This year we are planning to all donate to a great charity together (like Heifer International! I also love Kiva - www.kiva.org
) and also to pick a name out of hat and get that one person something special, instead of getting a bunch of generic gifts/small gifts. Everyone in my family has everything they need already. We are so privileged, there is nothing that will make me happier than just sharing the wealth and spending time with my favorite people.
No offense to the commenter above, since this is obviously all situation dependent, but I am not in favor of buying cheap generic gifts (such as the candles, bath oils, etc. for women). I have a huge bag in my closet of this kind of stuff and every so often I clean it out, either by giving it to Goodwill or by re-gifting the stuff to other people. Unless you know the person actually loves candles or lotion or whatever, this stuff is just going to be unused. Save your money and spend it on something meaningful. I think for most people, it is really the thought that counts. Who knows, maybe there are people out there who really only care about counting the number of gifts they receive or getting upset that you didn't get them "something". You can go to Goodwill and pick up my recycled gifts for them nice and cheaply!
- Burning a special mix CD for someone and making a cool CD case from scratch - costs only pennies!
- Doing something you know the other person has been meaning to do forever. Last year I organized my Dad's desk for him. Sometimes I do something like clean the car or the garage.
- I have to pass on this great idea from my brother. He knew I loved to buy a doughnut at Dunkin Donuts when I was on my way in to school. So he got a bunch of change, counted it out into exact change needed to buy a doughnut (at the time, it was 53 cents), then he taped up each little bunch of coins with a little label that had a picture of a doughnut. Then he put all the little taped coin stacks into a jar that read "Doughnut Fund". I thought this was unbelievably cute.
- Making a photo calendar: you can buy or make a calendar (depending on how much effort you want to put into it) and then print photos for each of the months. You can also just purchase a custom photo calendar from online photo printing sites like Kodakgallery, but I presume you can do it more cheaply if you make it yourself.