Here's what I've figured out based on my experiences this Holiday Season.
First of all, if you go into a store you will spend money and it will probably be more than you thought you would. I rarely ventured into stores this holiday season and when I did it was with list in hand. Even so, the temptation to deviate from the list was intense. Get all your handmade/homemade stuff done first then use the stores to fill in the blanks, if there are any.
Details count. My in laws raved about some biscotti that I made at Thanksgiving. You can bet your boots that a tin of biscotti was included in their Christmas present. At the same time, muffin jar mixes were not included in the gifts of family on the Atkins plan (which I totally disagree with as a nutrition professional but I'll save that rant for another time.)
What skills do I have? My hubby is a phone man, he secretly ran a phone extension into our daughters' bedroom. Is there a better gift for two teenage girls? The real bonus is my cordless phone doesn't go missing anymore. I'm vegetarian for many years and love to cook. Jar mixes of favorite recipes (fool proof only) are the logical answer when people ask "but how can you make ___ with no eggs or dairy?
What are my hobbies? I like to crochet and cross stitch while watching old movies with my hubby. It keeps me from snacking and its productive. Many of our gifts had one the product of these two hobbies in them.
Finally, planning is key. Make a list of people you need to give to. Don't forget teachers, coworkers, etc. Then make a plan and don't forget dates when things need to be done. Teachers gifts need to be done before school lets out! I need to be thinking about things by the middle of October to avoid rushing and panic. Keep your eyes open during the tag sale season. The finds can be incredible but you have to keep track of what you've gotten.