Family and close friends always try to be to there for you. But sometimes, circumstances may not allow you to be there at all – geographically, anyway. How do you stay connected when you aren’t close enough to visit?

If your location prevents you from seeing the important people in your life in person, technology – and a little creativity – often can help erase the distance between you. Here are a few ideas to help you stay in touch and feel like you’re right next door.

Focus on holidays and birthdays: Connecting on special days leads to special memories that can help carry you through the rest of the year. The holidays are when people tend to miss families the most, so look for some inexpensive ways to not only communicate during the holiday season, but to send cards and gifts.

Shipping can be expensive, but many online shopping sites such as Amazon.com offer free shipping on bulk orders or orders that exceed a certain amount. Overstock.com offers free shipping for orders over $50 year-round.

Send e-cards to friends and family. Many sites offer them for free, including 123greetings.com, egreetings.com and americangreetings.com and the extremely humorous someecards.com. The cards are often customizable, include animation, are available for holidays, birthdays and every occasion in between, and can be shared via email or social media sites.

Remember with Western Union you can also send the gift of money for any occasion.

Take a few minutes and enter family and friends’ birthdays, anniversaries, etc., into your personal calendar and set reminders.

Start a blog: You can create your own blog for free on popular platforms such as blogger.com and wordpress.com. They’re user-friendly and you’ll be online in minutes. It’s a great way to keep people informed about your life as well as providing a creative outlet. Invite family and friends to follow your blog and through comment features, you can have subsequent group conversations easily and conveniently.

Get social: Facebook didn’t reach a billion users by accident. Most everyone you know is likely engaging on popular social media sites, including Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. They’re all free, providing you have an Internet connection, and make even your most far-away relatives feel like they’re in the room with you.

Create special times and activities for children: If your travels keep you separated from your children, make a special effort to give them time they can look forward to spending with you. Schedule regular phone calls or video chats on a free service such as Skype or RebTel which offers cheap international calls. And create a theme or activity that is uniquely theirs. Tell them you’re in a virtual clubhouse, and read a story or work on a craft together while on the call. Create a project they can continue until your next call – for example, a scrapbook, or some kind of artwork that you each can share on the next call. Encourage them to write letters back and forth, or emails.

Get phone cards or prepaid cards: Phone cards are great for staying in touch with anyone who isn’t computer-savvy. And with reloadable prepaid cards from Western Union, you can easily send a gift card to someone special all over the globe, Moving money for better in minutes.

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