If money were no object, I’m sure most of us would choose to buy our mothers castles, islands, or their dream homes. But, of course, money is an object, and a lot of us are in the position of having, well, not so much of it. But fret not, oh cash-strapped progeny! You can still show the mom in your life that you care, without breaking the bank. Below, we’ve rounded up our favorite gifts that are available for $35 or less.
Your face on the fridge
My mom loves to keep photos of my siblings and me all over the house, and one easy way to give her a photo gift that she’ll enjoy every time she opens the fridge is with custom photo magnets. Our favorite service for the job is Inkifi, through which you can easily select images from your desktop, phone, or even Instagram to convert into a four-pack of 3-by-3-inch magnets or a nine-pack of 2-by-2-inch magnets. Shipping these little magnets costs about $12.
A cookbook with flavor and feeling
The recipes included in Indian-American food writer Priya Krishna’s debut cookbook are not traditional. Rather, they’re the creative, Americanized “Indian-ish” hybrids that she grew up eating in Dallas (think Roti Pizza and Tomato Rice with Crispy Cheddar), cooked by her immigrant parents. The recipes are accessible, delicious, and well explained, but the anecdotes Krishna shares about her childhood—particularly those involving her mother—are what make this cookbook truly sparkle. “This is a book about me, and about my mom, told through her one-of-a-kind recipes. It’s the best of both of us; my outlandish tales and lack of shame, plus her good cooking,” she writes. It’s no surprise, then, that the front cover’s bindi-wearing Rosie the Riveter image, whose cartoon bubble declares “You Can Cook It,” is meant to resemble the author’s mother.
A sleek, relaxing diffuser
Mom deserves a day at the spa, but very few of us can afford that. Still, with an essential oil diffuser, you can at least give her the vibes of a spa. We tested several essential oil diffusers, and the Urpower was our favorite, thanks to its sleek look (which blends into any background), easy-to-use functions, and customizable colored lights. This diffuser, paired with a favorite essential oil, can create a spa-like environment for your mom with almost no effort, anytime she wants.
A cute little vessel
A butter warmer at first glance seems like a bizarre gift (like, isn’t my microwave already a butter warmer?). But don’t be misled by the name: This cheery, vintage-looking vessel does much more than melt butter. Its 16-ounce enameled steel body also makes it great for small tasks like heating up soup for one or warming hot chocolate. And the cute wooden handle is easy to grab, making the Kobenstyle perfect for ladling. This sweet little vessel is a gift that keeps on giving, and your mother will find endless uses for it.
Whether your mom needs somewhere to set her house keys and sunglasses when she gets home, or she’d just appreciate something to put the TV remote on, these sleek oval trays from Hay will make the experience feel special. The trays come in rainbow, gold, or silver, and in a small or large size to suit your mom’s style and trinket capacity. Shipping is usually around $10 but free for orders over $50.
An insouciant accessory
A brand new purse is usually a pricey gift, and realistically, the mom in your life may already be carrying one that she likes. Instead, we love the idea of giving her a little keychain to make that purse feel like new. In addition to the zany squids version, Min & Mon has several other leather keychain options, including fluffy eyeballs and octopus twins—which I’ve been eyeing for my own mother, since I’m one of two sets. (Yes that’s right, my mother had two sets of twins, and she has so earned this holiday.) The keychains are great to use functionally (like, for keys), but we hope your mom chooses to strap them to the side of her purse so the whole world will know how cool she is.
A mug of her own
A monogram mug is great for the mom in your life whose family members tend to run off with her beverage by “mistake.” (I’m guilty of this, too. But, in my defense, I can’t help it since my mom always hits the perfect ratio of half-and-half to coffee.) It’s thoughtful to give something meant just for her, especially on a holiday focused on her role in raising another person. I’ve given several of these cute Anthropologie mugs to friends in a pinch, and they’ve always received rave reviews. Do be warned, however: The gilding on the mug means they’re not safe to use in the microwave.
Photos that won’t embarrass you
My mom loves my siblings and me so much that she often doesn’t realize when we look absolutely hideous in photos (think eyes closed, hair unwashed, and outfit selected from the bathroom floor). Rather than let your mom run wild with whatever equally horrible photos she’s got of you—and trust me, she has them—become the master of your fate by making her a photo book featuring only your good sides in good lighting. One of our favorite services for photo books is Chatbooks, which is blissfully streamlined and easy to use. The service draws images straight from your social media streams or Dropbox and then places one photo on each page.
Luxe body oil
Your mom has probably already told you this, but the secret to aging gracefully is money (lol, sorry) and moisturizing. So give her some of that. Wirecutter staff writer Winnie Yang swears by this multipurpose (hair, body, face, wherever) oil that moisturizes without feeling heavy or greasy, thanks to its well-balanced combination of coconut, argan, olive, jojoba, and other oils. Its warm, slightly sweet, beguiling scent lingers but doesn’t call too much attention to itself (an unscented version is also available). The simple, minimally adorned bottle is attractive enough to leave out next to the sink or tub, but if your mom wants to keep it all for herself, we endorse that, too.
A thoughtful memoir
Since its original publication, in the 1980s, Fierce Attachments has remained one of the most well-regarded memoirs by readers and critics alike for its unflinching portrayal of a mother and daughter’s fraught relationship. Starting with the author’s childhood in the Bronx of the 1940s and extending to her life in New York City in the 1980s, the book smartly spans the ups and downs of a filial relationship that—perhaps like many mother-daughter relationships—exists on the teetering edge of love and exasperation, admiration and total lack of understanding. Any mother who has a daughter will find it beautiful, painful, and full of grace.
Paintings by an Impressionist master
Mary Cassatt made her career painting two classes of people rarely paid attention to during the late 19th century: mothers and their children. Cassat was one of few female painters in Paris’s Impressionist circle, and her oil paintings and pastels reveal her access to the most intimate moments of those she depicted, glorious in their mundanity: a woman bathing her baby, two children playing on the floor, a mother breastfeeding. This hardcover book collects the very best of Cassatt’s works, with supplementary essays to help the mother in your life appreciate them to the fullest.
A nourishing, selfie-able sheet mask
The jury’s still out on whether sheet masks actually accomplish anything more than hydrating skin. But at the very least they feel amazing, and they make for a fun activity for unwinding that the mom in your life is sure to appreciate. Our favorite from testing is the Dr. Jart Hydration Lover Rubber Mask, which stayed put and fit most panelists’ faces well. Included with the mask: a lightly scented face cream (containing sodium hyaluronate, hyaluronic acid, and additional glycerin) that you apply before affixing the rubber mask.
A mellow light
Most likely every mom could use a little more relaxation. One gift toward that end is this salt lamp, which gives off a pretty pink glow and is perfectly inviting for those times your mom wants to cozy up with a mug of tea (or, better yet, wine). There are some alleged benefits to Himalayan salt lamps that involve mood and sleep improvement, but realistically those may be overblown. Yet even without those purported benefits, this lamp has a neat shape and soothing light—more than enough to make it a great gift.
A less aggressive wake-up
If the mama in your life hates getting up in the morning to the aggressive bringggg bringgg of an alarm clock, give her the gift of a pleasant wake-up experience. People are biologically wired to wake as the sun rises, and wake-up-light alarm clocks simulate that effect, starting with a dim light that builds, over the course of about 30 minutes, to the brilliance of a bright spring day. This clock from hOmelabs wasn’t our absolute favorite from testing, but for the cost it still offers the same functions of much pricier models, just with less luxury.
You probably know what the mom in your life turns to when she wants a sweet fix (for my own mother, it’s a rare, chocolate-dipped biscotti sold only at the T.J.Maxx in Boardman, Ohio). Yet, if you want to surprise her with something new (or if you don’t have a T.J.Maxx near you), then these elegant almond candies from Spanish food purveyor La Tienda are a great choice and come recommended by Wirecutter staff editor Winnie Yang. The whole roasted Marcona almonds are blended with Spanish orange blossom honey for a treat your mom will love—and hopefully even share.