Will & I don't buy presents. For each other or anyone else (except our niece and nephew, who are 6 and 3.) we've had good financial years and bad ones, but we've always preferred having experiences over stuff. Or we buy each other stuff during the year.
(This isn't a dig on anyone who does presents. I love presents! But I like the right gift for the right person rather than just HEY I BOUGHT YOU CRAP TO OPEN.)
With friends that I see regularly, I don't buy presents because I feel like we're giving each other the gift of company. We make food together, or make each other drinks, or they pick me up to take me to the ER when I've busted my ankle.
But there are times I wished that I was organized enough to do cards or somesuch every year, for those people I don't see.
I always have this grand plan for the holidays where I'm going to send out cards and buy gifts and donate to charity in people's names and then suddenly it's December 20th and that scrap of paper with your address that I saved from that time you sent me that thing is buried on my desk but it doesn't matter because I didn't buy holiday cards and my donations have gone southwards because things were a little more tight than usual this year and I think well, crap, I want to do something.
So starting last year, I started sending emails to those people. Think of it like a Christmas letter, but instead of it being about ME, it's about THEM and their awesomeness.
Maybe it's cheesy, but I figure people aren't told how awesome they are on a regular basis. So it's a little Season's Awesomes.
Anyway, feel free to steal this idea. It's recession-proof!