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What to Buy the Mom or Mother-in-Law Who Has Everything

Thrifty Lady is a military wife looking to make the most of each dollar while creating fun.

If she seems to have everything already, it can be challenging to think of a gift!

If she seems to have everything already, it can be challenging to think of a gift!

Gifts for Mother-in-Laws

Do you have a woman in your life who is always difficult to shop for? I have three!

My mom, stepmother, and mother-in-law all seem to have everything already—which makes gift-giving a challenge. After years of navigating birthdays, Mother's Days, and Christmases, I've put together some great gift ideas for the special women in our lives.

If she enjoys being active, consider a gift that fits with her favored activity.

If she enjoys being active, consider a gift that fits with her favored activity.

Gifts for the Athletic Woman

The nice thing about shopping for an athletic woman is that there are always great new products coming out—so it's likely that there is a product that the person you are shopping for does not yet have. Here are some unique ideas:

  1. Quick-Dry Towel: If you know that the woman you are shopping for goes to the gym or pool for a workout, chances are, they will bring a towel with them. They are generally made of microfiber, which makes them very absorbent and fast drying. They are also lightweight and compact, which makes them ideal for a gym bag. These types of towels are also great for backpackers, hikers, and campers. Many companies make these types of towels, but some great examples are the Discovery Ultra Fast Dry Towel, the Sea to Summit Towel, and the Aqua Sphere Aqua Dry Towel.
  2. Battery-Heated Glove Liners: Perfect for skiers, snowboarders, runners, campers, etc., battery-heated glove liners will keep any athlete warm in chilly weather conditions. Traditional glove liners also make a great gift if they are of decent quality. You can find battery-heated liners at Brookstone or Amazon and traditional liners at any sporting goods store.
  3. Shake Flashlight: One of the best gifts that I ever received was a flashlight that recharges just by shaking it. For those of us that are perpetually bad at buying or recharging batteries, these types of flashlights can be a lifesaver. You never have to purchase batteries or new bulbs. These flashlights are perfect for the outdoorsy athletes in your life. Find online, in sporting goods, or in camping stores.
  4. Personal Fitness Trackers: If you are shopping for someone who is new to working out, chances are that they will not yet have a device to track distance traveled, calories burned, or time invested. Pedometers, GPS systems, and simple calorie counters are all great ideas. Since there is a wide range of quality and price levels, you'll want to do some research first.
  5. Roller or Foam Massage Tool: These are the latest craze with athletes and are relatively inexpensive. A handheld massage roller tool can be used to perform deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy, and sports massage therapy. They can also relieve stress and tightness and improve circulation. These are great for runners, weight-lifters, swimmers, tennis players, and pretty much any athlete.

If you have an athlete in your life that you shop for often, signing up for emails from a site like will help you to stay on target with the latest fitness trends and products for any future gift-giving needs.

How about a travel-oriented gift?

How about a travel-oriented gift?

Gifts for the Traveler

Do you have a woman in your life that travels a lot for work or pleasure? If so, they could get a lot of use out of some of the following gifts:

  1. Travel Pillow and/or Blanket: While this is not a new concept, travel pillows and blankets can wear out over time, and there are always new and improved models coming out. Newer models are generally more comfortable and more compact for easier traveling. Check out the Bucky Utopia Neck Pillow With Buckybag.
  2. Airline Miles: If the woman in your life loves to travel but is on a budget, you can purchase miles or vouchers for an airline that they frequently travel with. Also, if the woman in your life lives far away, this can be a great purchase to be able to see your family more often.
  3. Travel Money Wallet or Organizer: Move over, fanny packs! These are hip, slim travel organizers and wallets that can hold passports, money, and more while keeping these valuables out of reach from strangers. One option is the Victorinox Travel Organizer, which can be found on Amazon or a variety of other sites.
  4. Compact Umbrella: Most travelers know that it is key to bring an umbrella with them in case of rain, but carrying a bulky umbrella can be very cumbersome. You can find umbrellas that are only 6 inches long or even smaller that open into full-sized umbrellas. These are great to fit into a purse, luggage, or even pocket for those inclement weather days. A great option is the Totes Isotoner Micro Umbrella.
  5. Travel Washbag: When traveling, especially on a long trip, it can often be difficult to find a place to wash your clothes. A washbag is the best way to wash clothes while traveling. There is a great new product, called a washbag, that requires no power or electricity and allows you to wash clothes for free. Check out the Scrubba Washbag.
  6. Compact Tripod: Most travelers take lots of photos, so it can be great to have a tripod handy. You can purchase tripods that fold up for easily bringing with you on your travels. These greatly range in price to fit any budget. One example is the Ravelli APLT2 49" Light Weight Aluminum Tripod With Bag.

Gifts for the Sentimental Mom

While loving and caring are top on a mother's job description, some moms are more sentimental than others. Here are some gift ideas for the sentimental mom:

  1. Photo Book: Many websites these days allow you to create photo scrapbooks online. These books can be fairly cheap, especially if you do some research first on how to save money online. Create a book of your favorite memories with mom or create a book of grandchildren photos. Either one is sure to please. Some websites to check out are Shutterfly, MyPublisher, and Snapfish.
  2. Sentimental Jewelry: Many jewelry stores will allow you to customize jewelry, especially necklaces and bracelets. Consider incorporating gems or charms to represent the women or children in your life. Try using family birthstones, initials, or just charms that remind you of the specific person.
  3. Family Recipe or Memory Scrapbook: Collect favorite recipes from the women in your family or have each family member create a scrapbook page of thoughts and memories of the woman in your life. Then compile these all into a book or other format.
  4. Family Tree or Ancestry Research: Create a family tree represented in a craft or digital format. Or, you can do some ancestry research online and compile results in a creative way.
  5. Family Interviews: So many family memories can easily get lost over the years. Preserve these memories by taking videos or notes of interviews with various family members. It can be especially interesting to get the different perspectives from grandparents and children. Here are some references for interview questions to get you started:
A trip to the spa? Or perhaps a gift certificate to a restaurant she loves?

A trip to the spa? Or perhaps a gift certificate to a restaurant she loves?

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Gift a Service

For the woman that pretty much owns every product under the sun or continuously purchases the things that she needs, purchasing a service can be a great option. Here are some examples:

  1. Manicure or Pedicure: Almost every woman enjoys a manicure or pedicure, but not every woman feels comfortable spending the money on herself. These are great relaxing gifts.
  2. Massage: Similar to the manicure or pedicure, massages will make your mother feel pampered and may not be something that she'd buy for herself.
  3. Lesson: Depending on your mother's interests, there is likely a lesson that she'd enjoy. For instance, cooking lessons, golf lessons, yoga sessions, painting lessons, etc. can be a great gift. If you live near the woman in your life, you can participate in the lesson as well. Many areas offer unique lessons, like sushi-making classes or classes where you paint while drinking wine. These are great bonding experiences and very unique gifts.
  4. Meal or Dining Experience: Whether you purchase a gift card to your mother's favorite restaurant or cook a special meal for mom, she could certainly use a break from cooking for an evening.
  5. Field Trip! Many women just want to spend time with their children or grandchildren. Consider taking a trip to a zoo, museum, or gallery. Or you could go see a play, sporting event, or other activity that Mom enjoys.
Spend an afternoon cooking childhood favorites together!

Spend an afternoon cooking childhood favorites together!

Free Gift Ideas

Whether on a budget or shopping for a woman that never wants you to spend money on her, it is always great to have some free gift ideas. Here are some options:

  1. Family Cooking Experience: For a fun bonding experience, you could meet up for an afternoon together and make some childhood favorites or decide to make some of grandma's favorite recipes. This is also a great way to get children and extended family involved.
  2. Free Local Activities: Whether taking advantage of a local park or free museum, spending time together is often the best gift. Check out the newspaper or city website for ideas of free places to go.
  3. Game Night: When was the last time you had a family game night...especially with Mom involved? Not only can you enjoy some free entertainment and bonding, but it can bring back fun memories of childhood games.
  4. Homemade Gifts: Homemade gifts are perfect for gifts from children, but they are not just for kids anymore! If you haven't already checked out, it's time to go! Find wonderful, unique, and non-cheesy ideas for crafts and other unique homemade gifts.
  5. Photos, Poems, and More: Updated photos are an old standby but can be done in unique and creative ways these days. While you can still provide a family photo to Mom, you could also put together a photo slideshow on DVD by scanning photos to the computer. Also, suggest doing a family photo session that includes mom, grandmas, or other women in your life. Get a family friend or use a tripod to take some photos of the whole group together. If you have other talents, such as painting, writing poems, or playing instruments, these can provide great gifts as well.

Send Me Your Clever Gift Ideas for Mom!

I hope that this article has provided some great gift ideas for shopping for a tricky mother or woman in your life. If you have any clever or unique gift ideas for mom that you don't mind sharing, I'd love for you to post them in the comments below, and I will add them above. Thanks—and happy shopping!

© 2013 Thrifty Lady


Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on November 13, 2015:

You have included many ideas that will fit well with the ones I am going to give gifts.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on November 20, 2014:

my mother in law likes the massage roller but when someone bought a massage chair, she threw the roller away

Thrifty Lady (author) on December 09, 2013:

Happy to help iguidenetwork! I'm sure your mom would love a getaway :)

iguidenetwork from Austin, TX on December 09, 2013:

These are great suggestions... I admit that as a guy I find it very hard to think of gifts for my mother without her complaining that it's wrong, that it doesn't fit, etc. Maybe I could give her a short getaway holiday and a lovely dinner... With flowers maybe... Thanks for your fantastic hub btw

Thrifty Lady (author) on May 10, 2013:

Great idea with the phone. We recently started using Skype to chat with family members and they are all so excited that we are able to see each other on the calls. It makes it so much more personal when you are talking from a distance.

Rpenafiel from United States on May 10, 2013:

I certainly agree! The simplest, unique, practical, and handcrafted gifts can be considered the most thoughtful gifts that a mom could ever have; those that are delicately crafted out of love and personal touch. A gift is even more meaningful if meant to make their life better. Like the Just5 phone that I gave my mom a week ago. We barely see each other lately, and she was so thankful that now she’s got a way to call me when I am out late from work.

Thrifty Lady (author) on May 09, 2013:

I couldn't agree more Ceres!

Ceres Schwarz on May 09, 2013:

These are all very good Mother's Day gift ideas especially for those that are having trouble choosing what kind of gifts to give their mothers. But people should also remember that even the simplest gifts can mean a lot to their mothers as long as they are sincere and the gift comes from the heart.

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