A few years ago we started the 4 gift rule for Christmas, giving our children just 4 Christmas Gifts. Each gift fell into one of these 4 categories: Want, Need, Wear, Read. This 4 gift Christmas tradition has become something our children look forward to and really helps us to simplify and enjoy the holidays so much more.
Gift-giving at Christmas time is one of the joys I look forward to all year. I used to struggle to keep it simple when I went Christmas shopping, I would get way too excited and buy more than we needed. Not good for the budget and also not a great example to set for my kiddos. I must have stumbled upon this 4 gift Christmas rule online somewhere and knew that it would work for our family. I need structure to keep everything afloat in our busy life so having a simple gift-giving system for Christmas so I knew that this would be a great tradition for us to try.
Why We Have The 4 Gift Rule for Christmas
Just 4 gifts for Christmas? What kind of Scrooge are you? Why are you so cheap? Won’t my kids miss all the toys? What’s the point? Isn’t this boring for your kids?
I get it, I do. I’m a natural gift-giver by nature and I love spoiling my family and friends when I can. “Gifts” is also one of my top love languages (to read more about Love Languages you should check out the Book, The 5 Love Languages, it’s life-changing for us to understand!). So, when Christmas comes I’m more than happy to run out and buy my favorite people everything they want. While it may seem like a fun idea to just go crazy and get all.the.things your kids want, I want to give you 3 reasons why I think it’s a great idea to cut back and try the Want – Need – Wear – Read Christmas gift tradition.
Why just 4 Gifts for Christmas?
1. Simplify the busy Christmas Season
Busy moms, you have a lot going on during the Christmas season! Christmas concerts, class parties, teacher’s gifts to give, baking, entertaining, holiday parties, sending Christmas cards, the list goes on and on! Finding ways to simplify some of these tasks will help you to enjoy the season more and be more present with your family. Having just 4 categories to buy for shopping becomes a whole lot easier!
2. Teach contentment, gratefulness, and healthy expectations
Since starting the “want, need, wear, read” Christians tradition, we have noticed that our children have different expectations and are more thoughtful about what they ask for each year. We’ve even noticed an improvement in the gratefulness that they show when opening their gifts. Before, when they would get clothing for Christmas, they would understandably be a little less-than-enthusiastic. Now they include clothing that they would really like on their Christmas wish lists. Our 13-year old daughter, for example, loves Converse sneakers, so she usually asks for a pair of those along with a hoodie.
Instead of having these lofty unrealistic dreams that include piles of gifts under the tree on Christmas morning, the kids know that while their gifts may be limited, they will be great gifts that they will actually love!
3. Less “stuff” to throw away later
I read a staggering statistic today, that reminded me that wastefulness is truly a big issue that we need to deal with here in America.
Even though American children only make up about 4% of the world’s youth population, their parents and caregivers toss about 40% of the world’s toys right into the garbage.
40% of the WORLD’S toys in the garbage! Can we all agree that this is crazy?! Our little Christmas tradition may not change the countries wastefulness overnight, but it will instill good values in our children and encourage them to be more thoughtful about what they buy as they get older.
Before we used the “want, need, wear, read” gift tradition, we would buy so many inexpensive toys for our kids! I would love hunting for the best bargain, clearance prices or thrift store find. Making sure there were plenty of boxes under the Christmas Tree was more of a priority for me than actually buying thoughtful gifts that would be enjoyed long term. Now I’m happy with less under the tree, knowing that what we buy them will be used for a long time and not just tossed in 6 months to a year when they get bored with it.
How Does the 4 Gift Rule for Christmas Work?
The great thing about this gift-giving tradition is that is so easy! I usually start thinking about Christmas gifts at the beginning of the year. I always have a page in my planner that I set up to keep track of these gift ideas as they come up all year long. You certainly don’t need to start planning in January, but it is helpful to keep an ongoing list somewhere. Throughout the year I take pictures of the toys, books or clothes that the kids find when we’re walking through different stores, so I often add those times to the list. My kids will almost always find something and ask, “mom can I get this?” – so I say “let me take a picture and maybe we can get it another time.” It’s worked great for us!
Sometimes we will give just one gift for a category but I also like to bundle a few items together. Below are some ideas for each category:
Something you WANT Gift:
This is one of the easiest because our kids have no shortage of things on their wishlist. This gift is usually the most exciting gift, the big gift that they have been wanting! We try to keep these gifts super fun! Some fun WANT gifts are bikes, scooters or roller skates.
Something you NEED Gift:
This one can be tricky because usually, NEED gifts can be boring if we don’t make it fun. Giving your kids a new set of sheets because they need them is probably not the best way to go. Giving them a soft blanket for their bed, a new fun alarm clock or watch might be better. Some other fun NEED gifts might be equipment for sports, a new backpack, a musical instrument, or you can even make a deposit in their savings account!
Something to WEAR Gift:
I remember getting underwear and socks for Christmas… not cool mom, not cool! But let’s be honest many of us are guilty of doing the same thing. Even if your kids aren’t getting underwear they might be a little bummed out when they receive clothing for Christmas. We try to avoid disappointment by picking an outfit that is something the would really love. For our son this year, it was a complete soccer outfit and not another second-hand pair of shorts. We are lucky to have great retail outlets near us so we headed to the Adidas outlet and found really reasonable soccer shorts, a shirt, and socks. We even added a bonus Addidas sweatshirt. He said that the sweatshirt was the best part! Maybe you found a really pretty dress, fun Pajamas or a new swimsuit – find a way to make the gift a little more fun by throwing in an expensive necklace, slippers or goggles. Adding in a small extra item might make the “boring” clothing gift a little better.
Something to READ Gift
This category is a favorite in our house, our daughter an avid reader loves getting books for Christmas. She can’t get enough. So it was easy to pick out 2 books that she had on her wishlist and we added in a fun Daily trivia tear-off calendar for each of the kids too. They use these daily calendars each day! Sometimes it’s those small gifts that kids really end up loving! You can always give a Kindle Gift Card, comic books or a magazine subscription to mix it up!
ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS:
Do your kids only get 4 Christmas gifts?
No, some of these gift categories might include a few items. For example for their “WEAR” gift last year we purchased our son a few items he needed for soccer; new shorts, a sweatshirt, and soccer socks. Our daughter always has her head in a book, so we usually buy her 2-3 books and bundle them together as the “READ” gift. Last year I even gave the kids each a daily tear-off calendar for their rooms, these were actually a BIG HIT!
How can I make the “NEED” gift fun?
Giving kids something that they actually need at Christmas can kind of feel like a bummer. Not as exciting as giving them their “WANT” gift. But we can still make these necessary gifts more fun. I’ll share a few examples:
Need: Socks and Underwear (because everyone gives new socks and underwear at Christmas
Make it fun: Add in one pair of fuzzy socks or super fun printed underwear. Put the socks and underwear inside a fun case, box or bag that they would like (drawstring bags are fun and cheap!)
Need: New Sneakers (yes, this could also be a “WEAR” gift
Make it fun: Add in some fun socks
Need: New Backpack
Make it fun: Hide a small gift card in one of the pockets
What about all the other stuff my kids want for Christmas?
The great thing about this system is that you will usually have several additional gift ideas for your kids that you can easily pass on to other family members. Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and extended family members may be buying gifts anyway, so now you will have plenty of gift ideas that you can pass along to the family.
“Want, Need, Wear, Read” Printable Gift Tags
To help you get started with the 4 Gifts Rule I’ve made these simple gift tags that you can print out onto colored paper and attach to your gifts this year. I hope that this Christmas tradition becomes something that you can introduce in your home, it’s easy to start with this idea and change it to make it more special and meaningful for your family.
I’d love to know what you do for Christmas. Do you set gift limits? How many gifts do your kids receive? Let me know in the comments or head over to Facebook and join in the conversation over there.
Get your FREE Printable “Want, Need, Wear, Read” Gift Tags