I dislike the idea that gifts have to "even out". I give gifts to people either because I want to make them happier or (unfortunately) because of social conventions. I don't keep tabs on how much they spent vs how much I spent, except in effort over a long period (hey, everyone has had busy times when they just can't make the effort but it shouldn't be every time). I would be heartily offended if I knew anyone was keeping this sort of tally. I don't know their budget, salary, debts or spending priorities. They sure don't know my to judge me by it.
Never caring to give a thoughtful gift, however, may indicate other problems in the relationship. Or not- some people just aren't gift givers and they enrich my live in other ways that more than compensates the value of any gift I give (or giving a gift is cheaper than dealing with the fallout - right, Uncle Nasty?).
This is the way I look at it.
And I have different patterns.
With some friendships (I'm thinking my single best friend), she gets a gift from me and a separate one from my DH; and she gives similarly.
With relatives it's harder.
in my DH's family, we often give couple-to-couple, and kids receive gifts but don't give them. Until they're grown, and then they're sort of expected to give a gift to the family/couple. If they don't seem to do so, then our gifts to them kind of fade out.
I also am completely comfortable buying a specific gift for the cousin with whom I've had more specific interaction, but not buying anything for his brother, with whom I've seldom spoken in the intervening year. Or, he gets a more generic gift.
With my Aunt Betty, kids give presents individually as well as receive them; DH doesn't really give a gift individually although he receives one. But then, the gift that I give to her w/ both our names on it is often splurgier, or there are two or three of them (but only one to me and one to DH).
It's more important to me that there be messages traveling than that the money add up.