Is that tie on sale?

Nick Ut/AP
Spending on both Mother's and Father's Days dropped this year. Rather than buying presents, children might consider a family activity, says father of two and founder of Paul Banas.

Their wallets have spoken: When times are tough, children’s love for moms is more fickle than their affection for fathers.

At least, that’s the conclusion if their planned spending for Mother's Day and Father's Day is a barometer of parental preferences. Both spending estimates dropped with the recession, although the figure for Mother’s Day – already the slightly more extravagant of the two – took a deeper hit, according to surveys by the National Retail Federation.

In comparison with 2008, Americans plan to spend 3.9 percent less on their dads for the Sunday holiday, which falls on June 21. That’s an average of $90.89 per pop – enough for an engraved tie clip, but probably not for a name-brand silk tie.

Spending on Mother’s Day, however, was expected to average $123.89 per individual this year, which is a drop of 10.6 percent from last year. The majority of respondents said they had planned to buy their mom flowers, totaling $1.9 billion in botanical expenditures nationwide.

The variability could also reflect the already-higher amount spent on moms, according to Shelly Lundberg, an economics professor at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“It’s possible that since the level of spending was higher to begin with ... people felt there was more to cut back,” says Professor Lundberg, who is also director of the university’s Center for Research on Families.

Still, father of two and founder of Paul Banas was surprised to hear that Americans planned to spend even near $100 on people like him this year.

“I don’t really want any gifts per se. I just want something symbolic,” says Mr. Banas, whose site has been gathering economical gift ideas. His low-budget, high-love suggestions:

• Make photo albums and movies together.

• Plan a golf trip followed by a BBQ.

• Cook. (“Give him a break from his diet. Make him bacon.”)

The economic climate may clear a way for these cozy shows of affection.

“People just want to be loved and appreciated," Banas says. “When the economy was really hot and everyone had a lot of cash, those ideas seemed really Pollyannaish.”

– Guest blogger Taylor Barnes is a Monitor contributor.

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