I might suggest this year that instead of wasting money on gifts you don't need, you might consider making a charitable donation to a various cause in the name of the person you want to get a gift for. What is neat about this neat about this idea is that it is really a two-fer gift. Someone gets a gift (are at least a warm fuzzy feeling) and real needy people in the world get a gift that actually need.
As such, here is my annual list of charities you might consider buying someone "a gift" from with the gift actually going to some actual needy cause directly.
1. If you want to sponsor a child, http://www.worldvision.org does a great job. I've sponsored a child from them for about 2 years now, and its a good experience. It is a major charitable organization, so if you want something a little more down to earth without the major overhead that huge organizations run, you might consider El Hogar Ministries, an Anglican mission in Honduras which runs a trade school for high school students. You can sponsor a child there as well for a school year.
2. You might consider buying a goat (or a cow or whatever) that is donated to a needy family in a 3rd world country. Heifer International and the USPG (an Anglican Mission society) allow you (regardless of price range) to buy something along those lines in the name of a person you designate. The options range anywhere from a $20 Chicken to a $500 heifer.
3. If you are looking for a "local" missionary with which to donate, I can recommend two that are affliated with the Episcopal Church in Nebraska. I know both of these missionaries personally and would vouch for both of their ministries:
One is Deacon Bob Snow's mission in the Dominican Republic. Bob is a super nice guy and has been a missionary there for about 15 years. I know when I saw him at our annual council earlier in the month that he is expanding his ministry to include a street ministry to the town around his mission.
There is also a Sudanese mission run by a Sudanese priest (and former Lost Boy refugee) named Daniel Kuot whom I roomed with for a year when I was a church intern in Omaha. He is also a great guy and has been forced to regroup after some fighting broke out in the Boma region of Sudan this summer and was forced to flee his mission there. He is currently regrouping and building a school across the border in Ethiopia until the fighting subsides. I am told he is making another mission plant early next year. If you don't have funds but would like to donate yarn and knitting needles, a group of Nebraska Episcopalians are going over to Sudan right after Christmas to take supplies to Father Daniel and they have requested yarn for clothing. (The Sudanese women are master weavers.) If you would like to donate yarn, leave a comment or contact me via e-mail and I can give you the particulars on that.)
Anyway, just some yuletide thoughts about ways to actually give meaningful gifts.