Need A Last-Minute Gift? Don't Want To Buy Stuff? All Tech Has Ideas : All Tech Considered Sometimes, they say, the best things in life aren't things. In that spirit, we've come up with a few ideas of last-minute presents for your plugged-in friends and family that don't involve shopping.
NPR logo Need A Last-Minute Gift? Don't Want To Buy Stuff? All Tech Has Ideas

Need A Last-Minute Gift? Don't Want To Buy Stuff? All Tech Has Ideas

This post was updated on Dec. 19, 2016.

Bummer, you've missed the best time to order Christmas gifts online! And now you have these options: pay for same-day delivery or face the dreaded shopping mall (or resort to that end-of-the-line choice of a gift card, but you wouldn't go there, would you?).

So what's the last-minute buy for your plugged-in friend, sister or mom? Do they really need another Internet-connected thing? Nothing against gadgets and gizmos, but if you're of the philosophy that thoughtful gestures qualify perfectly well as Christmas presents, we've got a few ideas for you.

These are, of course, only a few of the possibilities — do let us know, in the comments or on Twitter, what other suggestions you may have and if you've gifted something like this.

(Note: None of these ideas are meant to be specific to any particular online platform, and you should be able to use whatever website or app you fancy. This is also not meant to be a step-by-step instruction, but a quick Google search should unearth production tips, if you need them.)

Last-Minute Gifts That Don't Involve Shopping

  • The 21st-Century Mixtape

    While the days of sharing mixed tapes and audio cassettes may be long gone, exchanging playlists doesn't have to be. Darren Johnson/Getty Images/EyeEm hide caption

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    Darren Johnson/Getty Images/EyeEm

    While the days of sharing mixed tapes and audio cassettes may be long gone, exchanging playlists doesn't have to be.

    Darren Johnson/Getty Images/EyeEm

    Remember when a mixtape from your high school crush was, like, totally the best?

    We don't get those often anymore, and that's a shame. Bring the mixtape back with a personalized digital music selection. This could be a playlist or station in your favorite music streaming service or a downloadable mix you could give as a gift.

    Inspirations:

    An awesome workout mix, a memory-lane mix, a mix based on a recent music festival or productivity-driving instrumental mix.

  • The Shared Memory Bank

    Do you and your friends look like these British models from the 1970s? If not, have no fear — you can still capture memories (digitally) in a shared private photo collection. Manchester Daily Express/SSPL/Getty hide caption

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    Manchester Daily Express/SSPL/Getty

    Do you and your friends look like these British models from the 1970s? If not, have no fear — you can still capture memories (digitally) in a shared private photo collection.

    Manchester Daily Express/SSPL/Getty

    Does your mom or grandma constantly ask you for photos? Do your relatives or friends have endless messaging chains sharing images of weird experiences or accidentally found throwback pics?

    You could set everyone up with a private online album — with shared passwords or access rights — to deposit all the unfiltered memories of the year. (Your notifications, or lack thereof, will thank you.)

    Technical note:

    Lots of file-sharing and specifically photo-sharing websites and apps will make this easy.

  • The No-Googling-Required R&R

    Give the gift of a road trip or a weekend jaunt without the confused stares, itinerary indecision and bickering over directions. Steve Cole, Christie & Cole Studio Inc./iStockphoto hide caption

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    Steve Cole, Christie & Cole Studio Inc./iStockphoto

    Give the gift of a road trip or a weekend jaunt without the confused stares, itinerary indecision and bickering over directions.

    Steve Cole, Christie & Cole Studio Inc./iStockphoto

    This one would take a bit of time, but think of the rewards!

    Give a gift of hassle-free adventures by preparing a digital collection of ideas for quick day trips, weekend getaways or local explorations that would require minimal investment from the recipient, with contacts, directions and advice.

    Inspirations:

    Maps for reference, helpful online reviews, menu tips for restaurants, affordable kid- or pet-friendly activities, calendar of fairs or farmers markets or sports events.

  • The Perfect Awakening

    Waking up can be hard. Make it easier with a customized alarm clock recording. Pro tip: If this is the recipient's reaction to your gift, you're doing it wrong. Serpeblu/iStockphoto hide caption

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    Serpeblu/iStockphoto

    Waking up can be hard. Make it easier with a customized alarm clock recording. Pro tip: If this is the recipient's reaction to your gift, you're doing it wrong.

    Serpeblu/iStockphoto

    You'll never forget the parental voices that woke you up as a kid, a combination of nagging and loving, depending on the day. Now you can do the same.

    If you know someone really well, give them a gift of a personalized phone alarm clock with a selection of recordings of your voice or other sounds that would get them out of bed.

    The tricky part is potentially becoming associated with a dreadful part of the day for the night-owls. But wouldn't it be awesome to lighten up someone's first waking moments?

    Non-music sound inspirations:

    Sizzling bacon, coffee maker, shower, drill sergeant, barking dog, birds, actual parents imploring to wake up.

  • The Customized Entertainment

    With just a little bit of work, your friends' movie night, too, can be just as fun. Cute dog not included. Svetikd/iStockphoto hide caption

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    Svetikd/iStockphoto

    With just a little bit of work, your friends' movie night, too, can be just as fun. Cute dog not included.

    Svetikd/iStockphoto

    We spend countless hours figuring out what to watch. Do the leg work for your movie-loving friend or sibling with a curated list of the best flicks to watch online — for instance, organized by genre, complete with links to trailers, spoiler-free reviews and personal comments.

    Alternative inspirations:

    A curated list of recommendations for books, podcasts (with best episodes), games or online video channels.

    NPR tips:

    For best books of 2016 and for all kinds of podcasts.

  • The Constant Reminder

    A generic screensaver background, like this resort in the Maldives, would be so much better if you were in it. Enter: the custom-made screensaver. Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP hide caption

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    Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

    A generic screensaver background, like this resort in the Maldives, would be so much better if you were in it. Enter: the custom-made screensaver.

    Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

    Help your loved one up their screensaver game!

    Say no to blurry family pics (unless, you know, they're into that sort of thing) and give them a selection of visuals for their computer or phone screen that you made, edited or dug up.

    Technical note:

    Many screens can display slideshows and interactive or "live" images.

  • The Fun-Time Subscription

    What could be better than a year's worth of photos like this? Deliver cuteness and more to an inbox near you. DawnPoland /iStockphoto hide caption

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    DawnPoland /iStockphoto

    What could be better than a year's worth of photos like this? Deliver cuteness and more to an inbox near you.

    DawnPoland /iStockphoto

    This one is for the committed: It's like that "word of the day" or horoscope email service, except from you and with memes.

    Create a "newsletter" for one with daily or weekly (or, you know, occasional) links to something they would find funny or helpful. There are simple newsletter services you could dig up online, but this could also just be a steady stream of emails, app messages or even texts.

    Inspirations:

    Recipes, local musicians, obscure histories of words, favorite NPR stories, Harry Potter-themed quizzes, puppies in Santa costumes, cat videos (obviously).

All Tech thanks NPR's Caroline Kelly, Christina Cala, Mallory Yu and several non-NPR friends for their help in brainstorming this post.