Doesn't everyone have a gift shelf or closet? If not, you should. I love to give surprises to the people who are special in my life or just someone who needs a boost. Yet being on a budget had curbed my giving until I proudly declared myself to be a thrift store, estate, & garage sale junky. Lined up in little rows are all kinds of goodies from cut glass antique salt shakers (to be filled with cinnamon sugar or a homemade seasoning salt mix for a housewarming treat) to hand printed packets of note cards or napkins tied with ribbon for cheering up girlfriends in tough times.
When the kids were young we had lots of craft kits, both prepackaged and homemade ones we put together. They were generally gender neutral for birthday gifts but we had our share of Supersoaker guns as a welcome gift for new kids in the neighborhood. (We lived in Georgia at the time and most moves were in the summer) Instead of wrapping paper the kids would decorate a a larger t-shirt for bedtime with their rendition of a character from the "flavor of the month" Disney flick. I let them wrap the gift in the shirt and we tied them up with ribbon or sometimes hair scrunchies. Yes... its been a few years ;)
Nowadays I'm more liable to pick up edgy inexpensive bowls or bookmarks from local college art students. Then I grab fun, odd biographies from sales for a quarter. The gift is the bookmark and the paperback is the wrapping. Hand thrown bowls can be filled with organic sugar packs or specialty salts for baths. If I buy in bulk, its cheap and I can pack them up in just the right size. Then wrap them in tulle with raffia.
Have a friend with a new puppy? There are lots of dog biscuit recipes on the web and I wrap them in a paper lunch bag with specialty machine stitching to close. Including biodegradeable poop bags (less than 6 cents each) for walks are usually greatly appreciated too.
Some of the goodies I've gotten the biggest response from have been completely consumable. When I run into decorative paper plates, napkins, etc. on uber clearance (thank you Target!) I snag them. Teachers love holiday sets with a favorite cheese ball, a box of crackers, and the recipe. Newlyweds and new parents can always use a big bag of different beautiful paper products for unexpected drop-ins and those nights you need a boost with your take out food.
And of course... as I've posted before I love making recycled shopping bags from tees. They make great reusable gift wrap.