I also found this article and this one about not going broke on holiday shopping. One of them says to make a list of who you're giving presents to, and then set a budget. Sounds wise.
I also read an article by this woman saying that gift cards were lame, and that you shouldn't give them because they aren't thoughtful--that you should know the person better than that and attempt to find out what they want. This makes me consider two important things:
1) But you often do have to buy presents for people you don't know very well, and don't know what they want. My initial thought: isn't it better to let them decide what to pick out for themselves? My thought after a few moments of consideration: maybe you should limit your gift-giving a bit. If you don't have any idea what someone likes, are you guys really that close? If you want to be, maybe use it as an opportunity to reconnect. But it might also just help you stop from buying presents for people you don't need to buy them for :p **
2) People do buy you gifts, too. And many of them don't know what you want. And they would feel bad if you returned it or sold it on eBay. I actually do appreciate the thought that goes into gifts that people buy me, and the fact that they thought I was important enough to give a gift in the first place (even if the gift idea is a little bit deranged). But I swear, I keep telling these people I don't need more things and I don't want them to incur more debt on my behalf. Really! Things that make me happy? Spending time together and laughing. Going out to a yummy dinner together. Playing Warcraft. Books. The first two you can do for free or pretty cheap. The next one my grandparents would never know how to buy me ;) The best way to do the last one without getting a book I already have? Gift cards. Oh, and I'm not adverse to people paying my bills for me, just in case you had that urge ;) But I don't mind receiving gift cards for things I actually like but are hard to pick (like gift cards to the used book store, for instance, or to Safeway--really). I don't think they're offensive or thoughtless. As long as they're not to the Home Depot, of course.
What do you think?
** The exception of course being in-laws. If you have to buy them a present, and will piss them off and look bad if you don't, you're more or less confined to either buying them random crap (like bath products or automatic card shufflers) or gift cards. If you like them, go with gift cards. That's just my opinion.