Knowing how to give a good virtual gift — good as in more personal than a Visa gift card — is a key life skill. Celebrating with loved ones IRL isn't always in the cards, and it's only human for a loved one's birthday to slip your mind until the
last minute day of every now and then.
Digital gifts, surprise deliveries, and subscription boxes not only offer a serotonin boost upon the initial unboxing, but are often the gifts that keep on giving. Free DoorDash deliveries or a recurring toothbrush replacement may be nothing more than a click and credit card charge to you, but they'll think of you every time they don't have to leave their couch.
Each of the following gifts is delivered online or with a recurring delivery to their door, which means you won't have to rely so hard on timely shipping.
Paramount+ (starting $4.99/month): One streaming platform they may not have yet is Paramount+. One of the newer services to the fold, it's the go-to place for nostalgic Nickelodeon shows, reality icons like RuPaul's Drag Race and Love Island US, plus access to live sports.
HBO Max (starting at $9.99/month): HBO Max is home to HBO originals like House of the Dragon and The White Lotus and non-HBO content like Abbott Elementary and Friends. It's also the streaming service that many new movies hit first when they come out.
Shudder ($5.99/month): Horror junkies who have already tackled Netflix's hit-or-miss collection will dig Shudder's massive library of (actually good) scary movies only. Aside from a few classics like Hellraiser, a big chunk of the lineup is made up of films that probably weren't in theaters — but that blow mainstream disappointments out of the water. Mashable's Sam Haysom has some suggestions.
Paying for someone to have alcohol delivered is always a great gift, but will likely be extra appreciated during an all-around shitty year. With Drizly (now owned by Uber), they can get beer, wine, or liquor delivered within 60 minutes or so. Maybe they'll find that really specific IPA that they like or discover a new favorite wine.
Walmart's Amazon Prime competitor might be a wiser choice for your friends who make way too many trips to Walmart each week. It's another "free two-day shipping" situation, but Walmart+'s unlimited free delivery is still legit — especially for just $12.95 per month. (Some products are even eligible for same-day delivery.) Other in-person shopping perks include Scan & Go and fuel discounts. The Paramount+ Essential subscription is also included.
Plant parents could use a babysitter sometimes — whether they're nurturing their first plant ever or taking a stab at a feisty orchid. A paid Planta subscription ($7.99/month) goes past watering reminders: The app recruits their phone's camera to diagnose sick plants and make suggestions based on the amount of light in the room. Planta Premium also offers fertilizing, misting, repotting, and pruning help.
Milk Bar's multi-tiered confetti cakes are definitely prettier than any of us, but that's what makes them such an iconic long-distance birthday gift. Loved ones with an eye for aesthetically pleasing foods would also appreciate a just-because tin of Milk Bar cookies or truffles. Prices range from $20 to $72, depending on location fees. Gluten-free options are available.
Picture this: Falling asleep to ASMR or a binaural beats playlist *without* being jolted out of a trance by an ad. For $11.99/month, YouTube Premium bars ads and continues playback when the Youtube app is closed. YouTube shares membership fees with content creators who otherwise make money from viewers watching ads.
Flowers as a last-minute or long-distance gift is only cliché if you let it be. Online flower delivery service UrbanStems puts a modern twist on its floral arrangements with thoughtfully-chosen color schemes and vases outside of traditional glass. The bouquets blow away anything you could find in the flower section at Whole Foods, but we're particularly psyched on the farmhouse chic dried bouquets that'll last for months. Prices range from $65 to $175.
If your loved one always talks about mastering a particular skill, there's probably a MasterClass course for it. MasterClass doesn't offer just any online courses — they'll be coached by, well, famous people. Annie Leibovitz teaches photography, Jane Goodall teaches conservation, Gordon Ramsey teaches cooking, and more. With a subscription starting at $15/month, your loved one can choose from more than 100 instructors with new classes added every month.
On the rare occasion that they get tired of Mario Kart, anything from Jackbox is going to be a good-ass time. Jackbox's on-screen games are played on a phone app and are perfect for long-distance Zoom hangs. (Only one person has to have a Jackbox account. The others just have to download the app and enter the room code). Each Party Pack comes with four to five super unique games that really make you think — and will confirm the funniest person in the group.
Perfect for the Urban Outfitters, Free People, and Anthropologie stans, Nuuly is an $88/month service that offers rental pieces from sweaters to dresses to jeans (from the aforementioned brands and more). If they end up loving one of their rental items, they can buy it.
(StitchFix is a similar deal, but with a $20 styling fee and only three days to decide whether to buy the clothes.)
If you're seeking a kids' gift that's not Frozen or Marvel, consider CodeSpark Academy, which stars cute, memorable monster characters called The Foos. Parents will love it because it's educational: It teaches coding through challenges that require kids to devise their own chain reactions. For kids, though, it's just fun. Gift memberships start at six months for $59.99, but 12-month and lifetime subscriptions are available.
12. An e-card
Greeting cards may be a "duh" gift, but are heartwarming nevertheless. Punchbowl's selection probably blows that of your local CVS out of the water, plus customization like text and photos or a gift card from partners like Amazon, Disney, and Sephora. Cards can be sent to multiple recipients for free, but removing ads or scheduling a date require a membership.
Even the most hardcore fitness obsessives just feel like staying home sometimes. Paying for a virtual gym subscription lets them get a workout in without leaving the house. ClassPass (starting at $19 per month) has taken things online with over 2,000 live and on-demand workout classes from instructors across the country, with options ranging from yoga to HIIT and everything in between.
No one expects you to score them a PS5 or an Xbox Series X. A free year of online play is still a great gift for anyone with any console, though. (Both PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold are $59.99 annually.) For Switch players, a $20 yearly Nintendo Online subscription will let them play Mario Kart, Fortnite, and more with friends across the globe.
Trader Joe's on a weekend is always a mess, but trying to grab the last box of organic pasta off the shelf during a pandemic is just plain chaotic. Thrive Market is an online grocery store that focuses on organic groceries, fresh meats and seafood, and shelf-stable options (as well as natural home and beauty products) at wholesale prices. Like Costco, everyone needs a membership to shop there: An annual membership goes for $59.95 (billed $5 monthly) or you can go monthly for $9.95.
One doesn't have to be a graphic designer to get a ton of use out of Photoshop — it's must-have software for anyone with a creative side. Folks in marketing can make ads and cool emails, aspiring photographers can learn layering and blending, or anyone who draws in their free time could bump things up to animation. Prices start at $9.99 per month for photography basics like Lightroom, $20.99 per month for Illustrator, and more plans for Dreamweaver, interior design, and more.
Learning a new language in adulthood isn't off the table just because you can't remember a thing from high school Spanish. Rosetta Stone is one of the OG language-learning services, known for its deep dive into accent pronunciation, culture, and not pressuring you like the Duolingo owl. 10-minute lessons from Spanish and French to Russian and Vietnamese can be accessed on a desktop or via the totally redesigned app.
If 2020 and 2021 taught us anything, it's the importance of having wine on hand for emergency at-home happy hours. A Winc Wine subscription lets your wine-loving friend skip inconvenient trips to the liquor store and welcome a box of wine (starting at three bottles) monthly right to their door instead. All choices are customized by Winc's team after a rigorous taste quiz, and if they don't like a bottle, Winc uses the info to make a better suggestion the next month.
Know someone who thinks in long form? They need Scrivener. It's like a hybrid of Microsoft Word and a notes app like Evernote, aimed specifically at writers organizing large projects like novels, screenplays, or research papers. Different templates and tools for honing in on chunks of writing make it easy to organize thoughts.
Trying new recipes is fun. Trying to plan one of those recipes when you're dead tired after work is not fun. Meal boxes from services like Dinnerly and Blue Apron allow you to customize meals online and then receive pre-portioned ingredients for those meals right to your door. Meals can be tweaked depending on dietary restrictions (like gluten-free or vegan) and how many people are eating. Portions can be as low as $4.99 each when you sign up for at least three months.
People love to say they don't want to pay for Tidal on top of Spotify or Apple Music — and then they complain that they really wish they could listen to Prince's posthumous album. While Tidal used to be big for exclusive albums from Beyoncé and Jay-Z, it's now the go-to for audiophiles thanks to its glorious hi-fi streaming. A subscription starts at $9.99 per month and bumps up to $19.99 per month for Hi-Fi.
The idea of using clues to escape a fake locked room within a time limit is fun. The knowledge that there are multiple horror movies based on getting stuck in one? Not so much. Best of Cratejoy winner Escape the Crate brings the problem-solving adrenaline of an escape room to their home and is a 2019 winner of a Best of Cratejoy award. Boxes ship bimonthly with a new theme and clues each time, and you can use code TIGER to get 10% off the first box.
If their relationship to makeup is like Ron Swanson's to tools, opt for Birchbox. If they're interested in beauty but have never been inside a Sephora, go for Birchbox too. Gift subscriptions start at $45 for three months, but if they'd prefer to just pick out their own stuff, a Birchbox gift card still gives them access to way more makeup than they'd find in a store. Plus, Birchbox frequently offers discounts on premium brands that Ulta and Sephora rarely discount.
Everyone should be replacing their toothbrush every three months, but it's easy to forget to buy a new one that often. Electric toothbrush subscription services do it for you; plus, swapping brush heads is better for the environment than throwing a whole disposable toothbrush away. Quip's chic design combines the shape and control of a manual toothbrush with the vibrating power of an electric one. Prices range from $25 for plastic or $40 for metal, and the $5 refills come every three months.
FabFitFun is like having a birthday four times a year. Once every three months, eight to 10 full-sized products arrive at your door, and it's really nice stuff. The variety is impressive: Boxes could contain anything from hair and makeup products to exercise gear to blankets and other cozy items. A gift card can be applied to a subscription itself ($219.99 annually), member-exclusive sales, or single purchases directly from the website.
Meditation apps have become an increasingly popular way to de-stress, sleep better, and get a better grasp on mindfulness in general. Headspace has hundreds of guided meditations anchored toward everything from stress and anxiety to productivity and exercise, providing an excuse for much-needed breaks throughout the day to get back into the right headspace. Gift a monthly subscription for $12.99 per month or a year for $69.99.
Think of Craftsy (formerly Bluprint, but now back to the original name after the mysterious closing of Bluprint in May 2020) as MasterClass for people who could spend three hours in Hobby Lobby. This artsy service offers over 1,500 video classes teaching everything from embroidery to macaroon baking, to floral arrangements led by industry professionals. (Fabric supply kits are no longer available for purchase.) Gift a membership for $8.99 per month or $89.99 for the whole year.
Keeping kids busy on one Saturday can be a task, let alone busy for multiple months at home. Kid-friendly subscription boxes pick up where TV leaves off, offering hours worth of hands-on activities to do alone or with parents each month. Our favorites include learning about other countries with Little Passports, making math and science fun with KiwiCo, or organic (and very colorful) baking with Foodstirs.
The quest for effective, natural household products shouldn't require a trip to some expensive specialty shop. The Grove Collaborative has one of the best online selections of eco-friendly cleaning, baby, pet, and bath brands like Mrs. Meyers and hello. You don't have to subscribe to shop here, but the $19.99 per year VIP membership gets free scheduled shipments every month versus a usual flat rate of $4.99 for shipping.
(Personal anecdote: I live in NYC and, surprise, had roaches in my first two apartments. I got Aunt Fanny's Roach Remedy from the Grove Collaborative and it worked 100 times better than any mainstream brand I've ever used.)
A subscription to Amazon Audible expands their entertainment options far past music, whether they have a boring commute or need background noise while working from home. $15 for one month, $45 for three months, and so on, gets your gift recipient an audiobook per month (two the first month), plus the Audible Plus catalog which gives them access to hundreds of titles. Some books are read by well-known talent like Michelle Obama and Jonathan Van Ness. (And others by professional audiobook narrators who have their own fandoms, such as Julia Whelan.)
Being in a book club with strangers across the country is a bookworm's dream. That's essentially what Book of the Month is: The company's judges (which include up-and-coming authors themselves) feature five must-reads each month. Then, the subscriber chooses which one(s) they want based on synopses and reviews from other readers. Give a gift subscription starting at $49.99 for three months.
Shopping for premium cuts of meat or decent seafood can get as expensive as going out to eat. Omaha Steaks offers choice cuts, burgers, really nice filet mignon, sides, and more in larger portions and at better prices than many brick-and-mortar stores, all delivered to your door in vacuum-sealed packaging. Meal boxes, family portions, and sides like au gratin are also available, and everything comes with easy-to-follow instructions (even for people who are definitely not meat connoisseurs).
Anyone who thinks that their Starbucks go-to is the pinnacle of coffee is about to be blown away by the menu at Atlas Coffee Club. Each month, Atlas spotlights a few sustainably-farmed coffee beans from a specific country as "Coffee of the Month" options, which are available in monthly subscriptions from 15 to 60 cups. Imagine spending less than $15 to have two cups of coffee per day for an entire month.
Indoor plants are an easy solution for loneliness not only because they can take a space from drab to homey, but also because it just feels good to take care of something. If you're not sure of their skill level (or of the collection they already have), a gift card to The Sill lets them pick out some new greenery on their own.
Do your grandparents need someone to mow their lawn? Does your friend need help moving? Task Rabbit connects you with local professionals offering freelance help for everyday tasks, from fixing WiFi to helping you declutter to moving your entire living room set to a new apartment to cleaning up after a party or removing a Christmas tree. Prices usually start at around $50 per hour depending on the service, and professionals are available to chat and answer questions before you decide who to hire.
The gift of not having to walk in the rain or take public transportation with heavy groceries is a godsend. Pay for some rides with an Uber or Lyft gift card. (The Uber one can also be used on Uber Eats.)
37. A subscription box from Bath Bevy
After a long day of work, why not treat your loved one to a relaxing bath? Opt for a monthly Bath Bevy subscription and choose from carefully curated and handcrafted bath and body products. There are bath bombs, bubble bath, bath salts, and more. Each box has five to seven items in beautiful packaging for that perfect unboxing experience. The subscription is $39.57/month if you get it for a year.
38. A Spotify Premium subscription
If your loved one, like many of us, needs music to live, a Spotify subscription is a great gift. Only $9.99/month, you can not only play music, but also podcasts and audiobooks. With a Spotify Premium subscription, you can download music to play offline, play any songs, get unlimited skips, and there are no ads. You can create and share specific playlists with each other.
Not only will a DOGTV streaming service subscription improve your loved one’s life, but also the life of their dog. DOGTV has programs proven by scientific studies to entertain, alleviate stress, and stimulate a dog’s brain throughout the day. Try it free for one week and then pay $6.99/month annually. Watch anytime, anywhere, and in return, receive cute pics of their puppies watching TV.
40. A Mouth subscription
Plan a monthly happy hour for them from after with a subscription from Mouth. Monthly gift boxes are curated by small-batch creators and can include anything as general as charcuterie or wintery treats or more specified boxes for the dedicated snacker, like a million different flavors of pickles or hot sauce.
41. August period product box
If your loved one menstruates, cross one worry off their list with a monthly subscription from August. Generally, the subscription is $16/month with a basic box of 24 tampons, 16 pads, and eight liners, but prices vary on how many pads, tampons, and liners are in the box. And, what’s super cool about August is that they’re carbon neutral, their pads and tampons are biodegradable and even the applicators are recyclable when washed. If you live in one of the 30 states with a tampon tax (ugh), August covers it.