Hello, I need gift ideas for people that I'm not close to like extended family (obviously not talking in the family tree sense).
assume sending cash is off the table
solely sending gift cards is off the table too, but it can compliment a different gift presentation if you come up with something creative
unsolicited advice is always a favorite!
I try to be very thoughtful of the person as well as the circumstance.
Getting married? I like to do a collection of holiday ornaments since newlywed Christmas trees are sometimes an afterthought.
Moving to a new home? Gift basket of the "necessities" such as TP, paper towels, cleaning supplies in a beverage cooler or basket
Going to college? More "necessities" such as can & bottle openers, towels/washcloths, small electric kettle, etc
New job? Desk organizers, fun paper clips/push pins
There are always gas gift cards (I know you said you prefer to avoid GCs, but the gas ones are always a hit). Find a fun way to "wrap" it in a hat, scarf, wallet, handbag, etc.
If all else fails, photo frames make awesome gifts for pretty much anyone.
ETA, I just gave a gift to a couple who was getting married a second time (long story) who happens to love tea, so...a tin of green tea wrapped in 2 pretty cloth napkins tied with a ribbon. Very inexpensive to buy, but LOOKED expensive. They LOVED it.
I've seen some of guiness's craft work. Very, very nice.
I always give out Wolferman's English Muffins during the holidays.
Right now there are a few options for less than $20: http://www.wolfermans.com/w/wsales-and-values/gifts-on-sale
If I give a gift card, I try to give something related....movie rental gift card or netflix attached to microwave popcorn or movie candy, nursery card with a small plant or pair of gardening gloves, gas card with a tire gauge. Have also purchased puzzle boxes to put a gift card in. I guess it depends on what its for and how much you want to spend.
Another idea would be a donation to someone in their name...or something from the heifer project or similar idea.