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For Mother's Day: The gift of time

Choose a present that gives Mom more time to herself -- or more time with you.

By Donna_Freedman May 7, 2012 3:17PM
Image: Stopwatch (© Steve Allen/Brand X/Getty Images)According to a survey from, almost half of us shop for Mother's Day gifts a week or less in advance of the holiday.

(It's May 13 this year, so you'd better get cracking.)

The survey noted that 43% of shoppers buy flowers. This year, why not surprise your mom with something other than a bouquet?

Here's an idea: time.

Depending on where your mom is in her life, she may want:
  • More time to do the things she likes.
  • Something to help her use time more efficiently.
  • More time with you.

With a little imagination, you can give her a Mother's Day to remember -- and you can do it frugally.

Time for tech?

Nine-tenths of the moms surveyed by deal site said they'd prefer an iPad instead of flowers. Technology helps women "juggle their busy family and professional lives," says company President Yung Trang.


My niece, a single working mom of two boys, swears by her smartphone. Maybe your mother would like a shot at a tech present, too?

If she's new at this and therefore doesn't want/need the latest bells and whistles, look for 2011 models that are available "at considerable discounts," suggests Brent Shelton of


To find the best deals, try a price aggregator like or FindersCheapers, or a deal site such as Coupon Cabin, Retail Me Not or


Note: When comparing prices, make sure to factor in rebates from cash-back shopping sites.

Freeing up some time

Even when women work outside the home they're likely to do almost two-thirds of the housework. I'm betting the mom on your list would love a break. If you spring for an occasional housecleaning service, she might have time for a hobby or a little reading.

Discount cleaning vouchers show up fairly regularly on social-buying and deal sites. Check the secondary market for such deals, too. Or ask around for trusted local housecleaners.

Can't afford too many sessions? Even a single half-day visit could provide the luxury of a tidier house -- or specifics like a superclean clean fridge and stove -- without any effort on Mom's part.

Another timesaver: having necessities delivered. Order a few months' worth of pet supplies or household items (toilet paper, detergent, etc.) from sites like or  Go through a cash-back site for additional savings.

If you live close enough, do this the frugal way: 

  • Drop by every so often with supplies.
  • Take your mother shopping.
  • Devote a couple of hours a month to cleaning, yard work or batch cooking.

Don't take time for granted
It might be that seeing you is what Mom really wants. Those biweekly or monthly visits will make her happy even if you don't mow the lawn.

Some visits should be about fun, not work. Watch for social buying vouchers for classes, concerts or other events. Snare a couple of manicure deals, then follow up with an inexpensive lunch.

Money tight? Get creative. Look for free movie screenings. Do facials and manicures at home. Attend a pay-what-you-can performance. Start writing a family history, or go through boxes of photos and have her identify who's who.

The older I get, the more I'd give for even one more hour with my mother. I urge you not to take time for granted. If you love your mom, then let her know -- with or without a present.

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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.