Mother's Day is just a week away and people everywhere are struggling to think of the right gift. For the right price, of course.
The holiday presents a dilemma for a cheapster. You want to spend just enough to show mom you love her, and not a penny more.
It can be easy to get carried away. The average person is expected to spend $168.94 this Mother's Day, up 11 percent from last year, according to the National Retail Federation in Washington, D.C.
We're always a little skeptical of these surveys. Maybe the people taking them are embarrassed to admit that they stop at a gas station on the way to mom's place and grab a small bouquet of flowers and a box of candy for less than 20 bucks.
Fortunately, we've got some ideas to help show your love for mom without dropping nearly that much and she won't recognize the gift from the bargain rack at the gas station around the corner.
Our first thought was to help your mom get started gardening with a homemade Topsy-Turvy tomato planter. Barbara Edelman in Emmaus showed us back in 2009 how she made her own upside down tomato planter using a coat hanger, an empty 1-gallon jug and some duct tape.
She cut the bottom off the jug, turned it upside down and filled it with dirt and secured the coat hanger to it with duct tape. Then she hung it on a clothesline post in her sunny backyard. All you'd have to buy is a bag of tomato seeds for less than $2.
We gave Barbara a call to see what she thought about using her invention as a Mother's Day gift. She had a better idea, which can smell better than flowers and last a lot longer. Americans are expected to spend $2.3 billion on flowers this Mother's Day, according to the retail federation.
"Flowers are nice, but they don't last," Barbara said. "Herbs last."
You can get your mom seeds to plant in her garden or buy her an herb plant in a pot, Barbara said. Even if your mom doesn't have a yard or has limited mobility, they can put a potted herb on the windowsill.
"Get a parsley plant or just get the seeds," Barbara said. "It costs about a buck. You can get a lot of parsley with that, and you can freeze it and keep it all winter long."
Basil is another great herb to buy, and the cost of a plant that will produce herbs all season is often comparable to buying a single package.
We did some number-crunching in the On The Cheap lab and figure Barbara's herb tip would save your mother $878.20 over 20 years if you made the plant an annual gift. You'd be a regarded as a caring child while spending about 95 percent less than the average person, according to that survey.
Just make sure you pick up the plant this week. They probably don't sell potted herbs at the gas station near your mother's place.
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Herb for mom
Cheapster: Barbara Edelman
Tip: Potted herb for Mother's Day
Estimated savings: $878.20 over 20 years