This does not need to be a bad thing; in fact, we should greet this as an excuse to throw old patterns of pointless excess and boredom in our gift-giving out, and start new traditions. When you have less money to work with, it forces you to become more inventive and adaptive in where you spend your money and time. For anyone who's ever watched Top Chef or Project Runway, you know what I'm talking about - inevitably, when given the challenge to create a dish/garment with severe limitations on time, ingredients/materials and expense, contestants have come up with some of their most artistic and ground-breaking ideas. On the opposite side of that, when they are given free rein on their commodities, time, and range of scope, they all too often are hamstrung by the excess of choice and produce weak or simply bad results.
When I lost my job three years ago, it resulted in a specific theme: Re-gifting and Recycling Roulette. Almost everything I gave was either regifted, recycled, or free. It ended up being one of the most enjoyable and satisfying gift-giving seasons I have ever had. This year, it has thematically become a Homemade Holiday. Almost everything I am giving is homemade - crocheted amigurumi critters for children and girlfriends who enjoy cute things, homemade vanilla extract, which is an expensive commodity when purchased at a grocery store, but cheap to make in bulk, and eminently useful.
- Take a mental inventory of your skills - are you good at making something useful or artistic? Consider how you can translate that into gifts.
- Try to learn a new skill to make something useful or in demand. I found the recipe for vanilla online quite by accident, and decided to learn how to make amigurumi so I could always make a little something if I couldn't afford to buy a present for baby showers.
- Think of what your family and friends can genuinely use or appreciate - don't just present them with a wooden doghouse if they live in a heavily populated downtown high-rise! Make them something they can easily make room for.
I learned how to make really good cookies years ago so I could take them to events to please and impress people so they would like me. It usually works, which is why I am still making things to this day. ;)