Budget-friendly ways to celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

Budget-friendly ways to celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

Ah, spring. Sunny weather, blooming flowers…and the anxiety that comes with shopping for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts. Every year, you swear you’ll get an early jump on it, but here you are again trying to think of some way to show the ’rents your undying gratitude with a limited imagination and budget. What can you give that says “I love you” without derailing your efforts to pay off your student loans or credit card debt?

As a mom and a personal finance expert, let’s just say I have a few ideas.

Go to the movies…

When is the last time you took in a film together? These days, the cinema can be pricey, especially if you go to an IMAX or a dine-in theater. (Ten dollars for a basket of gourmet tater tots!?) But you can save by buying your parent a discounted theater gift card and using it to buy tickets and treats. Cardpool.com or GiftCardGranny.com have discounted cards from chains like AMC and Bow Tie Cinemas.

…or to the legitimate theater

If a Broadway musical is more their speed, look into bargain tickets. There are regional theaters across the country (and touring companies) putting on top-flight shows that are affordable. Even here in tony New York City, there are several ways to score discounted tickets, from standing in line at a Times Square TKTS booth to shopping for tickets through an online service like BroadwayBox.com.

Let deals be your guide

Check a discount site, like Gilt, Groupon, or LivingSocial, for deals that pique your parents’ interests. They offer cheap and fun activities to do together, or for Mom or Dad to do on their own. (Which they might prefer if you’re still living in their basement.) Two examples as of this writing: 90% off a family photo session at JCPenney and 62% off two hours watching Mom roll strikes at an AMF Bowling alley. 

Grab a bite

Family time can be rare thanks to work schedules and kids, so a one-on-one meal with Mom or Dad can be a serious gift. Check restaurant voucher sites like Restaurant.com or the deal sites above. I found a voucher worth $50 at a nearby upscale Greek restaurant selling for $20 and a $75 credit at a delicious Indian spot for $30.

One tip: Go out just before or after the holiday. On Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, besides the crowds, you might run into a set holiday menu that’s pricier and, let’s face it, more limiting.

Plan a potluck

Of course, nothing says love like a home-cooked meal. If you have local siblings, plan a brunch or dinner—and make it a potluck so that everyone can contribute. People can cook their specialties (your brother’s “famous” ribs), or you can have everyone cook old family recipes. Believe me, Mom’s classic “Texas Hash” from back in the day will only benefit from the dose of nostalgia (and maybe some hot sauce).

Make their wish your command

Has Mom or Dad been asking you to do something that that you’ve been actively avoiding—maybe a morning touring historical homes or an afternoon lecture at a local museum? Well, this is the time to show your thanks by being their date and indulging their interests. Chances are they’ve done this plenty for you without you realizing it. Maybe you’ll even find a common interest you didn’t expect.

Sort those photos

Do they have piles of unorganized prints? Offer to go through them and make some keepsakes. Budget-friendly albums can be found at big box stores like Target or Walmart, or at off-price stores like Marshall’s. Bonus: You’ll have fun remembering dad’s mustache phase in the ’70s. You can preserve photos (and analog home movies) more permanently by digitizing them. Some services are pricey, but Costco is reasonable, charging $20 for 62 photos and reassuring your family that you’ll always have these reminders of the past.

Roll up your sleeves

Are there tasks that have fallen by the wayside, or that your mother or father now find particularly challenging? That dresser from IKEA, still sitting there in the box unassembled? Garden beds that need weeding? A fridge or a car sorely in need of a deep clean? How about sorting through clothing, home décor, or that out-of-control garage? Set a date to help. Pull things out and let them decide whether to keep, donate, or trash. When it comes to the donate pile, many nonprofits will pick things up from your home. Use a site like Donationtown.org to find one that works for you.

There are a lot of budget-friendly ways to celebrate your parents this Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Tell me what you end up doing in the comments. Just make sure to take some selfies with Mom or Dad to commemorate the occasion!

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