I hate to admit it, but I’m the ‘buying presents on Christmas eve’ type of gift giver. Like I’ve shared before though, I’m not against gift-giving as a concept. If you love waking up to presents under a tree on Christmas – keep wrapping. I’m not here to take your presents away from you, or convince you that the only gift you need to give your loved ones if your ‘presence’ (honestly, I hate that cliche).
It’s nice to be able to give people something (if gift giving gives you the warm fuzzies). But let’s be honest, most people already have enough ‘stuff’ and holidays gifts, though well-intentioned, can often only add to the clutter in our lives.
In fact, it’s estimated that $16 billion will be wasted on unwanted gifts this year. As if that weren’t bad enough, almost 20% of gifts are never used by the person who receives them and 4% are immediately thrown in the trash. I’m not sharing these numbers to make you feel ashamed of your gift buying habits. But maybe there is room for us to view the gift giving part of the holiday season a little differently.
Being a blogger and all, I wanted to do a gift guide for the holiday season. But, I knew I couldn’t fill it with ‘stuff’. So, I didn’t. I decided to curate a holiday gift guide with only virtual gifts that can be given for free (or for a fee, if you want some extra bells and whistles).
I use everything on this list, and in some instances, even pay for premium subscriptions for services that add value to my life. Most of these are not affiliate links (I’ll let you know when they are) – I just wanted to share things I use in my daily life that I love and would be so psyched if my family ‘gave’ me.
For the Fitness Guru (or Aspiring Fitness Guru): Aaptiv
Ok, first up to bat is an app that has changed the way I think about working out, and actually makes me want to go to the gym (which is an incredible feat of science). Aaptiv (affiliate link) is an audio-based workout app that pairs certified personal trainers with awesome music from every genre. There are workouts from every possible type of fitness you can think of (rowing, running, strength, yoga, meditation, post-baby, marathon training are just a few).
I started Aaptiv with their thirty-day free trial (affiliate link) and was hooked pretty instantly. I personally pay for a year-round subscription which works out to $100ish bucks a year (which is so, so much cheaper than a class specific, studio membership).
I might be a trained yoga teacher, but I have a total gym newbie when it comes to using the equipment. I love Aaptiv’s variety – I can squeeze in a five-minute workout when I’m short on time, or do a long and slow stretch when I have more time.
The fact that you can also do meditations in the app makes it a one-stop shop for people who want to work on their physical and mental fitness.
If you have someone in your life that is always trying (and failing) to get fit in the new year, this app might be the thing they need to finally get over their resolution slump.
Get fit on your terms with workouts guided by experts – Start 30 day Free Aaptiv trial.
For the Book Nerd: Libby
I’ve been telling all of my family members about Libby lately because it is genius!
If you’ve ever landed on my 2018 Reading List, you know I love to read. It’s my second favourite pastime after blogging. But, I try to buy my books digitally now or borrow them digitally from my library. That’s where Libby comes in!
TL:DR; Libby is a library based version of Kindle. Libby allows you to link your local library card with a digital app to borrow and read books (or listen to books if that’s more your style).
If you live in the United States, Canada or the UK, sync your local library card(s) to Libby and read everything your library offers digitally on your phone (or other mobile device)! That includes e-books and audiobooks (which are a personal favourite of mine). Plus, if you live in the United States, Libby will also send your library books straight to your Kindle to read.
I absolutely love Libby and have at least five different books on hold right now. The interface is easy to use and it makes borrowing library books a breeze. Plus, it’s 100% free.
For the Zen Junkie: 10% Happier
Meditation is an important part of my exercise routine. Exercising my mind is just as important as exercising my body in the gym, and that’s where 10% Happier comes in. Conceived by ABC’s Dan Harris after he had a panic attack live on air, 10% Happier is my favourite meditation app.
I’ve tried all the big ones, but 10% trumps them all for one reason. The app includes meditations from real meditation teachers who have decades of experience. There is no soft-spoken, frufru, new age hocus pocus (which I cannot handle in a meditation). Beyond just meditations, the app also includes classes you can take to learn more about the science of meditation and how it works to change the patterns in our brain to make our lives a little bit (or a lot better).
They offer a seven-day free trial of the app, or you can buy a subscription. I bought a year-long subscription a couple of months ago during a sale, and it was a great decision.
If you’re looking to buy 10% Happier for a loved one, they have a link on their website explicitly for that. You can choose between 1-year for $99.99 or 4-months for $49.99. I went for the year, and I haven’t regretted it.
If you (or your loved one) would like a ‘how-to’ guide on meditation to ease themselves into the practice, I highly recommend reading the 10% Happier Book and the new guide, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics (affiliate links). I own both and absolutely loved reading them.
For the Audiophile: Spotify
Yes, I know Spotify is not exactly new. However, the less technologically inclined members of your family might not know about it! I used to have one app for music and one app for listening to podcasts. Thankfully, Spotify now covers both. Which saves me unknown hours of having to check two different apps (And yes, you can listen to full episodes of Tiny Bites in Spotify).
What I love about Spotify is the diversity and variety of music. I’m personally loving the Massive Soca Hits playlist, that makes me wish I was back in St. Lucia. My constant go-to’s are Chill as Folk and Nordic Folk. There’s no such thing as too much folk, people.
Spotify comes in two flavours: free, and not free. Premium comes with a price tag of $9.99 a month. If you’re a millennial like me, the thought of paying for your own music probably horrifies you. That’s why I don’t pay for Spotify normally. However, they’ve been running .99c for three months for new sign-up promotions, or $9.99 for three-months for existing accounts. The offline listening feature alone is worth that price. Especially when you have a long trip coming up (cough, 17-hour road trip over Christmas, cough).
For the Tech-Obsessed: Space
If you’re reading this on a phone, you could probably use this next suggestion. We love our phones. I love my phone. It’s the first thing I check when I get up, and the last thing I check before I go to bed. For that reason, sometimes, I need a little Space. Literally, in this case.
Space is an app that helps you learn about your online habits and patterns so you can change the way you interact with technology. When you first start the app, you answer some questions to help Space determine what your goals should be. You can set how much time you want to spend on your phone each day before it starts giving you reminders to put it down. You can also set the number of times you want to be able to unlock your phone in a day before the app gets judgy.
I’ve used other apps that lock you out of your phone for a specific period of time, and those are great. But, I truly don’t believe those apps can change our behaviour if you don’t know what your behaviour is in the first place. It’s like banning yourself from eating sugar. If you don’t understand how sugar is affecting your body, you’ll go right back to stuffing your face when your ‘ban’ is over.
I first used Space over the summer during my two-part Bored and Brilliant challenge (part 1, part 2). What Space taught me was that, for someone who says they don’t like Instagram that much, I sure spend a heck of a lot of time on Instagram. This new information has helped me engage more meaningfully with the app, on my own terms.
Space is free but does have a premium version which includes features like being able to set up which apps should be excluded from your overall time count (which I am tempted to do so it doesn’t think I’m frying my brain when I’m really doing a yoga workout through Aaptiv).
For the Number Cruncher: Wealthsimple
If you have a friend or family member who is constantly going on and on about their investment portfolio performance, they probably know about Wealthsimple. Wealthsimple is investing on auto-pilot and allows you to invest in low-cost, diversified ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds).
I opened my first Wealthsimple investing account in 2016 and I haven’t look back.
So how do you give Wealthsimple as a gift? Well, that’s easy – they sell gift cards (or, they used to, it looks like they’re working on re-launching them this year). When my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas last year. The answer was simple – a Wealthsimple gift card so I could invest in my future! That sounds so cheesy but it was a great gift, and I’d recommend it to anyone.
Now, if you want to start your own Wealthsimple account, you can use this link (referral link) to get $10,000 in assets managed for free for 12 months!
It probably seems weird to give virtual gifts over the holidays. But, we spend so much time on our phones, we might as well do something productive while we’re here. Plus, digital gifts have less chance of breaking or collective dust than anything you’d buy in an actual store.
What’s on your wishlist this holiday season? Which one of these apps would you love to give or get as a gift? Let me know in the comments!