One of the ways we live on a shoestring is to make sure that the gift cupboard is well-stocked. We also keep a good collection of cards on hand, so that we can respond appropriately to expected and unexpected occasions with a card. Some of the cards I make, specially Christmas ones and some I buy. The cards are often found at jumbles sales, still in the plastic sleeve or can be picked up cheaply at places like pound shops or the Card Factory. I have a target price of 10p a card including the envelope. This sometimes means that it is cheaper to buy rather than make, depending on how much card making supplies cost.
I plan a year in advance for birthdays and Christmas and other holidays, making a list of all the people we give to and a note of any special events coming up, such as weddings. For big events that gives me plenty of time to plan a big homemade gift, like a quilt or sampler or if they are the sort of people that want a gift registry I can stockpile coupons, pick something in my price range or arrange to get the same item elsewhere using vouchers or coupons.
I also keep the gift cupboard stocked with some generic gifts for unexpected gift giving. Gifts include, scented candles, books, CDs and foodie gifts like cordials and jams. Every so often I have to take stock to make sure that I'm not hoarding too much and make sure that I'm actually gifting things ! We have a rule that no gift can cost more than £5 and it's a game to try and get the nicest gift for that price. We do spend slightly more on absolute immediate family but now that the children are older this is more likely to be a contribution to an experience and a small gift to open on the day.
Using this system has saved me so much stress over the past few years and I love not having to go out shopping knowing I have to find something that day ! All told we spend a lot less than we used to and I think are still giving nice gifts. A few times I have been hurt by people's reaction to handmade gifts that I spent a lot of time and thought on so do make sure that those go to people who appreciate them !