Long-Distance Cheap Birthday EXTRAVAGANZA
June 6, 2007 2:09 PM   Subscribe

OH GOD PLEASE help me come up with a birthday present for a depressed loved one who is several states away and will most likely be spending the day alone.

The special day is on Sunday, and obviously something less extravagant would be preferable, as if I had much money to spare I'd be visiting. He is extremely depressed and lonely, and his money situation is not good so I'm hesitant about buying him something luxurious but random because he is currently selling all his extraneous possessions on e-bay so that he can pay his bills. At the same time, although I was tempted to give him a check and write "happy birthday bitch!" in the Memo field, I don't think he'd appreciate or possibly even accept it as he's explicitly asked me not to send him money.

I know this is a tall order, and I'm not expecting to facilitate the Best Birthday Ever given the limitations, but I want to at least prevent a day spent in a vortex of bleakness and self-pity.

So, to recap: not terribly costly, will cheer him up, capable of being received halfway across the country by Sunday. He likes music (creating especially), pizza, and Pepsi. Thank you so much!
posted by granted to Human Relations (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Send him a birthday party in a box, maybe? Put some small but fun things you think he will like in a box (CDs, a movie, a book), maybe a Domino's (or other pizza place) gift card, a bottle of wine (or Pepsi), and a heartfelt card.

And don't forget to call. That sounds like the best present possible for someone spending their birthday alone.
posted by tastybrains at 2:17 PM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Send him $100.00 worth of groceries/prepared meals from FreshDirect?
posted by TryTheTilapia at 2:18 PM on June 6, 2007

- If you know his musical taste well enough, you could make him some mixes of upbeat music that he'll like.

- If he's likely to be stuck by himself, maybe help him out with some fun escapism: a WoW subscription, a few books or DVDs (esp. a TV show he could marathon), something like that.

- Do a platonic version of the Bill Gates Long Distance Date: buy a him a movie ticket, then go to the same movie in your town around the same time and call him afterward to discuss it over the pizza and Pepsi you've had delivered to his place. This also gives you a topic of conversation other than how much things suck for him right now, and will help him feel less lonely for a few hours at least.
posted by contraption at 2:28 PM on June 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

If it was me, a few books/CDs would make a nice gift. They are inexpensive and offer a great escape. Does he have an Amazon wish list?
posted by jockc at 2:36 PM on June 6, 2007

• Find out what grocery store he frequents, and purchase him a gift card (I am always happy to receive Trader Joe's giftcards. Best birthday gift ever!). This will free up some of his own money that he can put toward his other expenses.

• Make him a mix CD of happy, upbeat songs (think Early Beatles) that he will enjoy. This costs very little, and he will appreciate that you put the time and thought into making it specifically for him.

• Though you mention you're trying to avoid extravagance, perhaps purchasing him a webcam/headset? Include with it directions on how to download Skype. That way you both and have a chat vis-à-vis (albeit electronically). It might make him feel closer to those he misses but cannot afford to visit. I skype with distant family members on a near-weekly basis, and afterwards I feel like I've just shared an intimate cup of tea with them.

• Send money anyway, but do it cleverly! I once received a potpourri pouch for the holidays, and only realized days later that there was $200 hidden inside the pouch. My wallet smelled wonderful for weeks afterwards. :)

• Do you two have any inside jokes? I often include little mementos as peripheral to the main gift; this always gets a laugh or smile out of the giftee.
posted by numinous at 2:40 PM on June 6, 2007

A good friend one time put me on a semi-scavenger hunt to find my own birthday present: she sent me a card with directions (exit your house; walk left for three blocks; turn left on Central; etc.). This took me on a 20-minute walk to find...a local bakery with a freshly-baked birthday cake waiting for me! Perhaps you could do a multi-site scavenger hunt of this sort:

- Location 1: a CD store with a $20 gift certificate waiting for him.

- Location 2: a great pizza place where he could stop for (pre-paid) lunch/dinner.

- Location 3: bakery with a cake for him.

Or whatever fits his & your preferences best. This allows you to: get him gifts that are appropriate; give him money for necessities without it seeming like charity; get his lonely ass out of the house for a bit.

BTW, just thought I should say you're a great friend for wanting to do this!
posted by googly at 2:58 PM on June 6, 2007 [5 favorites]

contraption's idea rocks. If it's not good for his personality, I'd suggest a trader joe's card, too.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 2:58 PM on June 6, 2007

I always feel the key to break depression is socializing. How about tickets to some fun things so they get out of the house?
posted by boyinmiami at 3:01 PM on June 6, 2007

Get in your car and start driving. You can easily be there by Sunday.
posted by LarryC at 3:07 PM on June 6, 2007

I second the socializing thought. It's really hard to get out and do things when you're depressed. Plan a day for him.
posted by crickets at 3:08 PM on June 6, 2007

I like googly's idea! Maybe you can think of things which almost forces him to communicate with someone to get the present/next clue --like he has to ask the guy at the music store counter something, or say something to the waitress...that will get him out socializing with strangers and maybe have new experiences!
posted by lil' ears at 3:10 PM on June 6, 2007

Well, if he's your boyfriend, may I suggest a specially-posed sexy photo (movie?) of yourself, among other things.
posted by londongeezer at 3:14 PM on June 6, 2007

You say he likes creating music, what about a ukulele? I'm dead serious, few things banish the blues like a uke. Inexpensive, easy to learn to play, portable. It may even help him make friends- it's always a conversation-starter to play outdoors, and there may be a ukulele club near him that he can join.

These are generally accepted to be the best-sounding dirt-cheap starter ukes, especially with some high-quality strings, plus, bright colors! The folks that run that site are lovely, and they should be able to get something shipped to him in time.
posted by doift at 3:28 PM on June 6, 2007

Second the driving
posted by A189Nut at 3:30 PM on June 6, 2007

Does this person like fruit? ediblearrangements.com has some really terrific fruit delivered, mostly strawberries, melon, pineapple, etc. They cut them so it looks like a floral bouquet. They deliver and a few days' notice should be sufficient. I bought stuff for Mother's Day from them this year on the Thursday before and they were still delivering for that Sunday.

I have sent them out for a variety of things and they are a big hit. Also really delicious. But if your pal is not a fruit eater then I would not recommend them.

I also like the scavenger hunt idea.
posted by sutel at 3:49 PM on June 6, 2007

Get in your car and start driving. You can easily be there by Sunday.
posted by LarryC at 3:07 PM on June 6 [+] [!]


(That's factorial, not exclamation.)
posted by Netzapper at 3:49 PM on June 6, 2007

I second sutel's idea...that way, it'll double as a meal. If you can get a local pizza place to deliver to him, I'd say tell him you want to call and wish him a happy birthday at 7 PM. I tried that once, but the place I called wouldn't take an out-of-state credit card when I wouldn't be there to sign for it.
posted by christinetheslp at 3:59 PM on June 6, 2007

Having some experience with one who is depressed and a long distance away (speaking personally and for a friend as well), the best kind of gift in these situations is one that as closely simulates *your* presence as possible. Well-timed movies, funny personalized pictures, long phone calls, etc have been the best bets so far - things that specifically make one feel less lonely. Partially it's the effort you put into the finished product, whatever it is, but mostly it's the desire to express that if you *could* be there, you would in a heartbeat. Provide your friend with the next best thing to your physical presence sitting on the couch next to him, and I guarantee you'll make a big difference.

That said, a thoughtful gift on top of that is very nice - a well chosen book (even second hand!), DVD, CD, etc.
posted by AthenaPolias at 4:06 PM on June 6, 2007

Perhaps there is a concert in his town for which you can send tickets? If there is something he can look forward to, that might help his depression.

As far as pizza delivery, try campusfood.com if there is a university anywhere near him. You can pay with your credit card, order online, and have it sent to his house.
posted by desjardins at 5:12 PM on June 6, 2007

Thank you so much for the wonderful suggestions! Some specific responses:

I love the idea of a scavenger hunt, but he's depressed/socially anxious enough that I don't think he'd do it. In fact, I doubt he'd do anything I could plan that would require him to leave the house. Obviously the best birthday present ever would be to alleviate the depression for good (or convince him to seek treatment), but as much as I wish it were otherwise, I'm not omnipotent in that regard...

Anyway! Yes! I will get a pizza + Pepsi delivered to his house if I can. That's a great idea. I think I'll get him a TV-show DVD as well for marathoning (I know of one he likes and doesn't own.) And I'll try to think of a useful gift card that he'd be unlikely to "send right the fuck back" which is what he threatened to do with any money I'd send.

As for driving there, I live far enough away and my car is enough of a gas-guzzling asshole that it would cost approximately a thousand million billion dollars to do it. Plus I'd probably get fired. Believe me, otherwise I'd do it in a heartbeat.

If anyone has any other experiences/suggestions I'd love to hear them - and thank you all again.
posted by granted at 5:46 PM on June 6, 2007

Someone who loves me sent a decadently, luscious rich chocolate birthday cake via an internet bakery which made his presence known for days even though he was 100s of miles away. Cerainly a day brightener.
posted by peace_love_hope at 6:55 PM on June 6, 2007

call him several times yourself that day- beginning first thing in the morning when he wakes up, and one more time arond bedtime. by the second phonecall, gradually begin to get more and more goofy and prankish so he feels joshed, not pitied. like call him and fart at him and hang up.

mail him a few small packages of random things, maybe including some funny items that don't mail well? like a popsicle in a fedex envelope? a slice of american cheese taped to a letter? a ransom note cut out of magazines? a collage of paris hilton? a casette tape of you reading the bible?

maybe send him a maid to clean his apartment? and arrange to have her bring flowers and a snack?

you could look up people from his past (maybe via facebook or myspace or his siblings), and make sure they all know it's his bday, and arrange a series of bday phonecalls and emails from old/online friends and family members? i did this once for my depressed roommate- sent out a mass email to lots of her pals (i got their addies from a mass mail she'd previously sent), asking them all to call or email her at weird times throughout the day- and she loved it.
posted by twistofrhyme at 8:24 PM on June 6, 2007

If you go the gift card route, getting a card for a store that exists in his area but not yours might make it less likely to be rejected, since you'd have no use for it if he sent it back to you.
posted by contraption at 8:47 PM on June 6, 2007

How about a Cookie Bouquet? I received one of these before, they taste great and made me smile everytime I looked at it.
posted by JujuB at 9:41 PM on June 6, 2007

posted by Max Power at 8:08 AM on June 7, 2007

Do any of your loved one's utilities do anything like this?

I'll let you be the judge of whether it would go over better than straight cash, but it would definitely be a way to help if he's behind on bills.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:39 AM on June 8, 2007

« Older Would an EIN number now affect future non-profit...   |   The easiest way you can help me move! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.