We all agree that motherhood is a very big job.
In fact, more than 35% of Americans believe that if motherhood was a paid position, it deserves a six-figure salary.
Mother’s Day is May 8, and this year Americans are expected to spend about $31.7 billion showering their moms with gifts, according to the National Retail Federation, up $3.6 billion from 2021’s record spending. More than 80% of Americans are planning to hit the stores to pick up a Mother’s Day gift this year.
After the winter holidays, Mother’s Day is the second-largest spending holiday in the U.S. ― even bigger than Valentine’s Day. But how are we spending our money? And are dads getting shorted when Father’s Day rolls around? DebtHammer.org set out to learn.
We surveyed more than 700 Americans to learn their spending plans, how they plan to pay for their gifts and how their spending on mom compares to what they’ll spend on dad when Father’s Day rolls around.
Here’s what we found.
We would pay moms slightly more: If motherhood was a paid position, 38% think moms deserve a salary of $100,000 or more. In total, 66% think a mom’s salary should be higher than $60,000 per year. To compare, about 57% feel fatherhood deserves a salary of $60,000 or higher, while 29% think it should be $100,000 or more.
It’s about the experience: 38% plan to gift mom with a special activity, like a restaurant meal, spa day or other special outings. And more than 51% are planning to send mom flowers. Greeting cards, jewelry, gift cards, clothing and handmade items round out the list of most popular gift options.
Mother’s Day isn’t just for moms: Mothers-in-law, stepmoms, grandmothers, wives, daughters and even some of our friends will be getting gifts this year on Mother’s Day.
We’re spending a bit less on dad: While only 31% have set a Mother’s Day budget of less than $50, 46% plan to spend that same amount on dad when Father’s Day rolls around. 37% plan to spend between $50 to $100 on mom, as opposed to 28% on dad. The big spenders are keeping it even, though. The same 3% plan to spend more than $500 each for both mom and dad.
Some of us are boosting our spending this year: About 27% have said they plan to spend more than last year, while 61% will spend about the same amount. Only 10% plan to spend less than last year.
We’re limiting purchases to what we can afford: The lessons mom taught us about money management must have sunk in. Only about 8% of Americans are planning to accrue credit card debt, use a Buy Now Pay Later plan or take out a payday loan to pay for mom’s gifts. About 6% said they plan to pool their money to give one family gift.
Many of us are more pessimistic this year: Of the 73% of Americans who say they are planning to spend the same amount of money or less this year, 32% said it’s because they’re worse off financially, 20% cite rising inflation, 30% say their moms don’t want or need expensive items and 8% don’t want to take on additional debt.
The bottom line
Mother’s Day is a big deal for many American families, and most people realize the day is about more than gifts. The perceived financial value of motherhood as a job shows how much time and effort mothers have devoted over the years.
And Mother’s Day isn’t just for mothers. It’s a day to recognize and celebrate other women who’ve filled an important role in your life, whether it’s a stepmother, mother-in-law, daughter or even a friend.
DebtHammer collected survey responses from a random sample of more than 700 adults aged 18 or older via SurveyMonkey and DebtHammer’s subscriber list from April 18-22. All respondents live in the United States. Each response was anonymized using a unique user ID.
Of those we surveyed, 58% were female, 41% were male, and 1% identified as either non-binary/other or preferred not to say. About 28% of respondents were aged 18 to 29, 41% were aged 30 to 44, 21% were between ages 45 to 60 and 10% were over the age of 60.
Mother’s Day by the numbers
37%: The amount of phone traffic spikes on the second Sunday of May each year
1914: The year President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day a national holiday.
113 million: The number of Mother’s Day greeting cards Hallmark estimates are purchased each year.
$245.76: The average amount the National Retail Federation expects to be spent per person this year on Mother’s Day gifts.
The professors weigh in
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to anyone who is struggling financially but still wants to honor a parent on one of these holidays?
Dr. Shaker Zahra
Carlson School of Management, the University of Minnesota
You cannot buy love — just show it your own way … be genuine… be there… connect… show you care, even if you do it empty handed….
Dr. Robert Sprague
Professor of Legal Studies in Business, University of Wyoming College of Business
Your time may be the most valuable gift you can give a parent. If you live in the same city or only a short drive away, spend the day with your parents. There are plenty of free things you can do that day, such as going to a park or looking through old photos and reminiscing. If you live far away, hand write a note to your parent—don’t email or text— telling them how much they mean to you.
What steps, in your opinion, can people take to help stay on budget when shopping for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts?
Dr. Deborah Y. Cohn
Interim Dean, School of Management, New York Institute of Technology
If you have an open relationship with your parents then you can discuss your budget with them and let your parents know that you love them, but that you have bills to pay. They will remember being in a similar position when they were your age. If you do not have a good relationship with them, then fix in your mind what you can spend and stick to it. Many websites let you search for gifts by price points. Use that feature to only look at gifts that are within your price range
Dr. Dorothy Kelly
Personal Finance Lecturer at University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce
I always encourage people to look for ways to increase their income with a second job or a side hustle such as dog-walking, babysitting, pet-sitting, laundry, yardwork, organizing, errands, etc. You have to pay additional taxes on self-employment income, but running a side hustle has two advantages. First, it brings in cash. Second, it teaches you about running a business, accounting, finances, and taxes. Those skills are useful both personally and professionally.
What’s the most important piece of advice you have to help Americans build savings?
Zahra: Start saving early, develop a life-long habit—even small amounts of savings grow over time. Teach your children early to save, make it a family tradition. Avoid debt, except in extreme cases. Look into your spending patterns overtime: eliminate unnecessary items; be methodical and disciplined in saving for your family’s future.
Dr. Lawrence White
Professor, Stern School of Business, New York University
Establish a monthly budget that includes a component of savings. And then “pay yourself first” — deposit that amount in your savings vehicle — before spending the remainder. Also, take advantage of the tax savings (e.g., via IRAs) that can accompany such savings. Also, take advantage of any retirement account contribution that one’s employer offers.