Many friend groups, as well as families, are spread out across the country, and sometimes across the world. With jobs and school taking people to different locations, it can be difficult to stay close to people who are far away. Sometimes phone calls are enough to keep you feeling close to your friends or family, but other times phone calls are just not enough.
We all get busy, and many people can’t afford to simply take off from work and fly to see the people that they care about regularly. Flying is expensive, and even a road trip can be costly. While we all hope to see the people we care about regularly, there are affordable ways to stay in touch between visits. Here are five fun and unique ways that you can stay in touch with the people that you care about, but can’t see very often.
If you haven’t experienced Skype, you should definitely give it a try. If you can’t see your friends or family in person, it’s hard to imagine anything better than being able to talk to and see them via your webcam and Skype. It’s completely free to make a voice or video call to anyone else who has Skype. If you already have a computer and Internet access, you can basically see and talk to other people for free — as long as you have a webcam. Webcams themselves are very cheap if you do need to buy one. If you don’t have a long-distance phone plan, or you have limited cell phone minutes, Skype is also a great option for other calls.
2. Email and social media
Most likely almost everyone you know uses email regularly. According to a report by The Radicati Group, in 2013, the total number of worldwide email accounts was nearly 3.9 billion, and that number is projected to increase to over 4.9 billion by the end of 2017. Often, it takes a significant part of a person’s day just to respond to emails, and some people even receive their bills through email, so it can be easy to get sick of using it.
Writing short notes back and forth with a friend or family member can give you something to look forward to. One way to make your emails more unique is to have specific email “dates.” For example, you can set aside one day each week that you write to a specific person, and have them write to you on that same day so you can both look forward to the correspondence.
Social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, can also help you stay in contact with others for free. These are a great way to keep people updated in general about what is going on with your life.
3. Snail mail
Fewer and fewer people are sending real letters now that email has become so popular. It seems silly to waste time writing letters and then paying money for a stamp when you can simply type up an email and send it for free. However, letter writing still has many advantages. The biggest advantage is that its become unusual to send an actual letter. Most people go to their mail box expecting bills and advertisements, and the occasional handwritten letter feels special. Sending a letter shows you took time to think about the person you are writing to, and actually sat down and write to them. Letters are also especially beneficial for people who don’t have regular Internet access, such as friends or family members who are working in another country with little access, or a very rural area.
4. Photo gifts
With families often being spread out across the country (and sometimes over several countries), loved ones may feel like they are missing out on seeing you or your children grow and change. Especially if someone lives very far away, it can be difficult for them to miss big events, but also the daily changes that occur. One special way to include family and friends in your life is to consider sending photo gifts. Many sites offer these gifts, such as Shutterfly and snapfish. Although you could easily email pictures, taking the time to create a photo book or other photo gift makes the memories that you are sharing more personal and special. Sending a photo gift also allows the recipient to have the memories for a long time, rather than simply viewing them over email or having to print them on their own.
5. Shared hobbies
As strange as it sounds, you can participate in a hobby or activity that you can share with someone who can’t literally experience the hobby with you. Many people bond over shared interests, and although you have to be more creative when someone lives far away, you can still have a similar experience. Try choosing a book that you both want to read. When you are finished, you can discuss the book over Skype. Another idea would be trying the same new activity, such as a cooking class or photography course. Even though you won’t be at the same location, you can bond cheaply (or even for free) over something new or shared.
Although it’s difficult to live far away from someone you care about, you don’t have to let the distance stop you from being emotionally close. Consider trying one of these affordable ideas for staying in touch.