Mother's Day, on May 13, is one of those gift-giving occasions where people can end up spending more than they may like on things they rarely buy, such as delivered flowers, mail-order fruit or fancy soap.
It's all worth it, of course, if it makes Mom happy. That's really the point, isn't it?
But this column is about saving money, and there are always a few tricks that can help you get the most from your money.
The thing that can make Mother's Day tricky, and also Father's Day on June 17, is that mothers and fathers are less likely these days to live down the street or across town, and more likely to live out of state. That means you're more likely to order a gift that will need to be delivered.
If you're ordering flowers, you might save a little money or get more quality assurance by tracking down a local florist in the town where Mom lives.
If you order flowers or other gifts online, that's a good opportunity to get some frequent flier miles for your airline account. It's hard to find big savings on holiday-related gifts, but getting some airline miles out of the deal can at least add some extra value.
With airlines that allow frequent flier miles to expire after certain periods of time without account activity, such as US Airways and Southwest, a small purchase from one of their partners will reset the expiration date on your account and add more miles. Delta Skymiles no longer expire, but most airlines will zero out a mileage account after 18 to 24 months without activity.
Email accounts, including mine, are bursting with Mother's Day offers for things such as mail-order chocolate-dipped strawberries, flowers from nationwide merchants, spa gift certificates and so on. Those sorts of purchases are often tied to frequent flier promotions, which you can find on airlines' websites.
For example, United Airlines will give you 30 award miles for every dollar spent on flowers from FTD, so if you spend $40 on flowers, you get 1,200 miles. With most airlines, you need 25,000 miles for a free flight.
Many airlines also have shopping hubs in the frequent flier section of their websites that allow you to get frequent flier miles at many retailers. For example, if you wanted to buy a Nook e-reader from Barnes & Noble (there's a $20 discount for Mother's Day), you could click through to Barnes & Noble's website from US Airways' Dividend Miles Storefront, and get one mile for every dollar spent.
Likewise, if you're taking Mom out to dinner, there's a chance the restaurant participates in your favorite airline's frequent flier dining program.
These programs, which don't cost anything to join, typically link your frequent flier number to a credit card or debit card, and when you use that card to buy a meal at a restaurant in that program, you get frequent flier miles.
The miles are awarded automatically, with no coupons or certificates needed.
Currently, Delta's Skymiles Dining is offering a 1,200-mile bonus for new members, and members get three miles per dollar spent at participating restaurants, so long as the member provides Delta with an email address.
So, someone who signs up for Skymiles Dining as a new member, then spends $100 at a participating restaurant, would add 1,500 miles to their account.
Hey, those frequent flier miles could eventually lead to a plane ticket to go visit Mom.
Looking ahead, Father's Day is just over a month away. If Dad likes books, plan ahead if you expect to mail one. Postage is expensive, but you can save a few dollars by sending a book at the Media Mail rate through the U.S. Postal Service. Items that don't qualify as media mail can be sent less expensively at the Parcel Post rate.
Media Mail and Parcel Post can take 8 days to arrive, so that's where planning ahead comes in.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.
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