If you don't want to face cold weather, rough traffic and long lines when you do your holiday shopping this year, then you're probably already committed to purchasing the majority of your gifts online. The comfort of your own home and the convenience of shipping services, not to mention the help of professional gift wrappers, are hard to pass up.
Since you embrace the digital aspect of shopping, why not start thinking about digital technology for the gifts themselves? More and more companies are offering great online services, and the prices keep falling as technology improves and devices become more and more accessible.
While a vast array of options are available to you, some of them may seem foreign or confusing. Here, I'll break down five great products and services for you to consider this year.
If you have a music fan on your list, then an iTunes gift card is perfect. You'll know you're giving the person a welcome, useful gift, and you're also guaranteeing satisfaction by putting the choice of tracks and albums in the hands of the music lover. Also, consider services like Rhapsody or an online store like Amazon or Barnes & Noble for the same idea. (For related reading, see How Technology Can Save You Money.)
Do you know someone who enjoys TV and movies more than music? Netflix remains a favorite choice among movie aficionados. This company's on-demand streaming service lets members watch TV shows or movies over the internet for a low monthly price. This one isn't just a one-time gift either; it's an extra opportunity for your gift recipient to save money, by cutting or eliminating their monthly cable or satellite bills. If you don't like what you see on Netflix, consider Amazon's streaming service or Hulu Plus as alternatives.
While you're considering ways to move beyond standard television, think about this device for any travelers on your list. Slingbox users can view their home's cable or satellite system from their laptop. When a business trip, family visit or just a long day at work keeps a Slingbox user away from their home entertainment system, the device makes everything available conveniently. It will even show programs saved on a DVR. Nothing is better than being able to watch a hometown sports event while away. Combine that with the extra access to your DVR, and it's like being at home no matter where you are.
Do you have a PC-gamer on your list? For kids or adults, consider a subscription or gift card to Steam. Steam is one of the top online game platforms, and gamers can instantly access top games, receive automatic game updates and chat with friends. For some games, the Steam experience offers features and graphics that rival those of the PS3 and Xbox 360.
These programs will also please the gamers who get your gifts. Microsoft Points are currency for the Xbox Live Marketplace and Games for Windows. Players can redeem them for online gaming downloads. Nintendo Points work in basically the same fashion, but for Nintendo game consoles. The great thing about these forms of currency is that you no longer need to keep up with the latest version of the most popular game, or worry about picking the wrong options. Just make sure you know the gaming system and let the gamers make their own choices.
The Bottom Line
You probably have quite a few internet-savvy people on your gift-giving list this year, and you don't need to be an expert to let them get exactly what they want. You can purchase most of these subscriptions or gift cards online, or if you prefer the in-person shopping experience, at the counter at most major retail stores. With these digital gift ideas, you'll impress your friends and family and give them what they're really looking for this year. (For related reading, see Money-Saving Smartphone Apps.)