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How Much Should You Spend on a Mother’s Day Gift?

May 7, 2018
Managing Money, Personal Finance
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You might be aware of the appropriate amount to spend on a wedding gift, but what about when it comes to other gifting days, like Mother’s Day? Your mom is likely one of the most important people in your life, and the last thing you want to do is disappoint her on her day.

We talked to etiquette and financial experts to find out what you need to know before May 13 about Mother’s Day giving — and how to budget for that perfect gift even if you’re tight on funds.

Need help starting your budget?

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There’s no magic number

Mother’s Day spending is expected to reach $23.1 billion this year, according to an annual survey released by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

Some of the more popular purchases include jewelry, special outings, flowers and gift cards. The survey found that a total 86% of Americans will celebrate Mother’s Day, and they plan to spend $180 on average.

But that doesn’t mean you have to spend that much — or anything, really. “There is no set amount,” says Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.”

The same guidance applies from a financial perspective as well.

“For most moms, something that’s really personal is going to be priceless, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot to be really invaluable to your mom,” says Marcy Keckler, a certified financial planner and vice president of financial advice strategy at Ameriprise Financial.

But you can find the right number

So how do you decide how expensive your gift should be? It depends. Your mom’s taste will determine the actual gift you choose, but your personal budget will determine the amount you pay, according to Gottsman, who is also the founder of The Protocol School of Texas.

“Your mom doesn’t want you to go into debt,” she says.

If you plan on buying something (rather than making something), Keckler says one strategy is to tap the gift portion of your budget, if you have one. Some people regularly leave room in their monthly budget for irregular expenses that happen throughout the year — like Mother’s Day gifts and birthday presents.

But if you haven’t already been setting aside money for gifts, you can choose to dial down your lifestyle and discretionary expenses for a limited period of time to free up extra funds to purchase a present.

Choose whichever budgeting approach works for you, but Keckler says it’s important not to deplete a cash reserve for gift-giving and then “wind up in need of that cash reserve for something that might even have a more critical nature to it.”

You never know when you’ll need reserve money (also known as emergency savings) for a broken appliance or a car that’s in the shop, so don’t max out those funds for something less crucial.

Gifts come in all shapes — and prices

Once you know your spending limit, it’s time for the fun part. Select a heartfelt gift, and don’t limit yourself, because no matter how large or small a gift your budget allows, you’ll have plenty of options.

If you want to be price-conscious, consider some affordable gift ideas. Here are a few from Keckler:

  • A framed family photo.
  • A home-cooked meal made from one of your mom’s recipes.
  • A handwritten letter.

Gottsman has some unique recommendations, too:

  • Spices and herbs from your garden.
  • A homemade stationery set with pens, card stock and ribbon.
  • A jar full of granola or candy.

Most importantly, don’t feel pressured to spend beyond your means, Keckler says. Be content with whatever gift you can afford and don’t compare it to gifts from others. Sticking with an option that demonstrates financial smarts can actually be its own gift.

“Having the confidence to do something that’s meaningful and within your budget is a great way to honor your mom and have your mom feel proud of how you’re managing your money,” Keckler says.

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