Holiday Wish List Free Printable

4 Gift Rule for Christmas or Any Holiday + FREE Printable

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been attempting a new strategy for gifts. It’s called “The 4 Gift Rule.” I love surprising my kids with magical gifts on Christmas morning.

There is nothing quite like watching the joy on their faces as they unwrap the perfect gift. Gifts received and given have more intention when using the 4 Gift Rule.

The Holiday Season Is Here

Halloween is long gone, have you gotten rid of all that candy? And now, the aisles of Target and Walmart are filled with Christmas décor, festive jammies and enticing toys for kids of every age. It can only mean one thing: the holiday season is here!

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In years past this has been the green light for me to start a spending spree for any and everything that excited my young kids on Christmas morning. Not to mention, I’d start early, and I’d buy often.

When it was finally time to wrap up my purchases, I’d have a pile of presents that baffled my husband and overwhelmed my kids. It was just TOO MUCH.

Don’t Become a Victim of Christmas Marketing

While it’s easy for me to look back and cringe at my spending mistakes, it’s not hard to see why many parents go overboard on gifts during the holidays.

“Christmas commercials are full of images of living rooms bursting with presents under the tree, matching pajamas, and new flashy gadgets everywhere,” said Emma Leigh Geiser, a personal Money Coach.

“It’s really easy to get caught up in holiday marketing and advertising. Many of these messages seem to say, ‘you are only a good parent if you get this for your kids. Don’t believe the hype.”

4 Gift Rule for Christmas 2

Time For a Change

If you’re anything like our family, your kids have plenty of toys and really don’t need any else. I realized that the excitement of opening (and buying) presents quickly wore off, and many of the items were barely used.

The excess was not good for anyone. After more than a few Christmases with too many toys and a blown budget, I stumbled across the 4 Gift Rule.

Basically, this rule was created to help parents reign in the madness. Plus we can give gifts with more intention.

Play By The Rules – What is the 4 Gift Rule?

With the 4 Gift Rule, each child gets just 4 presents on Christmas morning.

  1.     Something they want.
  2.     Something they need.
  3.     Something to wear.
  4.     Something to read.

Side note: In our house, the 4 Gift Rule doesn’t include a gift from Santa as well. Additionally, my husband and I usually don’t exchange gifts, but the 4 Gift Rule works well for adults, too. For the sake of this article, I’ll just focus on how the 4 Gift Rule applies to gift-giving for kids.

Kick Stress With a Holiday Spending Plan

I love the 4 Gift Rule because it simplifies my shopping list down to very specific items. Once I’ve purchased 4 gifts per child, I am not tempted to shop anymore.

Geiser suggests creating a holiday spending plan as opposed to a traditional budget.

“Instead of saying what you can’t spend money on, you are giving yourself permission to spend money within reason. List who, what, where and how you are going to spend your money.”

Something They Want

This is usually the wish-list item, that fits into your predetermined spending plan. It can be a toy, or something specific your child has asked for like electronics or special collectibles.

My kids usually narrow it down to one or two things that they would really like, or I pick out something special that they will be super excited about.

4 Gift Rule for Christmas 3

Something They Need

This is a useful, but still fun present. I like to find something that lets my kid’s personality shine through like an umbrella in a favorite color or a new sleeping bag with a beloved character on it.

Other fun ideas for gifts that fit in this category are sports equipment, art supplies or snow gear.

I think this category is fun because I can kill two birds with one stone by finding something that is guaranteed to be used but will still be fun to open on Christmas morning. #momwin

Something To Wear

This gift can be a whole outfit, shoes, a fancy jacket or sweater featuring your child’s favorite sports team or player.

It can be a pair of jammies or even a gift card to buy something at the mall.

Do you have an extra crafty pre-teen? Consider some DIY kits for making their own jewelry or headbands or even lessons for learning how to sew.

Something To Read

No Christmas is complete without adding a few books to the bookshelf. This gift can obviously be a physical book, but also consider a magazine subscription, e-book or audiobook gift cards or even a comic book.

4 Gift Rule

Why It Works

The 4 Gift Rule is genius because is sets limits, manages expectations and gives a focus for parents when they are searching for the perfect gift.

I like knowing that I’m giving my kids fun surprises, but they are also getting useful things that will not add to the clutter of the playroom or be forgotten and donated away. The 4 Gift Rule also teaches my children to be more appreciative and thankful for what they have.

I know that not every household is able to buy presents during the holidays and that our family is lucky to be in a comfortable home with everything we need and want.

Lavishing excessive amounts of gifts on young children is likely not going to teach them to have an attitude of gratitude.

4 Gift Rule Variation

While doing some research, I found another variation of the 4 Gift Rule that seems like a great option as well.

In addition to the gift rule mentioned above, this one, created by author Kara Carreor, is another way to tackle holiday shopping while sticking to a plan.

  1.     Something cool.
  2.     Something for school.
  3.     Something you’ll wear.
  4.     Something you’ll share.

Something Cool

This could be an item from your child’s wish list or something you find that you know they will love. I appreciate that this category isn’t super specific, but it still allows for you to find a memorable present.

Something for School

This gift could be anything from a book to an at-home science experiment kit or an educational board game.

The key to this gift is that it’s a learning tool. If you love gifting experiences instead of items, consider giving music or language lessons.

Something You’ll Wear

This gift can be anything from a box of funny socks to a cool watch or even some useful accessories like a purse or a hiking vest. Look for gifts that don’t duplicate what your kids already have and something that will be around for more than one season.

We absolutely love Patagonia in our house because it lasts forever, can be passed down to younger siblings and they offer a repair and trade-in program.

Something You’ll Share

This is my favorite gift-giving category! It can be for the whole family, like a trip to the zoo, or passes to an NFL game or a big-ticket item that everyone will enjoy like a trampoline or a video game system.

This gift encourages time spent together as a family and experiences. It’s also an opportunity to promote sharing.

4 Gift Rule for Christmas 4

The Spirit of Christmas

I love Christmas time and watching my kids whisper about the magic of Santa Claus and his reindeer. I have so many wonderful memories tied to the holidays, but I’ll confess that I can’t remember but a few Christmas presents I received as a kid.

All I remember was that we were always happy and thankful. We were together on Christmas morning and that is just as important if not more important than any gift I have ever received.

We got toothbrushes in our stockings and drank hot cocoa in our jammies. I want my kids to have the same childhood memories, and I’m convinced that it has nothing to do with the number of gifts wrapped under the tree with their names on the tags.

A Plan For The Holidays

So, I would love to hear your strategies for tackling your holiday shopping lists. Do you plan to try out the 4 Gift Rule? Better yet, which gift rule variation will you be using?

4 Gift Holiday Wish List FREE Printable
There is nothing quite like watching the joy on your kiddos faces as they unwrap the perfect gift. But with the 4 gift rule, gifts received and given are more intentional!
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Allison Anderson

Allison Anderson lives in Sparks, NV where she and her husband of 15 years are raising 3 kids- Grace, Braxton, and Leif. She considers herself an expert in friend-making and resiliency after 18 coast to coast moves as a military spouse. Allison graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in journalism, but has worked in a slew of positions including public relations for veterinary hospitals, Stroller Strides instructor and online ESL teacher to students in China. To date, motherhood is the best job she’s ever had. She loathes making dinner and vacuuming but encourages splashing during bathtime. She enjoys family camping trips in the RV, cheering for the Buffalo Bills and shopping on Amazon.