Everyone except my nieces and kids get framed Photos. I buy wood frames used at garage sales and spray paint them flat black as that shows off the photos the best. New glass is cheap and cutting glass it easy. If the glass is broken or missing you can get nice frames for .10 to .25 otherwise it is about 1.00. Sometimes if you show up at the end of a sale you can get a whole box for $1 to $2. I use a white museum quality mat and foam core and finish it nicely with acid free tape.
I always sign and date and put a personal note on the back. A part time job with a custom frame place will give you lessons on mat cutting plus access to a mat cutter and materials cheap plus a little income to pay for your supplies. Do well and build a relationship with the owner and you can go back and cut mats for birthdays and other events. I have collected from Grandparents old family photos and documented them well. The old sepia prints on great grand parents and other family history make great wedding presents when framed in a more elaborate formal way too. After you do this you can do mats and frames for friends in exchange for babysitting or other things you might need like cash. They are always looking for extra people during the season.
I have invested in a very nice camera because that is a favorite hobby and in the end it has paid for its self. If you need photography lessons then ask at your local photostore or find out the teacher who teaches at your local community center ask if you can assist in class in exchange for coming. People complain when I find that perfect gift and buy them something else. We bake cookies for token gifts (mail person, garbage person, neighbors) and put them in hand decorated brown lunch sacks lined with waxed tissue that I buy from a local bakery for wholesale. I also organize group gifts for teachers and daycare people and Girl Scout leaders with other parents.
This is very much appreciated and takes little effort and in the end if you can give a teacher or day care worker a $200 American express gift check from 20 to 30 people then they feel much more appreciated as you went to the effort to ensure they got something nice. These are people who deserve big gifts but alone it is impossible to make this happen. We collect individual cards from each giver and put them in a large envelope. Every year I organize this it gets easier and people start expecting so they don’t buy ahead they know I’m going to do this. Occasionally someone offers to help.
I do very very little shopping at Christmas. My kids each get 4 things something they want, something to wear(usually PJs),. something to read, and something they need. Stockings are filled with art supplies and candy a tooth brush and a trial sized tooth paste. These things come from the entire extended family not just me so it is pretty much 4 things to open at Christmas. My mom sews so she makes the PJs and sometimes a pillow case to match. My sister is in charge of books and takes great care in selecting the right one for each kid( she loves books). Used books are fine and used items in general are considered a cool thing.
Our family is very much at the point it is the thought that counts and handmade gifts that are personal are considered in very high regard. The thing with overspending on Christmas is when you do this people feel they have to reciprocate. It might take a few years for a new in-law to get with the program but if you don’t follow suite and continue to do the nice but handmade item they will get the picture that is what you want too. Those that are not crafty buy supplies or gift cards for supplies.