Mother's Day gifts: 10 best, worst ideas

Mother's Day is less than a week away, so how about taking a page straight from mom's book surprising her with a thoughtful gift that's better than what she might expect? Read on for the ten best and worst Mother's Day gifts, no matter Mom's taste.

By , Guest blogger

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    A child arranges heart-shaped letters dedicated to mothers during an event marking Mother's Day in Bucharest. Mother's Day is just around the corner, and a thoughtful gift is within reach no matter Mom's taste.
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Moms are kind of like superheroes. They perform physical acts no ordinary human could, take care of everybody's needs before they're needed, and function on minimal sleep and gratitude.

Chances are mom also keeps up with the family calendar, making sure all necessary accoutrements are in hand for each holiday well in advance — every holiday, but her own. Mother's Day is less than a week away, so how about taking a page straight from mom's book surprising her with a thoughtful gift that's better than what she might expect?

If She Enjoys Flowers...

Don't: It might be tempting to pick up one of those colorful bouquets at the front of Target on the big day, but: 1) She'll know that's exactly what you did. 2) Everybody else will have the same idea, so pickings will be slim.

Recommended: Are you a smart shopper? Take our quiz.

Do: How about getting her a gift that will bloom all year? (It will literally be the gift that keeps on giving.) Opt for a potted plant or terrarium instead of snipped blooms.

If She Loves Photos...

Don't: "Mom loves to display pictures. I should get her a digital picture frame." No. Stop. We've been over this; nobody really wants one of those, and even if they do, they realize the error of their ways soon after getting one.

Do: Instead of cramming hundreds of mediocre photos onto a tiny screen, focus on one outstanding picture. Pick (or take) a high-quality snap and spring for a nice, large print with a tasteful frame.

If She Likes Sentimental Jewelry...

Don't: Whether you're shopping department stores or jewelry specialists, chances are you've seen a lot of generic "mom" pendants; they're cute when they come from kids, but they become less adorable if you're a fully-grown adult.

Do: How about proving you put in a little effort by ordering a custom piece from Etsy instead? While it's true that those merchants may start with store-bought components, you'll be able to select birthstones and have names and dates engraved, resulting in a one-of-a-kind treasure. At this late hour, though, be sure to check into shipping deadlines by messaging the sellers.

If She Likes Fancy Jewelry...

Don't: The lure of diamonds and other precious gemstones is strong, especially when you're shopping for the woman who brought you into the world. But they can also bust your budget pretty quickly.

Do: Instead, you might want to consider pearls. They still have cache — think Audrey Hepburn and royal ladies throughout history — but they can be had at exceedingly small prices. For example, we saw a necklace and earring set for just $12 in March (while this gift set currently checks in at $28).

If She Keeps an Impeccable House...

Don't: A fancy vacuum may seem like a good idea if mom is always cleaning house. But the message it actually sends is that you think of her as your personal housekeeper, and you're just giving her a better tool to do her assigned job.

Do: How about giving her some time off (and acknowledging that you do recognize how much work she puts in to maintaining order) by gifting her with a visit from a cleaning service? Check daily deal sites for any local offers that might knock the cost down a bit.

If She Loves Designer Goods...

Don't: It's not worth blowing your savings on a high-end designer item you can't afford.

Do: While this is one area where a knockoff probably won't do the job, that still doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune. Check designer outlets for deals on name brands like Kate Spade and Tory Burch, when similar-but-not-identical just won't work.

If She Needs a Tablet...

Don't: The iPad mini may be the first thing that comes to mind, but wait — you can get far more value from your buck!

Do: A Kindle Fire HDX 7" tablet is definitely more cost effective; it currently sells for $199, whereas the iPad mini will cost you a least $200 for a refurb. Even if you throw in a year of Prime membership with the Kindle — which you should, because it adds features like streaming video (including HBO exclusives), video downloads, and the ability to borrow books — you're spending less overall and getting more, a skill mom would be proud of.

If Her Closet Is Her Castle...

Don't: Buying clothes as a gift is a notoriously tricky task. Pick up something that's too small, and mom will think you think she's fat. Too big, and pretty much the same thing will happen. And even if you do choose the right size, you may fall into the trap of projecting your style onto mom, and she'll still either have to return the item or banish it to the back of the closet or the giveaway pile.

Do: Play it safe and get her a gift card to a store she frequents, so she can shop for something she likes, and try it on before she buys.

If She Enjoys Being Pampered...

Don't: Items like foot spas and massage gadgets may seem like presents that will help mom relax and rejuvenate, but in reality those things will probably get used once or twice, then sentenced to life in the garage, because they take up time and space that mom just can't spare most days.

Do: A better idea is to strongly encourage a real getaway to relax, by purchasing her an affordable vacation, be it actual travel (there are always mind-bogglingly cheap cruises) or just a discounted night in a luxury hotel 5 miles from home.

If She Appreciates a Nice Meal...

Don't: There's nothing wrong with treating mom to dinner, but since this is a special occasion, you should avoid ho-hum options that she might go to on any given day.

Do: If you can't afford to take her somewhere nicer than the norm, trade spending money for spending time by preparing a meal yourself. Mom probably does this daily, so she'll appreciate the effort you put in. Just make sure you pay attention to the details so the result turns out to be really special.

Will any of these gifts repay mom for all that she's done for you? Of course not! But they will show her that you care about her, and that she has raised you to be self-reliant and considerate person. Which is, for a mom, one of the greatest gifts you could ask for.

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