Order These Digital, Non-'Thing' Gifts Right Now
Enter the digital gift. For those of us living in cramped quarters, non-"thing"
If you've got a autodidact in the family, check out the millions of virtual classes available on the internet. Take a look at Udemy for instruction in coding, business, or photography, among others; Babbel or LingQ for languages; Great Courses for science or history (and other) lectures from professors; or ArtistWorks for music lessons. Got a friend or a teen interested in standup? Check out Steve Martin's online comedy workshop with Masterclass or Gold Comedy's class for girls. Have a family member newly interested in yoga? Find classes for beginners all the way up to yoga master at Gaia . Want to up your game in the kitchen ? The Institute of Culinary Skills offers a knife-skills class for $105.
Museum or Sightseeing Memberships and Tickets
I like gifts that people can use all year, like passes to local activities or attractions. If there's a kid in your family who's crazy about dinosaurs, consider a membership to the local natural history museum. Or a ten-pack of tickets to the zoo, ice-skating rink, or ski slope, or January tickets to the theater or opera. In my neighborhood there's an indoor play space for kids that costs just a little too much; I would be thrilled with a five-pack of passes to get my kids through the worst of winter. Or if you've got a movie buff, consider a packet of tickets to the local cinema.
Podcasts and Audiobooks
Podcasts and audiobooks are the way to go if the giftee drives a lot or needs entertainment at the gym. If you're keeping costs low this season, or if your recipient is new to podcasts, you can download your favorite episodes and make a "mix" for the recipient. If they've already got favorites, consider upgrading to the premium versions of their favorites (one Lifehacker staffer is getting Marc Maron 's podcast for her dad; I'm getting a Slate Plus subscription with enhanced podcasts for one of my news junkie relatives.) For kids, Pinna offers a ton of options. Last year I gave my mom an Audible subscription.
A colleague here at Lifehacker got her dad a gift card for custom 3-D printing , which is so out there that I feel like I have to get it for someone this Christmas. You upload a model, choose your materials, and they'll print and ship your design to you. Confused? There are tutorials, how-to's, and "inspirations" from the community.
I can't afford to hire a real interior decorator, and I find them kind of intimidating anyway. Enter the virtual decorator: If you search Etsy for interior design services , your recipient can get online advice, mood boards, and shopping help to spruce up one room or the whole house. But before you consider redecorating, you might consider reorganizing: The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals will help you find a professional organizer who will come to your house or and help you clear out your closets. For that matter, you can hire someone from TaskRabbit to come help out a family member who needs shelves put up or errands run ( here's how to get a gift card for TaskRabbit.) If one of your friends has a new baby, a gift certificate for meal delivery from a local fancy-food shop, or for a house cleaning service, might just make their year. Homemade vouchers for babysitting are also always appreciated.
For those friends who prefer to read on their Kindle or tablet, you can give a digital copy of your favorite book via Amazon or a CD via iTunes. This year I'm giving a friend a copy of Station Eleven and a Margo Price album . For the video gamers in your life, you might consider an app store gift card so they can buy extra power-ups or whatever in their favorite games.
If someone gave me some personal training sessions, or a gift card for a massage or pedicure, I would love them forever. You can call the spa or gym and likely get a gift certificate e-mailed in five minutes.
If you've got a college student, they might appreciate a virtual private network to encrypt their communications and keep their data safe. This is likely the kind of gift that the recipient will want to participate in selecting and installing, but if you need some basic instructions, check out this how-to from Slate .
How about the person who really doesn't want any more
, but is still kind of a foodie?
-of-the-month clubs extend the delicious treats of the
Magazine and Newspaper Subscriptions
Print magazines aren't just for doctors' offices, and your sibling might enjoy getting the New Yorker or the Atlantic , or Food and Wine . I got my husband a subscription to the Washington Post, which with Amazon Prime is free for six months and then $4 after. (Okay, that's really a gift for me too.)
If you're not keen at all on the consumerism of the holiday season and want to redistribute your resources a bit, consider a donation to a favorite charity in your family member's name. Writing a note explaining why you thought they would support this particular charity can be a meaningful holiday communication in and of itself.
The most important thing to remember is that you can get any of these with just a few minute's notice-even a handwritten IOU is better than nothing. Any other ideas for digital, non-tangible presents? Leave 'em in the comments.