So as I'm thinking about this ahead of time this year, it occurs to me that I have a couple options.
I can begin to buy gifts throughout the year and save them for Christmas (or birthday) season.
I can buy gifts throughout the year and give them as I buy them. At Christmas, a pretty card - if anything - is plenty.
I like the second option better. At Christmas time, we are often inundated with gifts. (I like that, don't get me wrong.) But one more gift, while nice and thoughtful, is one more gift. A gift given at an unexpected time has the opportunity to minister deeply to a friend. (This past year I gave a single mom a tin of her favorite tea on Valentine's Day. She couldn't remember the last time someone had given her a thoughtful Valentine's gift. That was such a humbling, cool experience.)
We all have seasons when we are dry and lonely and just trudging through. Watch your friends for those times, and get a gift that uniquely says 'I love you Friend'. You could even wrap it in Christmas paper if if makes you feel better.