With the pandemic dragging on and the weather growing colder, trawling through retail stores seeking gifts is a daunting prospect. Shopping online can be just as time-consuming, and you may run into delivery delays due to a series of global supply chain issues. Even if you successfully secure a haul of presents, many will wind up in closets or charity stores. Maybe it’s time to try an online gift.
Digital gifts are so much easier. Shop from your cozy bed. No need for gift-wrapping or shipping. You can find something they really want, or give them the chance to choose for themselves. We have a virtual smorgasbord of delicious digital gift ideas for you.
Some Online Gifts to Try
- Gift Cards
- Movie and TV Subscriptions
- Music Streaming Services
- Ebooks and Audiobooks
- Digital News and Magazines
- Gaming Subscriptions
- Password Managers and Security
- Online Teaching Courses
- Fitness Services
- Shopping Loyalty Programs
- Donating to Charity In Their Name
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They may not be all that imaginative, but electronic gift cards let your loved ones choose what they actually want, and it's never disappointing to receive one (assuming it's at a place you like). Gift cards are everywhere—you can also look beyond the retail giants to find highly rated independent stores, delis, or restaurants near your giftee.
- OpenTable offers gift cards for restaurants in various locations, making it easy to find highly rated eating spots near your giftee and set them up with a tasty treat.
- Etsy gift cards can be spent with a huge variety of independent sellers, and it’s a virtual treasure trove of quirky and unique items that make great gifts.
- Amazon gift cards are an obvious pick for the sheer breadth of choice.
- Target, REI, Walmart, or Home Depot are other good choices.
Movie and TV Subscriptions
We are living in a golden age of entertainment. It has never been easier to get great TV and film pumped into your home. Cord-cutting gives us more control, and there’s an increasingly wide choice of streaming services you can give as presents.
- Sling TV for live and local TV ($35+ per month): This app works on phones, PCs, or a streaming device like Roku and has live TV channels, just like a cable subscription would, just over the internet. It's one of the most affordable live streaming services and lets you choose between channel bundles. Live TV is ideal for folks who love sports and talk shows. There are a few other Great Live-TV streaming apps worth looking at.
- Amazon Prime comes with Prime Video ($39 for 3 months): You get a lot of original shows, like The Expanse, along with free shipping, music, games, and books on top of a large library of shows and movies.
- Disney+ for families ($80 per year): This makes a thoughtful gift for those with young kids, although many adults will also enjoy a dose of nostalgia with old Disney movies and shows, not to mention the Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar universes.
- Netflix sells gift cards at retailers like Target and Amazon: It boasts an impressive library of TV shows and movies, including exclusives like the recent smash hit, Squid Game. To get 4K streams on up to four devices simultaneously the price jumps from $9 to $18 per month.
Music makes a wonderful gift. It can conjure memories, boost your mood, and get you dancing. Our guide to the best music streaming services runs through our favorites and why we like them in more detail, but these three subscriptions are the best options for most people:
- Spotify Premium 3-month gift card ($30): If someone doesn't have Apple Music or Spotify already, it’s a slick service with the best music discovery algorithms, solid apps for every platform, and an enormous library of tracks, albums, podcasts, and playlists.
- Apple Gift Cards work for Apple Music ($10 per month): It boasts millions of lossless tracks, and the mobile apps are solid, but the desktop app and music discovery can’t match Spotify, nor can its compatibility outside of Apple's ecosystem.
- Google Play Gift cards are usable with YouTube Music, which offers a huge library of music starting from $10 per month, but if you watch a lot of YouTube videos, YouTube Premium costs $12 a month and also gives you access to watch and download ad-free music videos.
Ebooks and Audiobooks
There’s nothing quite like settling down with a good book, whether you read it on a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone. Ebooks and ebook subscriptions make great gifts, and there are some fantastic audiobook versions with big-name casts for folks who love to listen. Amazon dominates this scene, but it’s not the only game in town.
- Amazon Kindle Unlimited ($48 for 6 months): This lets a book reader with the Kindle app or popular ebook reading device borrow up to 20 books at a time from a library of millions.
- Audible audio books ($45 for 3 months): You get one free book to download per month and access to a bunch of included Amazon audio books, including many best sellers. You can also gift individual ebooks or audiobooks by selecting the “Give as a Gift” option on Amazon.
- Scribd ebook subscription service ($50 for 6 months): It's billed as the “Netflix of books.” There are around a million included ebooks, and you also get access to audiobooks, magazines, podcasts, sheet music, and additional services like TuneIn and Mubi.
- Epic! is a digital reading platform for kids 12 and under ($22 for 3 months): It has more than 40,000 titles and includes audiobooks, interactive videos, quizzes, tracking tools, badges and rewards to encourage reading, and personalized recommendations.
Digital News and Magazines
Some of the best journalism you can find online requires a subscription. Magazine, journal, and newspaper subscriptions make great gifts for anyone.
- WIRED is just $5 for a year of unlimited online access, a digital edition of the magazine, and the print edition (if you like). It’s ideal for any tech lover in your life.
- The New York Times offers $25 for 3 months for unlimited articles, podcasts, and videos via the website or app.
- The Atlantic costs $60 per year and offers an array of well-reported stories and newsletters.
- The New Yorker has a digital-only subscription for $100 per year that includes new articles, access to the archive, and crossword puzzles.
There may be too many gaming subscription services now, but that’s good news for gift shoppers with gamers on their list.
- PlayStation Plus costs $10 per month or $60 per year. It's essential for anyone who wants to play online multiplayer on a PlayStation 5 or PS4, and it gives access to monthly free games. If they already have it, consider Sony's PlayStation Now game streaming service at $10 per month, $25 for three months, or $60 per year. It boasts hundreds of games to stream or download on a PS4, PS5, or PC.
- Xbox Game Pass Ultimate ($15 per month) might be the best deal in gaming. It includes hundreds of titles, including frequent new releases, to download and play on Xbox or PC. It also includes access to the Xbox Cloud Gaming streaming service so you can play on your Android phone or tablet.
- Nintendo Switch Online ($20 per year) is a must-have for online play and cloud game saving. It also gives access to classic NES and SNES games. If you opt to add the Expansion Pack, you’ll pay $50 for a year, but this adds N64 and Sega Genesis games and DLC for Animal Crossing.
- Google Play Pass for Android phones costs $5 per month or $30 a year and provides access to a library of ad-free games and apps for Android phones and tablets. You can’t gift the subscription specifically, but you can send a Google Play gift code for someone to spend on Play Pass.
- Apple Arcade boasts for iPhone and iPad is also $5 per month and has more than 200 games for iPhone or iPad, some of them excellent and costs $5 per month or $50 a year. Again, there’s no specific gifting option, but an Apple Gift Card can pay for an Apple Arcade subscription.
- Steam PC game store gift cards come in various sizes and make great gifts for PC gamers. Steam has a library of more than 50,000 games.
Password Managers and Security
If you have family or friends with questionable online security habits, no amount of nagging will change their ways, but buy them a digital security gift and they might just try it. Here are a few security-related digital gift ideas. (We also have guides to the best password managers, the best VPN services, and the best smartphone security apps.)
- 1Password starts at $3 per month, and it’s our favorite password manager. It works on every platform, has tons of integrations and add-ons, and boasts lots of useful extras, like travel mode.
- NordVPN starts at $12 for a month: If you like it, costs $59 per year, or cheaper if you catch one if its frequent discount deals. It’s one of our favorite virtual private networks, deservedly popular, and offers servers all around the world. It can stop people snooping on you and help you bypass geographical restrictions.
- Malwarebytes Premium costs $60 per year and covers five devices. It goes way beyond your average antivirus program to guard against malware and other cyber threats, like phishing and malicious URLs. It’s easy to use, speedy, and less intrusive than a lot of popular antivirus software.
Online Teaching Courses
Everyone wants to acquire new skills, but motivation can be hard to come by. If your loved ones talk about learning a musical instrument, a new language, or picking up some photography skills, why not spring for some online lessons to help them get started?
- MasterClass starts at $180 per year and offers classes on all sorts of topics from seriously big name celebrities. You can get cooking classes from Gordon Ramsay, storytelling tips from Neil Gaiman, film classes from David Lynch, songwriting help from Alicia Keyes, or learn skateboarding from Tony Hawk.
- Rosetta Stone ($36 for 3 months) offers complete language learning courses. For total immersion, lessons are conducted in the target language and feature interactive real-life scenarios and pronunciation feedback.
- Lessonface gift cards start at $25. It's is an online platform to connect students of all ages and abilities with music teachers. There are lots of reviews and filters to help you find the right teacher. Rates for online lessons vary, but you can buy gift cards starting at $25.
- The School of Photography ($174 per year) has online courses, hundreds of videos, Lightroom presets, and monthly assignments. Any photographer, whether hobbyist or pro, can develop their skills.
It’s crucial to stay fit if you want good health and a general sense of wellbeing, and our favorite fitness apps and services can help anyone do it with online classes that guide workouts in your own home. Exercise some caution when gifting fitness services, though. Make sure your intended recipient is genuinely interested.
- Peloton ($13 per month) is a popular fitness brand that sells expensive exercise bikes and treadmills, but you can also get an app subscription that gives access to on-demand and live workouts that people can do with whatever equipment they have. There’s no direct way to gift Peloton membership, but you can use an Apple or Google Play gift card on the app.
- Strava ($60 per year) is an excellent tracking and training app for runners and cyclists. There is a free tier, but the subscription allows for more in-depth analysis, custom goals, route planning, segment competition, personal heatmaps, and more.
- ClassPass ($19 per month) gives access to fitness studios and gyms, a wide variety of at-home workouts, and beauty and spa treatments. Basic membership gives you eight credits, enough to book up to two classes.
Shopping Loyalty Programs
Some retail memberships or subscriptions give access to better deals, free priority shipping, and other benefits that make them highly appreciated gifts.
- Costco’s Gold Star Membership ($60 per year): The recipient gets access to more than 700 Costco locations and the website, with frequent deals to be found on everything from big-ticket electronics to wholesale groceries.
- Walmart+ membership ($98 per year): If you know a frequent Walmarter, this includes free shipping and grocery deliveries, discounts on fuel, pharmacy discounts in some states, and contactless checkout on a smartphone.
- Amazon Prime ($119 per year): You likely already know about this service, but these are the perks if you don't. It includes fast free shipping, video and music streaming, ebooks and games, and various exclusive deals and discounts.
Donating to Charity In Their Name
Many of us have more than we need, and gifts can be hit or miss. Making a charitable donation in someone’s name is a great alternative that lets people know you’re thinking of them and also does some good in the world. Just be careful to do a little research on your chosen charity or service before you spend. Organizations like Charity Navigator and Charity Watch can help you find the most deserving and trustworthy charities.
- GlobalGiving supports all kinds of projects and relief funds all around the world. You can choose to donate to a specific project in someone’s name or give them a gift card so they can pick a project.
- GiveWell is all about ensuring your donations have the highest possible positive impact. It takes no fees and supports some crucial global campaigns.
- World Wildlife Fund symbolic species adoptions ($60+) cover everything from hammerhead sharks to arctic wolves. These make great gifts for animal lovers, and come with an optional soft toy and information pack. The WWF does have a large infrastructure to support but takes its mission to protect wildlife and the environment very seriously.