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.
Price: $698 | Buy it
If you’d rather skip the doorbuster madness of customers clamoring for off-brand or no-name TVs, Walmart has dropped the price on this 55-inch 4K Samsung with a curved screen an impressive $500. Features include a smart remote with voice navigation, three HDMI ports and two USB ports for all your devices.
Price: $49 (Black Friday deal available starting 6 p.m. Nov. 23) | Buy it
Looking to get your hands on the popular Instant Pot for less? Newer models go for more than $100, but Walmart is only asking half that for an older 5-quart model as part of its Black Friday deals. You’ll still get an impressive six functions in one small appliance, including pressure cooker, steamer, and slow cooker.
Price: $4.97 | Buy it
This traditional winter pattern is just one of several patterns of cheap slipper socks available at Walmart -- whimsical cats, penguins, or basic black would also make for excellent stocking stuffers. Non-skid dots ensure a stable grip on hard floors, and they're machine-washable, too.
Price: $99 | Buy it
A useful gift for newlyweds or anyone setting up a new home, this Rachael Ray cookware set has all the essentials: fry pans, sauce pans, cake pans, cooking spoons and even a fruit and veggie peeler. It also comes in three eye-catching colors: red, orange and marine blue. A similar set with one fewer piece retails for $116 at Amazon and $149 elsewhere.
Price: $59 (Black Friday deal available starting 6 p.m. Nov. 23) | Buy it
Keep the kids entertained on those long-haul drives with this RCA Dual Screen DVD player, which will be nearly half off for Black Friday. Listen to the built-in speakers or use headphone jacks for a quieter ride. Headrest mounting straps, a remote control, and a power adapter are also included.
Price: Starting at $8.74 | Buy it
These rugged, well-reviewed 30-ounce tumblers come in a wide range of colors and make a great small gift for outdoorsy types. Since they're made of double-walled, vacuum-sealed stainless steel, they can keep both hot and cold beverages at a drinkable temperature for a long time. They're also a third of the price of similar YETI tumblers.
Price: $99 | Buy it
The Dyson DC34 isn't the newest Dyson handheld, and that's part of the reason you can get it for a song at Walmart: The newer model is double the price on Amazon. This lightweight cordless vacuum has powerful suction that lasts up to 15 minutes, or you can use it in max-power mode for up to six minutes for tougher jobs. It's also Energy Star-qualified. For bigger jobs, you might consider some these affordable upright vacuums.
Price: $199 | Buy it
A dune racer beside the Christmas tree will wow any kid, and this Walmart-exclusive Power Wheels Dune Racer can do it for less. A similar model sells at Toys R Us and Target for $280. Riders can cruise at up to 5 mph forward and 2.5 mph in reverse. There are also power-lock brakes and an under-the-hood storage compartment.
Price: $48 (Black Friday deal available starting 6 p.m. Nov. 23) | Buy it
Grab Roku’s new 4K streaming stick for more than $20 off during your Black Friday shopping at Walmart. Roku makes it simple to stream hundreds of thousands of movies and shows from popular services like Netfix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO Now, and more. It also comes with a simple-to-use remote.
Price: $17.88 | Buy it
Save a couple bucks on this speedy little chopper, a great time-saving gift for any cook. A 200-watt motor helps it make quick work of onions, herbs, cheese and even nuts, and current owners rave about its power. You'll pay $20 at Target for the same chopper.
Price: Starting at $49 | Buy it
The latest version of the Fujifilm Instax Mini can set you back $10 more, so jump on this Walmart deal -- it even includes a bonus 10-pack of film. Features include automatic light adjustment and flash, a collapsible lens for easy carrying, and colorful cases to satisfy any person on your gift list.
Price: $27.30 | Buy it
Sleek, well-reviewed, and wallet-friendly, the Bella 12-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker has everything a java junkie needs to start their day. There's a 24-hour timer, automatic shut-off and a permanent filter basket that eliminates the need for paper filters. The same model is available at Best Buy for about $10 more. Willing to spend a bit more? Some of these affordable coffee machines might fit the bill.
Price: $140 | Buy it
Walmart has one of the best prices out there on the popular KidKraft Uptown Espresso Kitchen, and while it's matched by some other retailers like Amazon, they don't throw in 30 pieces of play food like Walmart does. The sturdy Uptown kitchen has modern styling, clicking knobs, working appliance doors, a chalkboard, and more.
Price: Starting at $9 | Buy it
Got a mermaid-wannabe in your life? This 66-inch mermaid-tail fleece throw is the perfect inexpensive gift to stave off winter's chill. The quirky blanket comes in six colors and can be machine washed and dried. You'll pay double at Targetfor as-seen-on-TV Snuggle Tails, which are smaller and made from soft polyester.
Price: $40 | Buy it
A retro gift for cinema buffs who want a real theater experience at home, this stylish popper can manage up to 10 cups of popcorn per batch. It has a lighted interior, vented windows and a titled door for easy serving. Get it at Bed Bath and Beyond and you'll pay $15 more.
Price: $288 | Buy it
This smooth, 26-inch grown-up trike is an easy way to get a loved one off the couch and moving again. The three-wheel, low-step-over design is particularly great for anyone with balance issues, and a large rear basket makes it ideal for quick trips to the store or picnics down the park path. Walmart offers one of the lower prices out there -- the bike is $370 at Target.
Price: $179 | Buy it
Be your favorite gamer's hero this holiday season: Walmart has the hard-to-find New Nintendo 3DS XL, and it's also dropped the price of the handheld gaming system $20 to $179. As its name suggests, the 3DS XL has 3D technology that automatically adjusts based on the position of the user's face. It also boasts a faster processor than the original 3DS to cut down on loading and downloading times.
Price: $142 | Buy it
Pingpong tables don't come much cheaper than this model from EastPoint Sports, especially now that Walmart has dropped the price from $250 to $142. It has a tournament-size, 9-by-5-foot playing surface, but it's compact enough once folded to be stashed in a closet or even under a bed. Handles and built-in wheels also make transporting it a snap.
Price: $46.88 | Buy it
The perfect gift for someone who's setting up a new home and needs a set of tools for light-duty work, this Black & Decker set has all the essentials. It includes a 12-volt lithium-ion drill, a hammer, wrench, pliers, tape measure, screwdrivers and more. It also comes with a handy carrying case. A similar set sells for $20 more at Target.
Price: $179 | Buy it
Tablets aren't for everyone. If you're shopping for someone who wants the ease of a full-size keyboard but mainly wants to browse the web, watch videos, or work on documents, this Acer Chromebook could do the trick. It even gets a thumbs-up from PCMag for its large 15-inch screen, impressive all-day battery life, and low price. If you have a little extra in your budget, these affordable laptops are worth considering, as well.
Price: $199 | Buy it
One household item that's definitely worth splurging on, the KitchenAid stand mixer is a favorite of bakers everywhere. This 10-speed model, available in black and white, has a 250-watt motor and a stainless-steel, 4.5-quart bowl big enough to handle the dough for six dozen cookies. It comes with a coated flat beater, dough hook, and wire whip, and Walmart has dropped the price a cool $61 just in time for the holidays.
Price: $60 | Buy it
Take back your iPad and let your toddlers and preschoolers play on the Sprout Channel Cubby Tablet, which has a 7-inch touchscreen and 16 GB of storage. It comes pre-loaded with cartoons and games from Sprout, and the integrated bumpers help protect against the inevitable drops. The similar 16 GB Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition will set you back $100 on Amazon – but it does come with a two-year worry-free guarantee against breakage.
Price: $68.92 | Buy it
The Polaroid Cube is an easy-to-use (and cute) budget alternative to a GoPro. This weatherproof, shockproof camera is mountable and able to capture all the action in 1080p high-definition video. It's also way cheaper at Walmart -- buying at Target will set you back another $30.
Price: $80 | Buy it
Help someone banish cold toes and high heat bills this winter with this microplush heated blanket. It has 10 heat settings that let users find that toasty-but-not-too-toasty sweet spot, an automatic safety shut-off after 10 hours, and an easy-to-read LED display. A similar Sunbeam blanket costs more than $90 on Amazon.
Price: $170 | Buy it
Walmart matches Amazon on this new-model Braun shaver, which features technology that adapts to a user's facial hair to provide additional power as needed. There are also five shaving modes and a charging station that also cleans the shaver with the touch of a button. The kit also comes with a travel case, cleaning fluid, a brush, and charging cord.
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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.