5 Free or Affordable Experience Gift Ideas for Mom

5 Free or Affordable Experience Gift Ideas for Mom

How can we honor the special mom’s and mother-figures in our lives who are hard to buy for, or who promise they don’t need a thing? We compiled five free or affordable experience gift ideas for mom that she’ll remember for a lifetime. Whether you’re in-person, long distance, ahead of schedule, or a bit last-minute, this list is for you.

Creating Intentional Experiences

There’s a phrase that lines the aisles of craft stores, generates nearly 12,000 search results on Etsy.com, and finds its way into the nooks and crannies of homes everywhere. It’s hanging over doorways, perched above family photos, scripted on coffee mugs, and sewn into dish towels.

“Live. Laugh. Love.”

Instead of buying mom another cliché trinket, consider what it means to truly “live, laugh, love.” Research shows that experience gifts provide greater satisfaction and happiness.  Psychologist Matthew Killingsworth reminds us in his article, “happiness may have more to do with the contents of our moment-to-moment experiences.” We believe that moments are made by getting off of auto-pilot and living intentionally. This year, curate an experience that mom will remember fondly and forever; a gift that keeps on giving.

5 Free or Affordable Experience Gift Ideas for Mom

Photo by Christian Wiediger

1. Take a hike together and revel in the beauty of nature

It’s long been known that spending time in nature contributes to increased mental well-being. A distraction-free outdoor experience is the perfect opportunity to catch up, get to know each other more deeply, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

Download the AllTrails app to find hiking locations near you. You can organize by distance and difficulty. If your mom really loves being outside and is over 62 years old, consider spending $20 on a National Parks (Senior) Pass that she can use all year.

Long distance alternative: Schedule a day to take a hike at the same time in your respective locations. Facetime, swap landscape photos, and savor the moment together, but afar.

Photo by Kari Shea

2. Learn a family recipe from your mom or try a new one together

You know those smells that wafted through the house when you were younger, the ones that let you know something good was on its way? Cookies baking in the oven. Spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove. It’s no surprise that taste and memory are so connected. 

If you have a famous family recipe or comfort food that your mom baked or cooked when you were young, consider asking her to teach you how. If you can’t think of one in particular, find a seasonal recipe to experiment making together.

Long distance alternative: Ask your mom to write down the ingredients you’ll need to create a family favorite and Facetime or Zoom in your kitchen. Mom can still share her cooking secrets, and you can reflect on the memories you had while eating the meal as a kid.

Photo by Nikola Jovanovic

3. Watch something grow together

Witnessing the process of a seed becoming a flower, or a green onion regenerating right in front of you, can elicit a child-like wonder, a reminder that life is beautiful when we pause to notice. Invite mom into this experience by watching something grow together.

If either of you have outdoor space, section off a small area to grow a favorite flower or start a vegetable garden that both of you can nurture and enjoy together. Seeds are really affordable and can be purchased, often for $2 or below, at a grocery store or hardware store in your area. For an even more affordable option, start with the produce already in your kitchen. If space is limited, experiment with growing a windowsill garden.

Long distance alternative: Send mom flower, vegetable, or fruit seeds you can both plant at the same time and share updates as they grow. Another idea is to create or buy her a windowsill herb garden kit. Share pictures of your progress, and when it’s time to harvest, swap ideas on how to enjoy your new bounty.


Photo by Dario Valenzuela

4. Surprise mom with a day or evening spent together

When I asked my mom about her favorite gifts, they always involved experiences planned with a personal touch. Think of her hobbies and interests, and consider what her favorite day might look like. Create an itinerary and give mom your undivided attention.

Maybe it’s spending an afternoon at a U-pick farm, where you collect fresh fruit, and whip up a shortcake together in the afternoon. Maybe it’s a day spent at the beach, with a packed lunch that she can’t resist. Maybe it’s a movie night where you enjoy her favorite film and eat her favorite snacks.

Long distance alternative: Plan an evening Netflix watch party and Instacart those beloved treats right to her house. For a fun daytime activity, prepare your own DIY “paint and sip” event. Find a free video tutorial and mail her the necessary supplies. Turn on Zoom or Facetime and enjoy the process of creating art together.


Photo by Alexander Gamanyuk

5. Exchange prompt’d Cards for Mothers & Daughters

In this day of quick, emoji-filled communication, it’s no wonder we still feel moments of disconnection. Exchanging Cards for Mothers & Daughters is an easy way to inspire meaningful conversations and be intentional about connecting with your loved one. By sharing your thoughts, memories, and reflections, you get to know a new side of each other.

Each purchase comes with two sets of four pre-stamped cards (one for you and one for her), each with a prompt prepared for you to answer in your own unique way.

Long distance alternative: Regardless of your distance, the experience of sending and receiving a handwritten card feels special and intimate. Cards for Mothers/Daughters makes snail mail fun again!

For more meaningful gift ideas for mom, check out this post.
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