Personal Finance

Wives get more than moms on Mother’s Day

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Did you nod off and forget that Mother's Day is this Sunday?

Here's something that might wake you up: People plan to spend more for the mother of their children than their actual mother on Mother's Day, according to a survey by retail site

Respondents said they'd ante up $81 on average for their wives' gifts and $62 for their moms' gifts this year. Perhaps surprisingly, expected spending on mothers-in-law was $65.

Now, moms aren't necessarily being neglected, said Howard Schaffer of The higher averages could reflect the fact that fewer people plan to buy presents for wives and mothers-in-law, and those that do might be bigger spenders, thus pulling up the average.

"Husbands might be spending extra because they're getting their wives gifts on behalf of their kids, too," Schaffer said.

Overall, 98 percent of people surveyed said they intend to buy their mother a present, while 92 percent and 68 percent said they'll give a gift to their wife and mother-in-law, respectively.

Tech gifts for Mother's Day

That 98 percent figure is higher than last year's, which could be a positive signal for retailers, Schaffer said. The 2015 survey found only 75 percent of people saying they planned to buy a Mother's Day gift.

The survey queried more than 1,000 U.S. adults in early April, roughly evenly divided by sex, and results were within a 3 to 5 point margin of error.

If you're scrambling to find a last-minute gift, considering skipping the flowers. Studies find that experiences make people happier than material things, and the second most-desired present among moms surveyed was a massage or day spa package.

The number one goody moms said they wanted? "Personalized gifts."

Indeed, behavioral economists have found that gifts are financially "inefficient" (recipients tend to value them at a lower price than what givers actually paid) so it's up to the giver to make up for that inefficiency by demonstrating familiarity with the recipient's preferences and desires. In other words, the research agrees: The more personal, the better.

What's interesting is that "personal" doesn't necessarily mean the gift must be all about the person getting it. Another study suggests that the absolute best present you can get is one that caters to the tastes of both the recipient and you. Think inside jokes and shared memories.

"People underestimate how positively gifts that reflect the giver are actually received," said Lauren Human, study co-author and McGill psychology professor.

Finally, if you're really stumped, just ask. Stanford and Harvard professors found that people appreciate getting gifts they specifically requested more than unsolicited ones.

And the research is clear on one more thing: No matter what else you do, wrap that present.