Instead of giving new platters and serving trays that are stacked in the basement for years to come, take them out to dinner. Not just the ol' neighborhood haunt, though. Take your loved one to a restaurant serving a cuisine he/she has never tried or is in an area he/she has never traveled to.
Events are great to give, too. For yourself and the gift recipient, or for the recipient and others to enjoy. Plays, concerts and classes are all great fun to share. There are all kinds of classes to take - crafts, cooking and baking, art and more. Tailor the gift to their hobbies and interests.
And, if cost is a concern, then scope out deal sites like Groupon and Living Social. There are tons now - local and national. You can even search for a deal based on what you're looking for, like "Chicago Museum Passes."