mom everything from lingerie to fishing gear. Ask her, because what she wants might surprise you.

To save more:
These deals can be super-savers, but not always. Use a price-comparison aggregator like or FindersCheapers to make sure. If it's truly a hot deal? Buy it quickly before it sells out.

Coupon code sites

So Mom's been eyeballing a down comforter but won't buy it for herself. There's your Mother’s Day gift -- but remember that only amateurs pay retail.

Look for coupons, special deal and free shipping codes at discount code sites like Retail Me NotCoupon Cabin, or


MSN Money's Weston also likes, which helps you compare product prices on stores in your region.

Beyond those "No. 1 Mom" mugs

A few more suggestions:

That Ebates survey also noted that 30% of moms wanted tablets or smartphones. If you're on a budget, last year's models can be had "at considerable discounts," says Brent Shelton, of The discount is deeper if you get coupon codes and/or cash-back shopping.

Community-supported agriculture:
Fresh veggies, all summer long.

Membership to
Buy it through a cash-back site; right now FatWallet has the highest rate, at 19.2%. 

Brad Wilson of the Brad's Deals site is seeing titles like Good Housekeeping, Shape, Budget Travel, Weight Watchers, Family Circle and Whole Living for less than $5.

If you must. But why not give them as a bag of tulip bulbs or a flowering shrub, with an offer to plant/arrange to have someone else plant them? They'll be enjoyed for years versus a few days.

Are you planning any Mother's Day gifts? Got any frugal tips to share?

More from MSN Money:

May 11, 2012 6:58PM
All I want for Mother's Day is for my husband to take the baby in the morning so I can sleep in!  I just want to sleeeeep!  It's free and it would make most new mothers EXTREMELY happy, happier than anything money can buy!
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.