Where did all that December shopping time go? Suddenly it’s Christmas Eve, and you still have gifts to buy—not to mention a dinner to prepare and a gaggle of over-excited kids to subdue. Luckily, in our always-connected digital world, you can beam a present across the internet in moments. Admittedly, the recipient might not get the same warm glow he or she would from unwrapping a large box decorated with a bow, but they’re sure to appreciate the sentiment. We’ve collected a list of thoughtful digital tokens that you can give at the very last moment.
1. Shopping vouchers
Instead of purchasing a physical gift card, you can send someone an electronic voucher from a retailer like Walmart or Best Buy. Think of it like the classic cash-in-a-card gift, but entirely digital, so you can send it, accompanied by a personal greeting, via email or text.
First, choose a website where you know the recipient spends money. Search this retail site for e-gifts or e-vouchers, or perform a Google search for the company name and “gift card.” You should find the relevant page fairly easily. Then decide how much to spend, stump up the payment, and write a thoughtful note to go with it.
For example, on Amazon’s gift card page, you select a decorative pattern from a list of templates, pick a given monetary value (or enter your own figure), and choose a delivery method. All of Amazon’s delivery options—email, text, or a web link to share over an instant messaging app—can occur instantly. Finally, enter a message and specify a delivery date and time. You can pay through your account’s pre-loaded financial information.
Moments after purchase, an email should arrive in the inbox of your friend or relative. This message will state the amount of the gift and provide a code to use when redeeming your gift. In addition to its speed, this type of gift lets the recipient choose something they really, actually want—which puts it ahead of a lot of physical presents.
2. App store credit
Want to give the gift of content? The iTunes Store lets you purchase credit that your friend or relative can spend on music, TV shows, movies, or apps. Unfortunately, this option will only work if the recipient owns an Apple product, as the Google Play store does not offer the same type of credit.
To purchase this type of voucher on your computer, start by opening iTunes. Then look under the Quick Links heading on the right and click the Send iTunes Gifts. From here, you can enter an email address for the lucky recipient, an amount of money, and a personalized message. Apple will beam the e-voucher right over, and then your friend can spend her credit on anything in the iTunes Store.
If you’d prefer to get more specific, you can give a lone item. Browse to find that special app or song in the iTunes Store, click the little down arrow next to its price, and pick Gift This. Again, you’ll need to enter the email address of the recipient, plus an optional message. Apple will process everything with your pre-registered payment details.
You don’t have to sit down at a computer to shop on iTunes. If you’re out and about, work through the same process on an iPhone or iPad. Open the App Store app, tap your profile icon in the top right corner, and select Send Gift Card by Email. Then enter the cash amount, email address, and message.
Alternatively, find a suitable item in the App Store, tap the three dots in the top right corner, and choose Gift. The iTunes Store app also lets you follow the same process—just click the Share icon instead of the three dots.
Books always make great gifts—heck, Icelanders give enough to create a so-called Christmas book flood each year—but they’re just so darn…physical. In the 21st century, an ebook can travel from one side of the world to the other in an instant, no postage fees (or wrapping paper) required.
Before purchasing, make sure the recipient owns a suitable ereader device, although many platforms also let you read ebooks on a phone. You can make your purchase through one of several digital bookstores, including Amazon, Google, and Apple.
To shop within Amazon’s Kindle ecosystem, open the Kindle Store in a web browser and choose the ebook you want to send. From the list of purchasing options on the right, click the Give as a Gift button, then enter the recipient’s email address and a message. If you don’t know your friend’s email address, you can also send the gift link to yourself and then share it with them.
As we mentioned, you can’t give apps or movies through Google Play, but you can give ebooks: Go to the Google Play Books Store, find a good ebook, and click the Buy as Gift button on the right. As usual, you need to supply an email address for the recipient, and you can also add a personalized message.
For iTunes, the process is the same as the one we described in the last section. On a computer, open iTunes, find the ebook’s page and click Gift This from the drop-down menu under the price. On an iOS device, open the iTunes Store app, navigate to the product page for the ebook you want, tap the Share button, and pick Gift.
4. Digital subscriptions
The best Christmas present is the kind that people keep enjoying long after December rolls to a close. How about six months of Netflix or a whole year of Spotify? A digital subscription makes a great last-minute gift.
For Netflix, you can buy someone a subscription as a physical gift card or, if you live in the U.S., have it delivered digitally over email. However, you don’t purchase these e-gifts straight from Netflix. Instead, you must head to Amazon, Target, Walmart, or PayPal. On one of these sites, simply choose how much you want to spend, enter the recipient’s email address, and you’re done.
You can also send Spotify subscriptions as e-cards. Open the Spotify ecard page and pick the length of the subscription you want to give as a present. Then add a personalized message and enter the email address for the lucky new subscriber. If you’re ordering early, you can specify a delivery date; otherwise, Spotify will immediately send a gift email to the recipient.
Finally, you can gift an Apple Music or Google Play Music subscription from the linked sites. You should follow the same process as we’ve discussed for the other items—choose the length of the subscription, enter the recipient’s email address, and add a message. Now that’s how you save Christmas.