As we have mentioned before on the blog, our family does 'make your own' christmas. This drastically reduces the number of gifts I buy.
But here are some ideas...
One tip that always helps - is to think whether its something you would like. Not everyone is the same, but its a good starting point.
I love consumables, lets face it, we don't need more 'stuff' to fill our homes. (unless someone has specifically asked for it)...
Plants, potted plants, orchids, cut flowers, herbs. These are a variation of my christmas gift. And they are great any time of the year. One thing to keep in mind is to think whether the recipient is a plant person - or will it just die? If so, then cut flowers are the way to go.
Chocolates. We all love chocolate, but we don't always treat ourself to the really nice stuff, or the imported stuff. Whatever you do, stay away from the cheap, seasonal stuff (think $1 easter bunnies - do you really want to eat that? it tastes like plastic, sure its a good deal but......)
Tea or Coffee. Depending on your recipients taste, you can buy some specialty loose tea, or fancy coffee. Think about buying local and organic. Think about something you might not always buy yourself.
HomeMade treats If you are a baker, then home made goodies are great - but one thing to think about is 'can it be frozen'? Since so many of us get tons of goodies, its hard to eat them all right away, and if they must be eaten within a few days then they might go to waste. So lately I have been thinking about freezable homemade treats. Cookies tend to work great - and so does zucchini bread.
One of the best gifts we got after our daughter was born - was meals. It can be weird but if you agree to bring a meal over on a specified date - then its a day your recepient can look forward to enjoying a meal. You have to be pretty close to the people to do this though :)
Magazines. I love magazines. If you are sure of one, then a subscription is a great idea. Then they get to enjoy your gift all year long. There are so many out there, and I think most people enjoy relaxing and reading.
Gift Certificates. These can be touchy, since they can come across as a last minute "I couldn't think of anything" but I think they can also be thoughtful if they are for a specific store (instead of the whole mall) or for a service like a manicure. Just make sure you think of the person, and what might be a treat for them.
Experiences. Spend a day or a weekend together. My sister has previously spent weekends at Great Wolf Lodge, and I know other friends who have spent a day and taken their kids to the Toronto Zoo. We are currently planning a winter cottage weekend with my husbands siblings. It's a great way to create memories and worth so much more than a sweater from the mall.
And now here are a few that are probably less generic and maybe only I would want them...
Gardening gloves, or clippers. (I think my husband would also be happy to receive work gloves at any occasion) A Kreg jig for wood working projects. Red oven mitts, red & black tea towels (for our hopefully soon renovated kitchen). A pastry hand blender. Sometimes its hard to come up with a wish list, since we all have so much stuff and are fortunate enough to be able to buy what we want from time to time.
Even a phone call to catch up with people you haven't talked to in a while. It reminds people that you are thinking about them.