Non-material gifts ideas over a distance?

I’m looking for gift ideas for family members who live far away. The family and I doesn’t need or want more stuff, and for a variety of reasons things that don’t need storage and dusting seem like a good idea.

I would prefer to avoid giving cash, even if it’s cleverly disguised in the form of a gift card or more meaningfully converted into a charitable donation for a third party.

So far, what I’ve come up with is:

  • flowers (mom’s allergic, but a good idea in general)
  • subscriptions to periodicals or perhaps some sort of interesting podcasts
  • memberships to museums and the like

I got a “fruit of the month” gift one year and really enjoyed it. Most of the ones I’ve seen allow you to purchase fewer than 12 months, which can get rather pricey. It seemed kind of silly at first to get a box of, say, four pears – but they were four exquisite, perfectly ripe pears. A very nice treat indeed.

By golly, there’s a whole web site of “of the month” things!

itunes stuff can be bought and transferred online. I think all you need is their itunes ID. So that’s movies, audiobooks, albums, and all kinds of other stuff.

Also, netflix online accounts or accounts or emusic accounts or other nifty services. I don’t think there’s an official way to make that a gift, but you could have the subscription billed to you and give them the username and password.

I once got an online friend a spa gift certificate and was able to send it via e-mail. I don’t know how normal that is. That’s a gift card, but not exactly. I think the one I got her actually specified that it was for a massage, so it wasn’t like, “here, go pick your own thing.”

Tickets to shows are good, too. Or ballgames, if that’s the sort of thing the giftee prefers.

Open up an E-trade account in their name, with a start of $50 stock in GE and Apple.

Tickets for events in their area, far enough out that they can plan. Give fun, experiences, memories.

I send my parents a handwritten letter once a week, and they love it. Not sure how you can exactly wrap it as a present, though.

Old family photos, raid the albums, get them touched up if necessary, skip the frames and send money to cover that part.

Make a family tree diagram, for them, only the parts you know, paste on a snap shot of each person you can find. Then maybe ask them to fill in any parts they like, and maybe return it in a couple of years. Families are always changing, divorces happen, babies arrive, couples marry, you could be starting a wonderful family tradition where you ship the thing back and forth every few years. It could be awesome, I think.

What elbows said. Ask everyone for old photographs, and captions. make them into an online photoalbum , aks everyone to provide better captions, then have the album printed and sent to everyone.

A more easy gift is to ask for their birth place, date and -time, and have an horoscope made on sites like .

Thanks for the ideas: these are great. In particular the photos; I have the physical ones and could easily make nice digital copies with annotations.

I learned years ago that the Internet is your friend when it comes to giving a gift from afar.
Plus, this is something you can do at the “last minute”.

Search businesses in their area! Most are more than willing to work with you. I contacted a chocolate shop in Christchurch, New Zealand (less than a mile away from my friends) and they delivered a huge box of chocolates for what it would have cost me just to pay postage for any other stupid gift from the US.
I found a local mall in London, Ontario, Canada that was quite happy to prepare a gift basket (and I selected what went into it) and drive it over to a friend up there - again, the total price was cheaper than the postage I would have paid to send something from here.
For friends in Berlin, I Googled their favorite local restaurant and had them send a card with a gift certificate for a free dinner. For other friends in Berlin, I arranged to pay for tickets to see a touring Broadway show in one of the large theaters there (and tickets were not all that expensive!).

So, unless you are sending something personal (like photos, homemade cookies, etc.) it is far cheaper and easier and better for the environment to simply order and buy something locally on the other end and have them deliver it, or even have your friends just stop by and pick it up. Also, should their be any problems with the gift or delivery, they only have to go a short distance to get it clarified/returned. Plus - it was kind of fun to just check out the businesses “over there” and see what they had to offer - shopping online really is convenient and even if they don’t take orders online, a quick phone call and giving your credit card number to any business overseas or out of state is a snap.

Experiences are nice gifts I think and it’s usually possible to buy them as vouchers that are useful locally to the recipient if you Google using their location. A voucher for afternoon tea, or a pamper/spa day, or a learning/experience day with some craft such as pottery, basket making, cake decorating, etc

Gift card for a car wash or detailing of the car.

Heifer International

Gift a farm animal (chicks, cows, bees, etc.) to impoverished farmers in someone’s name. My sister has been giving half a goat for years.

Warning: There activity is not approved by certain groups who also feel UNICEF & the Jimmy Carter Center do terrible work.

And, even though they’re based in Little Rock, they’re not a faith-based organization. Guess they just like the smell of dung.

I don’t know what you should get, but it should be pretty major considering that it is 10 years late.

Is that what you get when you really can’t decide whether to switch doors?

I’m trying to figure out what the hell to get my parents (who don’t need “stuff” and my dad has zero hobbies or interests) so this thread is still useful!

As a parent with grown-up children, and in that stage of my own life where if I need a thing, I don’t generally wait for Christmas, the gifts I receive and appreciate from my kids are typically small and thoughtful and often made of food - a bottle of unusual beer; a new kind of cheese; chocolate in the shape of a dinosaur - stuff that doesn’t necessarily last (and so doesn’t create clutter) and that appeals to my tastes. I don’t need big grandiose gifts and I know they couldn’t really afford them.

On a tangent, my 93 year old mother just died. She was not a hoarder in any shape or way, but has collected some nice things over the years. My Wife and I, my brother and cousins, all have all we want and are already trying to unload our things. We are only keeping a few paintings my mother did.

My Wife has already donated all of my mom’s clothes. My Wife will be working on that more today. I’m taking care of the financial and computer stuff and installing a security system in her house which will be sitting mostly vacant for the next year.

My mom had all her ducks in a row (I have POA etc.), but death is still complicated for the survivors.

It’s true that material stuff is no longer needed for many people.

Hey @enipla, sorry for your loss. One more complication for you, but one thing I learned when my mom died, insurance companies don’t like to insure vacant houses. They may cancel your mom’s home insurance if they know the house is vacant. Just FYI.

Tickets to a play or a lecture that the person would be interested in, or a membership to a museum which is close enough to be not a bother to get to.

We once got a certificate for a restaurant with a tasting menu. It was a place we never would have gone ourselves, but it was a great experience.
A few months for a streaming station which the person would be interested in, but hasn’t gotten around to finding themselves. The investigation is more the gift than the money.