I agree, Brandy.
It is sad that society seems more focused on determining the value of something by its price tag. Is it me or has this gotten worse the past decade or so?
I don't remember the poster's name, sorry, but I also remember when getting a letter in the mail was a big thrill. But at the same time, I realize what I value isn't necessarily going to be what the intended recipient would value. Are we obligated to give what we know they want or what we are able to give? Ok I'm getting too philosophical again.. heh.
I don't spend beyond my budget to win approval, and that has gotten me removed from a few people's gift lists. I don't know if they realized at the time it was more of a blessing to me than not.
I bake from scratch for people I'm very close to, and I know their food tolerances/dislikes, and I bake what I know they love. I don't whip up something that is so simple that they could do it in a couple minutes, but will make something that is too time consuming for them to make on a regular basis. i.e. my sister loves stollen and made from scratch it is time consuming, so I give her that every year, two loaves. She lets me how know much better it is than store bought.
So I agree whole heartedly with giving of self vs cash as long as some self is put into it. It bothers me to get a plate of store bought cookies. It isn't the thought that counts. DH and I rarely eat sweets anyway and would prefer no present than something I have to toss out. It is just me personally, nothing wrong with them if you gift them, but I personally would be embarrassed to give that to someone I knew. I would definitely invest some time in finding out what kinds of food the recipient really enjoys.
For people I don't know well, I buy inexpensive picture frames and wrap them nicely. This is the best I've ever been able to come up with that is not gender specific. So easy to reach into a basket and just hand someone one to reciprocate when I get an unexpected gift from them.