Pretty sure she already has one of those...
November 24, 2011 3:32 PM   Subscribe

I want to get my mom something she'll actually like for Christmas. This is seemingly impossible. What do you get for someone who already has everything they want or need?

Mom is a wonderful person, and we are very close, but she is the most difficult to shop for person, possibly ever. Some details about my current predicament:

Mom: 50. Lives in small town (spa there is terrible, and she already gets her hair and nails done and massages whenever she wants to; there are no stores there besides walmart, so giftcards are not an option; there are no nice restaurants). Does not understand technology. Does not read books she hasn't picked out herself. Does not like to cook or bake. Is not outdoorsy. Has 3 dogs (but I would prefer not to get anything "pet-focused"). Likes jewelry, but not "handmade" stuff. Isn't a big drinker. Likes perfume (but it has to be something she has already smelt). Likes classic rock music (already has a record player). Already has an abundance of paper goods and candles.

Me: Poor student/temp in Ottawa, Canada. No car (so roadtrips out of the question). No recent photos of me (so no "photo album of pictures of yourself"). Not crafty. Can't afford to spend more than $100 on gift for Mom.

I want to get her an actual thing, not just a donation to a charity (she prefers to choose her own anyway), especially since I got my dad actual things, and I don't want her to feel unappreciated. Can you help me, Mefites? Any and all suggestions are appreciated!
posted by meesha to Shopping (41 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
posted by 4ster at 3:37 PM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Is it out of the question to spend a little money on someone taking a really good photo of you and putting the image in a decent frame?

My parents have always been similar to your mom, quite happy to have good photos of me and my sistes.
posted by ambient2 at 3:38 PM on November 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

I came in to say exactly what ambient2 said. Give her a nice picture of you, or of the family, or something similar.
posted by erstwhile at 3:48 PM on November 24, 2011

posted by springload at 3:49 PM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: In retrospect, I really should have mentioned this in the original post: We're having professional family photos taken once I get home for Christmas, so I don't think she's going to need another individual picture of me go along with the dozens she already has all over the house (only child yay).
posted by meesha at 3:51 PM on November 24, 2011

I realise your mother is not much like the also difficult-to-buy for mother in this question, but thought I'd mention it in case you haven't seen it and any of the ideas in there are helpful.
posted by paduasoy at 3:53 PM on November 24, 2011

Mattress heater? They're much nicer than electric blankets and are PURE LUXURY in winter. (I had a Sunbeam that lasted for about 10 years, then I replaced it with a Sears model that was DOA but the free replacement for that has been going strong for another 8 years or so. Be prepared for a possible return - enclose a gift receipt.)

Or, because I'm sitting here freezing my butt off, I'm thinking that down-filled slippers are a great gift. Doofy-looking but the warmest slippers I've found yet.
posted by Quietgal at 3:54 PM on November 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

Would she go for slippers or a nice robe, or maybe a nice pair of gloves or something else for the cold?
posted by MadamM at 3:56 PM on November 24, 2011

Cozy gifts, like the mattress warmer and slippers Quietgal mentioned, are great. You could even do a little coziness gift basket with an electric throw blanket
($20-30 at Target), slippers, and cute flannel jammies. Does she watch movies? Maybe include a DVD to watch while snuggled in her cozy gifts?
posted by dayintoday at 3:59 PM on November 24, 2011

If you have a sibling to go in on it with you, a fresh cut flower subscription.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:07 PM on November 24, 2011

The best gift for someone who already has everything they want or need is something they neither want nor need. Have you tried Archie McPhee?
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:11 PM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can you get her an experience of some sort? A spa date or a cookery class or an art class? Something to do with a hobby that she already has or one that she has wanted to pursue?
posted by gauche at 4:28 PM on November 24, 2011

Really good socks, whatever = really good for her (for me that's either stripy, or made of something expensive). I wish more people would give me socks, actually, so possibly my own sock desire is colouring my opinion.
posted by thylacinthine at 4:30 PM on November 24, 2011

If there's no nice shops or restaurants in her town, and she doesn't cook or bake, I imagine she doesn't get to eat a lot of luxury-style foods. What about a gift basket with really nice (ready-to-eat) foods? Cheeses, wines, exotic fruit, nice cookies, chocolates?

Alternatively, with three dogs she presumably walks a lot. Good socks/shoes, a pedometer, map book, book of good local trails?
posted by lollusc at 4:31 PM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cashmere hat and gloves, or gloves and scarf, or slippers or house socks or some combination? Useful, luxurious.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:33 PM on November 24, 2011

Even if she doesn't do much cooking, maybe she still eats? I've had great success with making baskets of local edible goodies, sometimes including handmade baked goods but usually just some nice coffee, tea, chocolate, cheese, and whatever other tasty things are available from your local better-than-Walmart food options.
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:36 PM on November 24, 2011

Behold, Zingerman's.

Their catalog is far deeper than you might think upon first glance. I recommend, well, anything, really, but if your mom doesn't like to cook or bake there are many many options for wonderful things that only require heating in the oven for freshly-baked enjoyment. If she's adventurous in her taste and just isn't into the hard work, they've got you covered there. Spanish tinned tuna? Amazing little Tunisian olives? You can in fact buy her the equivalent of a party in a box.
posted by Mizu at 4:48 PM on November 24, 2011 [8 favorites]

Tiffany has some sterling silver jewelry around $100, perhaps she would enjoy that?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:49 PM on November 24, 2011

Best answer: My mother is also notoriously difficult to buy for, but I got a lot of brownie points for her birthday gift earlier this month. I wandered into a jewellery/accessories/handbag shop, and found folding umbrellas in a plastic case. Hard to explain, but it looks like a tall slender pink vase. When you unscrew it, lo and behold, it's a folding umbrella and the top of the vase (and imitation rose) is the handle.

Kind of like this but a flower in a vase instead of a bottle.

Would she appreciate and use something like that? Practical but unusually attractive?
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:50 PM on November 24, 2011

You mother sounds like mine. I'm thinking about doing the Harry and David monthly fruit thing. Everyone raves about the pears. She doesn't really go for gourmet stuff.
posted by shoesietart at 5:07 PM on November 24, 2011

What about a nice cashmere scarf?
posted by elizeh at 5:10 PM on November 24, 2011

Best answer: Your Mom gets manicures and massages so she seems to enjoy some pampering. For $100 you could get some really nice skin care/bath and body type products. Even some of the expensive luxury brands have travel or gift sets that would work well with your price range I'm about your mom's age and love the new Tata Harper range which is all organic. I can't afford to buy the full-sized products, but once or twice a year, I treat myself to the starter set, which is $45.00. There are tons of on-line places that sell skin care stuff including Sephora, as well as more niche retailers. Plus, if you get a set or two, you can break it apart and wrap the items individually. Or you can do a combo type thing with some of the recommendations above such as cashmere socks or slippers and a nice foot cream.

Otherwise, I'd second the kindle. My sister, who is in her 60s got one even though she wasn't a big reader and she loves it. She's now reading all the time and she's really branched out regarding the type of books that she reads.
posted by kaybdc at 5:36 PM on November 24, 2011

Hey, if she already has everything she might want, maybe a heartfelt letter/card describing all of the things you admire in her?

Alternatively: tickets to a Heart (or other suitable classic rock band) concert in Ottawa! Check out for upcoming concerts.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 5:36 PM on November 24, 2011

I'm thinking about doing the Harry and David monthly fruit thing. Everyone raves about the pears.
Fruit of the Month Club:)
posted by leigh1 at 5:41 PM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe something like an Apple TV (although I think it is $120 in Canada).

Personally, I'd go for a Kindle or Kobo. Kobo is on sale at the Indigo website, for Black Friday, apparently.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:43 PM on November 24, 2011

Believe it or not I've been sending my mom Omaha Steaks for Mother's Day for the last few years. She's not an avowed carnivore or anything, but she seems to love them, and she's one of those "hard to shop for" people too. You could even send it with a message like "let's have a fancy dinner together" and you can get together and cook the steaks (or fish or pork chops - they have lots of options). You can get a small assortment for around $50.

My mom is diabetic, so Harry and David or Fruit of the Month is not a good choice, plus I think the unexpectedness of "Steaks!" was amusing to her. YMMV of course.
posted by cabingirl at 6:15 PM on November 24, 2011

A bird house and a big bag of birdseed.
posted by msittig at 6:55 PM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

If she has an ounce of interest in drawing/creating you could get her a moleskin sketchbook, some portable watercolors (Winsor Newton) some pens and a book like Everyday Matters or an Illustrated life both by Danny Gregory. Sketching/watercolor is very engaging and she may fall deeply in love with it! There are legions of sketch groups on the internet. Maybe an art class. Mature people often like to do something they've always longed to do..... might some sort of art-thing fill that bill?
posted by naplesyellow at 7:23 PM on November 24, 2011

a small piece of art!
posted by tarantula at 7:49 PM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

What about a super-plush warm robe? My folks live in a similar shopping-deprived area, and I've learned that the stuff they get at WalMart is cheap and plentiful but often falls apart if it's clothing/accessories.

Perhaps a memory journal? Then eventually you'll get a present, too!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:54 PM on November 24, 2011

I'd suggest a perfume sample kit and a gift certificate from somewhere like The Perfumed Court. You can get themed kits, era-specific kits, particular scent types, the whole nine. I've been called the girl with every gift already covered, and personally I'd love this.
posted by theraflu at 9:11 PM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If she likes beauty products and trying out fancy new things, you could get her a birchbox gift membership. (I don't know how to make a link on my phone, but it's Once a month, they send 4 or 5 samples of high end fancy beauty products. You can get 3, 6, or 12 month memberships and the 12 month one is 110.
posted by Weeping_angel at 9:22 PM on November 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Tickets to a big production musucal theater production near her town, or subscription series tickets to a local theater group or synphony Orchestra? How far is she from ottowa, could you bring her in for a visit?
posted by Lylo at 9:49 PM on November 24, 2011

My Mom is similar, though older and very set in her ways. So last year I got her a Netflix subscription and it turns out she really likes it, after some difficulty initially understanding how to use the Internet and the concept of a film queue. Now she can keep fairly current with recent releases and re-view older movies she hasn't seen since their original theatrical release in the 1960's, and I look a lot smarter than I am because I gifted her with it.
posted by motown missile at 11:40 PM on November 24, 2011

Maybe a nice set of new towels or sheets.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:03 AM on November 25, 2011

In this situation, I always try to give something that the person will treasure. Sometimes it's very simple, such as a hand made card with some honest and loving words that they can read anytime they're thinking of you. Sometimes, though, you can do something much bigger that they can treasure for the rest of their lives. The best gift I've ever given was to my mother a few years back. She's done writing classes over the past 15 years or so and has dozens of notebooks filled with mostly non-fiction about her life lying around in boxes. I swiped a bunch of the notebooks a few months before Christmas and transcribed and edited as many relevant stories as I could, matched them up to pictures of her throughout her life, and self-published an autobiography for her.

Years later, she's still writing and rewriting toward her own draft of that book. If you can find something like that for your mother, I can guarantee she'll love it more than anything you can buy her at the store.
posted by gregoryg at 1:19 AM on November 25, 2011

Response by poster: Great suggestions! A lot of these ideas are really good, and I'll probably a couple of the more sentimental/personal ones for her official 50th birthday next year. Thanks so much!
posted by meesha at 3:47 AM on November 25, 2011

My Mom was hard to shop for. I'm hard to shop for.

Scores for my Mom - a birthday book, with family birthdays already in it. Museum Shops are great for beautiful, tasteful gifts. Holiday decorations on a theme; Mom loved lobster, so I gave her lobster magnets and ornaments, which became a joke over the years. I gave her one of those lighted holiday houses that reminded her of her hometown.

Scores for me: charms for my charm bracelet, raspberry liqueur, new music, art calendar, glass ornament of my dog's breed.

Helpde her start a collection, so you can add to it every year.
posted by theora55 at 10:08 AM on November 25, 2011

Also, I used to give my Mom an amaryllis every year. Inexpensive, beautiful, easy.
posted by theora55 at 10:26 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

My Oma is 87, and has everything she could possibly want. Including socks. =) She also doesn't leave the house much any more, so gift certificates for spas or Tim Horton's donuts aren't as useful as they used to be.
So its really hard to shop for her. She doesn't need stuff, but she loves getting presents - its not so much the object, I think, but the idea that someone thought of her, and got her something just for her to use. The pampering aspect. The thought that counts. =)
Here are some ideas that I return to. The point is to get something that is used up, and can be given over and over.
Fancy hand cremes, body lotions, shower gel stuff - anything she can use herself at home.
Non-candle scented items so her home smells good are also appreciated.
Food - she likes chocolate, and licorice, but never buys it for herself. Last Christmas I made stews and soups and froze them, and that went over really well. Homemade jam, too.
And flowers. Never underestimate the power of a lovely floral arrangement, or potted flowers (depending on the season).
posted by sandraregina at 12:02 PM on November 25, 2011

Best answer: My mother was impossible to buy for. "I have everything I need." "I only want for you to be happy." Etc. Etc.

A silly yet nice gift is best -- of food, so it will go away and not clutter up a shelf. I gave her a 5-pound Hershey Bar, which got a big laugh and which she enjoyed a bite per day.

For better chocolate, give Harry and David Truffles.
posted by KRS at 4:30 PM on November 25, 2011

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