If the loved ones are little ones, little ones love the unwrapping of the gifts as much as the gifts themselves. Could you do a series of inexpensive gifts, lavishly wrapped, and save the bigger expenditure for the after Christmas Sales? Even little ones understand money, and a modest sum of money, spent however they wish at the sales, might teach them more about life, than any techno gadget. A lesson might be gained too, by helping them search on eBay or in Loan Brokers stores, for the gifts unwanted by others! It's possible to find just the 'thing' they wanted for well under retail price post Christmas.
If the loved ones are friends to whom you feel you must gift something, then gift a skill. Teach yourself to give the best hand and arm or scalp massage ever (neither are difficult at all), using a neutral oil like almond oil or a lotion like Sorbolene, lightly scented with their favourite essential oil. This could be Rose, Lavender, Peppermint, Jasmine, Honeysuckle, Frangipani, or perhaps one chosen by offering them a list of what you have on hand. Yes, still an expense, but staggered over a period of time. They might look at you oddly at first, but one massage will convert them!
If massage doesn't appeal, then offer a different skill. Cooking and serving a meal, taking their own kids off their hands so they can have a night off, gardening, growing some herbs for them, and regularly harvesting them, growing ivy from cuttings and planting it in hanging baskets later on when finances are improved.
Annabel over at The Bluebirds are Nesting, gifts bunches of herbs, and is gifted lemons in return. I know that I'd love either.
I have a friend who grows basil by the mile like a weed, and turns it into the most exceptional pesto. This pesto, tossed with fresh pasta, is a taste sensation that cannot be described. This is a tradition she started when she was a struggling single parent too, many years ago, and one she has continued due to the begging of various friends, including me! Now, despite both of us having greatly improved 'circumstances', she still gifts me pesto, and I still gift her home made pasta and pate`, and we're both happy. We each anticipate the others gift too, and treasure it all the more for only having it once a year, with all the memories attached.
So let's say it's too late to grow basil (it is), and you don't know how to make pasta or pate`.
How about inviting your friends on a tour of the Christmas Lights in your area. Or to the church for Carols on Christmas Eve? You can offer to provide the hot chocolate and marshmallows afterwards if you're in a cold climate, or the home made ice creams with fudge sauce, if you're in a hot climate. Ice cream, and home made caramel or chocolate fudge sauce for 10? About $20 or $2 each. Hot chocolate and marshmallows the same. If you serve it with a bit of panache, set the table beautifully, and call it a Sundae Soiree` or a Hot Chocolate Banquet , with wafers for the sundaes, and cinnamon sugar, chocolate flakes, and peppermint sprinkles for the marshmallow hot chocolate, then it still looks like you've made an effort.
And most importantly, make sure you're generous. Make sure there's enough hot chocolate and marshmallows or ice cream, fudge sauce and wafers, to go around at least twice, if not thrice. You can afford that if you're not spending ridiculously on gifts that will be forgotten by late January.
Do whatever you do well, and with a sense of pride, and not one of shame. Be generous of heart and spirit too, and you'll find it will return to you many times over. I promise. Let that driver merge in front of you, offer up your place in the supermarket queue to the mum with the screaming toddler, let that carpark space go, there'll be another. Don't spoil your festive season by being mean of heart and spirit. That will make for a sad time.
If you create a feeling of abundance in word and deed, you'll find that you, like Mrs T, fear little and you'll know that the adventures in life, have little to do with money.