My friend Kim has a 10:10:10 rule for her birthday gifts. It should take ten minutes to put together, cost less than ten dollars, and be used within ten months.
She doesn't abide by the guidelines for her gifts to others, mind you -- her creative gifts must take her hours, if not days, and definitely set her back more than $10 bucks. But I like the idea: simple gifts that don't end up taking space, but still say 'I love you, Happy Birthday.'
If I were to revise her rule though, I think I'd end up changing all the clauses so they couldn't be taken literally. I'd get rid of the 10 dollar clause, because I think it could indirectly encourage the buying of cheap crap, when someone could make it or buy a quality version for a bit more dough. I'd drop the 'minimal time to make' clause, because many of the best gifts I've ever given or gotten have been labours of love. And I'd add a caveat on a gift's lifetime to allow for homemade goods, because so many of those are meant to be enjoyed and loved for a long time.
I guess my only guideline would be 'make it yourself or buy handmade!' And I'd hope that someone wouldn't use too many of their resources to give me something that just sits on a shelf for years.
Who knew I could rattle on so much about presents! Without further ado, I'll show you the birthday gift for my mother-in-law: fine wrapping papers and two homemade tags for each.