In the years since I left my childhood home, I’ve lived in four states and two different countries. So there have been many years when Mother’s Day has arrived and I’ve been nowhere near home. Also, being an avid world traveler with more curiosity than budgeting sense, there has been many a Mother's Day when I felt long on love and short on cash. I appreciate my mom so much. She gave me life, then somehow managed to survive my childhood, adolescence, teenage, and young adult years (no easy feat, I promise), and even now is always "on call" whenever I need her.

As Mother’s Day approaches this year, I thought I would share some of the gifts I’ve given her over the years that have meant the most to her—without costing me anything at all. If you—like me—find yourself on a budget this year, I hope this list might give you inspiration too!

1. Create a poem just for her

The other day I was over at my folks' house and saw a poem I had written for my mom—back in 2005. She still has it, framed and hanging, in her bathroom! If you’re not a writer, no worries—use one of these free apps and craft a one-of-a-kind poem you can offer with pride.

  • Poetreat: This fun, little, free app suggests additional rhymes as you write your own. The app won "#1 in New and Notable" at its release and is social media-friendly as well as syncable with other smart devices.
  • Word Mover: Don't be distracted by the assertion that this app is just for students. If you aren’t a poet by nature, you’re a student of poetry! Word Mover is kind of like Refrigerator Poetry, but with a lot of cool tools like incorporating "found poetry" (favorite verses from famous poets), personalization options, the option to save your finished poem to a photo and print it out (great for Mother's Day cards!) and more.

2. Send her regularly scheduled emails or texts to say "I love you”

If there’s one thing I know about motherhood, it’s that time always trumps money. In other words, what Mom wants most is you. Whether you’re local or long-distance, sending her a weekly (daily, or monthly) text or email just to say "I love you" will make her feel like the luckiest, most loved mom in the world. You can even put it in your smart phone calendar with alerts so you don't forget!

3. Make her a couponing folder and fill it to the brim with savings you've clipped just for her

My mom was a couponer before I was born—literally. In fact, I think she may have been born with a coupon in her hand! For coupon-loving moms like mine, a coupon folder—pre-clipped with the items she likes most—is a treasure chest that keeps on giving. All you need for this gift is time, a pair of scissors, a small filing box or folder, and an Internet browser (or store circulars if you’re local).

  • If you need help making a coupon folder, check out this great KCL HOW-TO POST.
  • If you’re local and can drop by, make her a second coupon book with homemade coupons for time with you, help with chores, hugs, and more.

4.  Turn your unused gift cards into "free" presents for Mom

Right at this moment, I’m in possession of both an unused iTunes and Amazon gift card—each a birthday gift from a friend. It's not that I don't want to use these cards, but I just haven't had time. Gift cards are like found cash—you can use them for yourself, of course, but they’re also great for buying personalized gifts for others. Look through your stack and see if you have gift cards Mom might like—or cards you can use (such as Amazon) to shop for things she might like.

5. Make her a memory book of your favorite times together

Moms are famous for being sentimental about their children's growing-up years. On Mother's Day, meet her there with a memory book you created just for her—complete with photos and handwritten notes of your favorite memories spent together. Make sure to leave some blank pages in the back for future great memories to treasure!

6. Do something for her that she doesn't know how to do for herself

This year my mom has been quite clear—she is tired of having to turn up the television to hear the dialogue. So my dad and I are heading to the store to scope out what the issue might be, troubleshoot it, and then fix it for her (luckily Dad makes the big bucks—my contribution is all in time).

Here are some ideas for ways you might be able to help Mom:

  • Scan her treasured photos into a digital album.
  • Set up her Facebook page (and "friend" yourself first so you can stay in touch!).
  • Complete a heavy chore—cleaning gutters, spreading mulch, clearing out the attic.
  • Answer her "tech" questions—from web to phone and more.
  • Ask her what she needs—then do that thing!
Make Mother’s Day Meaningful with These 6 Fabulous, Free Gifts