Dec. 24, 2012 at 11:44 AM ET
Look, we've all had that instant in which we realize we forgot to get a gift for someone, the deadlines for online orders have passed, and all the stores are closed because Christmas is practically here. It's a particularly miserable moment, but there's help — so don't sigh and order yet another digital gift card just yet.
While digital gift cards can be what people want, they tend to scream, "I forgot about you, so here's a token that took about as much thought as pouring myself a glass of wine."
So what can you do? Why, you go for the last-second gifts that haven't become as cliche as those things.
If you've got a gamer on your hands, you top off his or her Xbox Live Gold subscription. It's a simple, yet thoughtful gesture. Extra credit if you throw in some Microsoft Points. Does your gamer favor the PlayStation? Not to worry, Amazon sells PSN points with digital download codes. But if you are not sure what the recipient is into, consider browsing through Steam for some games to gift him or her. The selection is huge and there are plenty of popular titles mere clicks away.
For the music lover in your life, a Spotify or Rdio subscription is the way to go. With unlimited Web and mobile streaming music of most back catalog and newly released albums for $10 a month, these services have become favorites among the NBC News tech reporters. They're a great way to avoid buying any music you'll be sick of in two months. The only downside is, you might get your friend so hooked that you will have to keep paying for the subscription, year after year!
If you happen to be dealing with a particularly social media savvy pal, you might get away with sending him or her a Facebook Gift. You can select a real physical gift — ranging from silly toys to cosmetics to food — for which the recipient will instantly receive a notification. Just practice smiling convincingly and telling your friend that you thought Facebook Gifts are the trendy way to celebrate Christmas and that you absolutely did not put shopping off until the last minute, no siree!
Now, we did slam digital gift cards, but there are a few exceptions. One is Amazon. We wish there was a way to give someone the gift of an Amazon Prime membership since any online shopper would appreciate the year of free two-day shipping, and would probably enjoy the streaming movies and TV shows, too. As of now, Amazon won't let you give someone Prime, though, so your alternative is a $79 Amazon digital gift card.
Lucky for you, Amazon has taken digital gift carding to never-before-seen heights. By partnering with JibJab, the company lets you star in a goofy video that plays when the recipient receives the email notification. If you aren't ready for stage and screen, maybe you want to upload a picture of yourself instead. A third non-lame option is suggesting a gift — it's a little like the Facebook Gifts, where you select a real genuine object, but recipients can spend their Amazon credit on something else if they think your judgment is flawed.
Speaking of Amazon Prime's streaming flicks and TV shows, there two other services that do let you gift subscriptions, Netflix and Hulu. Netflix has a huge selection of movies (and older TV shows) while Hulu's premium Plus lineup gets the latest TV shows much sooner.
What about last-second gifts that aren't digital in nature?
For those lucky enough to have a local florist who isn't completely slammed for the holidays, a pretty bouquet or center piece may be the way to go. Just be sure to triple-check that the order will be delivered on time — and maybe throw in some balloons or candy if available.
What if none of these last-second gifts fit your almost-forgotten friends and family? Well, then consider going old-school: Write. Folks are so unaccustomed to receiving touching, handwritten (perhaps even handmade) holiday cards and letters that they sometimes value them more than random one-size-fits-almost-all gifts. The thought still matters, so you can use this as an opportunity to remind your loved ones of how much you care about them — even if you did almost forget about them during this crazy holiday season.
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