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5 Mother’s Day Gift Ideas That Cost You Virtually Nothing

When are you going to get it through your thick skull that spending a lot of money on your mom for Mother’s Day is completely missing the point? There is a reason why she puts your crappy stick figure art, or the crayon outline of your hand turned into a turkey on the refrigerator, rather than installing museum pieces in the parlor. On Mother’s Day you want to make her feel special. And how do you do that? Easy. Just employ any or all of the following low-cost hyper-thoughtful Mother’s Day gift ideas and you’re golden for at least another 365 days.

1. Listen to her.

All day. Look her in the eye and pay attention to what she is saying and nod your head and acknowledge her and put your phone down and listen to her and stop texting your friends and pay the hell attention already. You have no idea what a gift this is, listening to your mother. I will be bringing this theme up again later.

2. Leave her alone.

For some moms, removing all children (and anyone else who occupies the house) is the best gift one can provide. Leave the house – in fact, leave town — so she can relax in the knowledge that you will not be coming back any time soon and bothering her with your inane instant gratification-driven questions and comments about YOU and YOUR PROBLEMS and YOUR DESIRES at that moment.

vintage mom doing dishes3. You be the Mommy.

Do her job. Or better said, don’t make her job harder by not doing your job. This means do all the chores that she normally has to do because she’s sick and tired of nagging you to do it. Like cleaning your room and picking up your socks and putting them in the hamper (you too, kids, not just Dad), and doing the dishes. And the laundry. And the cat box. And the bed. For God’s sake, make your bed. Make her bed (AFTER you have served Her Majesty breakfast in it, that is). And the diapers. Whatever 42 pain-in-the-ass-things she does every day, YOU do it.

4. Don’t buy her a “thing”; buy her an EXPERIENCE she’ll never forget. listen to your mother, ann imig

Here’s a unique Mother’s Day idea. Remember back in item #1 when I told you to listen to your mother? There is an actual show with that very name. A real live performance called Listen to Your Mother playing in 24 different cities across the U.S. on or around Mother’s Day where local performers go on stage and read their amazing, personal, funny, moving, and inspiring stories about motherhood. These stories will move you, surprise you, but most importantly, entertain you. Your mother would love it. Your wife would love it. Your Mommy girlfriends would love it.

People who go to this show are so incredibly inspired, validated and empowered, that they will invariably walk up to a cast member or two that they don’t even know and say, “me too.”  It will be one of the most unforgettable twenty-dollar bills you ever spent on the mom in your life. Go to the Listen to Your Mother website and click on “Local Shows” to see if your city is participating in this unique Mother’s Day experience. (Disclosure: I am co-producer of the Sacramento show.)

5. Unless she’s a shrew, diamonds are almost never a bad idea.

Oh I’m sorry, this is on the wrong list. Who put this here? This should have gone on the “5 Lazy (But Effective) Ways to Buy Her Love on Mother’s Day”.


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  1. Indigo Roth says:

    Margaret, Margaret, such shameless self-promotion! Well played! I hope the show is going down well. Indigo x

  2. Ben Swilley says:

    My own dear Mother who passed away several years ago at the age of 93 commented upon receiving the most God-awful looking ceramic barn owl from me for Mother’s Day (because like most male people I had no idea what to give her) bent toward me in a demure and condescending way and said quietly, “Don’t worry about buying me gifts, the money will suit me fine!”.

  3. Anji says:

    As I write this you should be putting most of your advice into practice…

    1. Margaret says:

      Indeed I am, Anji. Indeed I am.

  4. Jordyn says:

    Ha, now that I’m older I see the value in just having a day to yourself.

  5. Nora Blithe says:

    I like the “Leave Her Alone Option.” I’m not a mother myself but between my pets and my husband a day of being left alone would be just fine with me!

  6. Marge says:

    These are wonderful ideas! As a mother of one and grandma of 2,
    I can’t wait to have someone take over my chores!
    Good luck with your show!

    1. Margaret says:

      Thank you, Marge! And Happy Mother’s Day!

  7. Linda says:

    An excellent list to be sure, even though I don’t have children. If I did, I think #2 and #3 would be at the top of the list. I’d need two days, though. I’d leave the first day and they would do all the chores, and the next day they would leave and I would enjoy my clean house…alone!

    1. Margaret says:

      Amen! I don’t have kids either, but I can appreciate a good taking over of chores, for sure!

  8. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And Yes.


    I would like ANY or ALL of those!

    1. Margaret says:

      Me too! Including that one that accidentally made the list. 🙂

  9. Although I am not a mom, I can think of several (dozen) kids I could send this too. Great advise, Margaret. And break a leg at your show. I’m cheering you on.
    xo jj

    1. Margaret says:

      Thank you Joanna! And I swear to let you know the next time I’m down south. I just haven’t been there!

  10. I must be a shrew. But the rest sounds great!!!

    1. Margaret says:

      Me too, Melody. Me too. 🙂

  11. Cheryl P. says:

    What a wonderful list. At my age Mother’s Day is somewhat anti-climatic. With grown kids already out of the house, and seriously, my life is fairly easy as far as daily routine….not much requires assistance. I would love to see “Listen to Your Mother”. I will have to figure out which city is the closest.

    1. Margaret says:

      I really would recommend it as a great Mother’s Day gift, Cheryl! Especially for those who wait until the last minute!

  12. Susan Cooper says:

    Great advise and something that we (all of us) need or need to heed at times. Good luck with the show. I hope it’s a huge success. I loved #5. I would forgive laziness for a nice diamond… LOL. 🙂

    1. Margaret says:

      I hope so too, Susan! I think #5 might be a LOT of people’s favorites! 🙂

  13. Darling Margaret, you have again “hit the nail on the head”. Please forward me everything I need to know about your upcoming show. I want to be there! And just perhaps, we can take you out after the show! I love this list!!!!

    1. Margaret says:

      Aw, thanks, Linda! All you need to know is right on the show information page here:

      You buy tickets now and pay an exorbitant ticket processing fee, or you can pay at the door and wait in an exorbitant line. Your choice! Did I spell exorbitant right? I can’t tell.

      Anyway, we’re working on finding a location for an after party which you’d be more than welcome to join in, if we can find a place that’s open that late on a Sunday night.

      1. For some reason, I thought this was an afternoon show. Damn! Alex goes to work leaving at 5:00 AM. I don’t think we can do an evening thing that far from home. Is this the only show or will there be possible matinees in the future? I’m really sorry we can’t do this one!

        1. Margaret says:

          I was wondering why you sounded so crazy, coming out here on a school night and all. 😉

          We hope to do this every year. Also, there is a San Francisco show with a whole different cast if you’re interested (although I’ll be over in Sacramento doing our show when that one is going on.)

  14. Nicky says:

    Margaret, I will PAY you, do you hear me? Just name your price! If you can get any of the men in my house to do any of those things, I will pay you whatever you want. Anything. Double if it’s number 5.

    1. Margaret says:

      This must be why “Rent-A-Spouse” has become a sky-rocketing business.

  15. Perhaps I should pass this list on to my son… I think nice trip to a remote island would be the perfect gift for me this mother’s day. (But only if I can stream “Listen to Your Mother” while there.)

    1. Margaret says:

      Ahhhh, a remote island. I’m imagining the tropics, though. You are too, right? I mean, you aren’t thinking Antartica or anything, right, Boom Boom?

  16. You are always so wise. Now me, I can be bought with apples.
    If you want to make a human mom squeeee with joy I suggest a goat kid. I have several that need homes. I can provide photos…..

    1. Margaret says:

      A goat kid is a FAB-u-lous idea and should have been on this list!

  17. All good ideas. I should probably find out when Mother’s Day is so I can put some or all of these into practice on the right day.

    1. Margaret says:

      Definitely don’t want to waste all your effort doing it on the wrong day. 🙂