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This Holiday Gift Idea Will Change How Your Family Does Christmas

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More Family

boy and girl sitting on couch with Christmas decor

Christmas can quickly get taken over by a surplus of gifts and often times become overwhelming when there’s so much to open and clean up. Not to mention how difficult it can be to keep your budget in check during the holidays.

I’m sharing a fun and unique way to simplify your family’s Christmas this year and give your kids more intentional and meaningful gifts.

It’s called the “Four Gift Rule”.

playing santa and handing out gifts

The Four Gift Rule is a simplistic way to give gifts to your kids each year. You or they will pick just 4 gifts from the curated categories below:

  1. Something they want – such as a popular video game or the hottest new trends this season.
  2. Something they need – such as toiletries or maybe a more expensive item you’ve been neglecting to buy.
  3. Something they wear – such as make-up, new sports equipment, or a favorite clothing brand.
  4. Something they read – could be educational, a college textbook, or an interactive toddler book.

You could even make it a “Five Gift Rule” by doing what reader Kyle does ❤️:

“I would add an additional category, something you’re willing to give to someone else! Bring me toys you don’t play with anymore. Let’s donate them. Bring me the clothes that don’t fit etc. We need to teach kids the importance of giving. Not everyone is getting PlayStations at Christmas. Give your kids stuff, but also make them into givers.” – Kyle

I get it. This may seem next to impossible, and if you’re anything like me when it comes to giving gifts around Christmas, it’s going to take some serious self-control.

But here are some amazing benefits of the “4 Gift Rule”:

baby with green christmas tree

  • It makes your holiday shopping more simplified.
  • You’re likely to spend less money.
  • Create grateful hearts and more appreciation for what you have.
  • Christmas morning will be less hectic and more enjoyable.
  • Helps everyone focus on what’s really important during the holidays.

Here’s what some of our readers had to say about their 4 gift rule experiences:

two reindeer gifts with christmas lights

“We have done this for 5 years! They are always pleased with what they receive and doing just 4 gifts allows us to afford a family trip each year, which they are always excited to learn about on Christmas.” – Dawn

“It makes it so much easier but also harder because I really think hard about what I’m getting them. It’s a wonderful tradition in this over-consuming America! I don’t buy stuff just to buy stuff anymore!!! We are living a minimal life and it’s beautiful!” – Chelle 

“We’ve been doing this for two years and I LOVE IT! My children have been so spoiled which is my fault, so we are trying to reign it in. I don’t want them to think Christmas is only about gifts.” – Shawndra 

“We have been doing the last few years, I love it. It really reduces random buying. I still do a stocking with fun stuff and jammies on Christmas Eve.” – Samantha 

“We do this!! I’m a single momma of 4 kids, so this helps with the budget as well as makes sure gifts are equal. The kids love it and ask specifically for certain gifts. It takes the surprise away at times but they also get to look forward to getting what they’ve asked for in each category.” – Karen 

“We started doing this 4 years ago in our house and it has made the holiday so much more enjoyable.” – Tracy

Tip: Help your kids with their list by using these reader suggested techniques:

girl writing christmas list

“When you have kids make out their list, have them list in those categories. It’s a good lesson in their needs vs. their wants.” – Mary 

“I do this and we have a board up divided into the 4 categories and the kids can add to the list, this really makes them think about gift ideas. My kids are 14, 13 and 8 and we thankfully have no complaints about this!” – Brandy

Ready to give it a try? Check out our free printables below!

stock photo lina christmas printables

Print Letter to Santa HERE   |  Print Christmas Wish List HERE

Here are some other great gift ideas that our readers shared:

gift of time experience box

“I do 3 gifts for my kids. 1. Something they want. 2. Something they need. 3. An experience – This could be going to a sporting event, a concert, a Broadway play, swimming with dolphins, etc.” – Sarah

“We’ve done this the last 4 years and have loved it, but this year everyone is in charge of buying an entire-family-experience. My 12-year-old wants to treat the family to see the Nutcracker movie, my 6-year-old wants to have an art painting night and my husband and I are each planning a little weekend getaway. Grandparents usually still spoil them and Santa will still fill stockings.” – Rosette

Give the Gift of Time with the Experience Box that Gives All Year Long!

Join The Discussion

Comments 106

  1. Cheri

    I really like this idea! We do three gifts for our kids and I like to relate it to the three wisemen.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Aww, How neat! Thanks for sharing that with us!

    • AnelM

      We do the same and the kids love it! We throw in an experience for each child as well. It is a tradition that our children share with their friends and now that the kids are older each get part of a day to go “shop” for others in the family.

    • Beth

      That’s what my parents always did! They said you each get three gifts because Jesus got three gifts. I love that they tried to focus every aspect of Christmas back on Jesus. My kids get whatever we can afford normally it’s about $50 of gifts each.

      • Linda

        I love that.

      • Cheri

        Exactly. We try to tie it back to Jesus!

    • Lyssa

      That’s what we do too! It’s a great tradition.

    • April Orr

      So in keeping with the Christian focus… are the 3 gifts from Santa? Or are these from mom and dad or what? Trying to wrap my head around this because I love it!

      • Cheri

        We don’t really do Santa in our house so all the gifts come from my husband and I.

  2. lnk0813

    I like this idea! My kids have too much stuff! But how do you rein in Santa?? And also grandparents 😉

    • tipaye

      We do a family gift from Santa 🙂

      • Jen

        Tipaye, what are some examples of family gifts Santa has brought you guys? I love that idea.

        • Katie

          We leave a decorated felt bag under the tree for Santa to put our family gift in (unwrapped so less hassle). It is usually a couple board games & a movie or one year it was small Nerf guns & cheap Home Depot safety glasses

    • Alli

      Im wondering the same. It’s gone way overboard and I fear it’s not teaching my kids anything positive. I think this sounds like a really good idea. My kids have way too much “stuff”.

    • Suzanne

      You could do their stocking from Santa so it can be filled with smaller items, even giftcards or cash for older kids. That’s what we do and it doesn’t add up to a lot of extra stuff.

    • Kristine

      We’ve always minimized Santa….he only bring the stockings which is along the lines of some candy, new socks, an inexpensive game, books, art supplies, etc. One set of grandparents has a dollar limit for each kid.

    • Diane

      As a grandparent I give each child a gift then I give the parents money for their 529 savings for college. By the time my grandchildren get to college 4 years will cost more than my house.😱

      • Jamie

        This is so kind of you! It’s exactly what I’d helpful! I’m sure your kids and grandkids appreciate it

      • jessicalynnferries

        Good plan! My college has already cost me more then my house.

  3. Maggie

    We’ve been doing this for years and it has worked really well for our family.

    • Amber

      Honestly, the cherry on top of this gifting plan would be to wrap the 4 gifts up like a snowman.

  4. Jaimie A

    I love the idea of simplifying what we get them for Christmas. I’ve done something similar but probably still get them too much. We do new jammies on Christmas Eve and sometimes a movie or book to go along with it. For Christmas, the kids get two boxes one with books and the other with clothes and then a ‘big’ gift that is usually no more than $50 each. One year I bought books that we used that as an advent calendar. I would wrap it and then put it under the tree at night. In the morning they were so excited to see what book we could read together as a family.

  5. Stacy

    I love this idea but I don’t think I could hold myself to buying just 4 gifts. I buy all year long and see so many deals on Hip2Save. I usually think I’m done and wait..another good deal too good to pass up! 🙂 y’all make Christmas affordable and fun!

    • Alli

      Exactly! I never go over my budget and they have more than 4.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      LOL! I know what you mean! The deals can SO hard to resist that you want to add just one more! 😉 Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

    • lynnleco

      I agree with you Stacy. I could not do 4 gifts but I do strive to get more for less.

  6. ecroston

    I started a new thing for my niece and nephew last year as an advent calendar – out of the 24 days, 12 are ways to give back (donate a toy, make cookies for your class, go sing a Christmas song to the neighbors), 6 are shared gifts (books, activities, etc.) and 6 are individual gifts (socks, small stuff). On Christmas Eve, they get their “big” gift from me, which is usually something like a Playmobil set that I got a super deal on. They really liked last year and asked to do it again this year, which is impressive since they are 4 and 7 now. Going forward, as they get older, I’ll do more “ways to give back” and less presents.

    • Suzanne

      I LOVE this idea!! Typically I make a book advent. We usually have our daughter go through toys and clothes that she no longer uses or wants to donate right before Christmas. We want her to understand that others may not be as fortunate. It helps make room for all the grandparents gifts too.

  7. Emily Jordan

    We do this system every year and are also one of the familys that add an experience to it as well…

  8. Cat

    I really love this post. We are planning a trip this year in lieu of a bunch of stuff & this sounds like a great way for my kiddos to still get a few things they want without it being a free-for-all of random things. Thanks for the great idea!!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      You’re so welcome, Cat! Thanks for the feedback! Glad you enjoyed the post!

  9. Meg

    I always add something to read but I give more than one book as my kids are pretty little so $3 books are in the budget. I fill a stocking and this year I bought a Christmas book. I’d love to rein in more since I shop all year for sales I don’t go over budget but I do feel like 5-6 gifts are plenty. This year, Santa promised to cut back too.😂💓🙌

    • Jen

      Hahaha! Right! Santa’s always the one who spends too much in my family too :/

    • lynnleco

      I love doing a book advent for my Grands (started last year) but I do the 2nd hand store for the books, that way 24 books equals under $20. They get so excited!

  10. CAJ

    I would love to do this but I have three teens that I’ve been spoiling for years. Any idea how I can I produce this without making them resent it? (also we spend lots of time Christmas morning taking time open each gift separately and really look at it etc, but I’m afraid with this it would be over in 30 mins at the most.

    Any thoughts on how to transition them into an idea like this?

    • anne

      Sign them up for some giving/volunteer holiday opportunities. There are always many needing help thru schools and other places. Focus more on activities than “physical gifts”.

      • CAJ

        Sounds like a good idea. I will inquire at my church and see the opportunities available.

    • Jo

      I have 3 teens too! They get 4 presents. We take our time opening gifts, break for breakfast then open their stockings. That way it last longer. I individually wrap their stocking stuffers so they feel like they got more. They love it!

      • CAJ

        I might do that, Jo. We usually do stockings on Christmas Eve but I might save them til the 25th (I do individually wrap them too…just to prolong the fun!)

    • HQB

      I would just announce it like it’s a positive change that everyone’s going to enjoy; if you approach it as something they’ll have to get used to and are likely to resent, they will probably pick up and that and it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Regarding the time, you could add a joint family activity to fill the extra time you’ll have (making pancakes together, playing a new board game or video game, watching a movie). Also, if you give them some input into the change they will feel as if they “own” it a bit more and are more likely to enjoy it. So let them brainstorm and pick the family activity, or say that for their gifts to each other they can pick a category – do they want to do the want, the need, the wear, or the read category for that?

      Finally, sometimes if there is pushback or argument, you can agree with parts of it and that can disarm the criticism. I’ve seen this work with step-parents, where a kid says “You’re not my real mom!” The step-mom then says “Well, what do you mean by ‘real mom’?” Kid: “Someone who gave birth to me, who’s related to me.” Step-mom, instead of arguing back “but I raise you, you live here blah blah”, simply says something like: “Well, it’s true, I didn’t give birth to you.” [with no “buts” added to the end like “but I am in charge here blah blah.” So the kid “wins” the point and then… what? What does it get them? Not much. 🙂 So if they say “But we’ll get way less stuff!” you can respond “Yes, that’s true.” [Full stop, wait for them to say something rather than justifying the change.] If they say “But we’ve always done it the other way!” you can respond “Yes, that’s true.” [Again, full stop.] If they say “This sucks, I’m going to hate this!” you can respond “That’s really up to you.” Also, avoid the word “but”, which feels negative. Instead, say “and”. So don’t say “This is going to be different, but it will still be good.” Instead, say “This is going to be different, and it will still be good.”

      I guess my advice boils down to: set them up for success by setting positive expectations and giving them some control, so they feel invested. And if they push back, disarm and head off criticisms using psychological tricks.

      • Jenny

        Thanks for taking the time to give such thoughtful advice 🙂

        • HQB


    • Heather

      I too am guilty of over spoiling my kids! I usually find so many good deals that I can’t help myself. But then we are left with where to put it, they are overwhelmed with so many gifts and I’m upset that most of the stuff isn’t touched. I saw this a few months ago so I talked to the kids about it. Neither got upset or angry. Honestly they were completely fine with it. I thought there was going to be anger and tears and neither happened. So you might be surprised at the reaction, I definitely was!! I will honestly say that I can’t keep it to the 4, but I’m thinking about 10 each. My husband is happy with the baby steps I’m making to make Christmas less about presents. (And he’s happy he won’t have 50 presents per kid to carry down on Christmas Eve!)

    • TanyaS

      I found some interesting advent calendars and a special event for each kid got them more excited than Christmas morning. For instance a nail polish or beauty advent calendar for a teen or tween and a manicure together during vacation week. Or a sock and or funko character advent for a boy and a Dave and Busters outing. Kids just want your undivided attention with no phones.

  11. Melissa

    This all makes total sense. But heck! I’m a Grandma with just 2 grandchildren. I try to be mindful of the gifts I give them, focusing on educational and sports related, but I doubt I will be stopping at 4!

    • lynnleco

      I agree Melissa! This Mimi can’t gift only 4 gifts but I do generally do a larger shared gift between 2 girl grands and then wrap each one a robe sized box of clothing (shopping inexpensively or free using points), then a second box (for each) of assorted items: socks, hair accessories and a new toothbrush, and then maybe a new game or activity. I do the advent book gift during the month of December so each night they can open and have a new book read to them. They love it! And I get them from the second-hand store so it is cheaper. It is hard limiting items but I pride myself on getting great deals for more most everything,
      thanks to H2S!

      • Marie

        This Mom loves to see the Grandparents spoiling the kids. My Grandma and I bonded greatly over some of the crazy purchases she made while my mom rolled her eyes. Miss my Grandma everyday she was so good to me <3 And you bet I will be doing the same for my grandchildren someday!

    • animity

      As a Mom, PLEASE DON’T! Our kids get way too much stuff.

  12. Teri

    Every year I try to do this and fail miserably. Gifts are my love language and I can’t resist all the deals posted here on Hip2Save.

    • Marie

      Yes! I get so much happiness out of buying year round and saving and waiting for the big moment! Im a gift giver through and through!

  13. anne

    We have always brought presents for less fortunate families from the “giving tree” at our schools. We also donate heavy to a new toys and bikes foster kids donation box each year at a restaurant owned by a friend. Now that our kids are adults we all participate in a city wide free bike build for many groups. We all meet in a large warehouse and last year we built over 600+ donated new bikes in less than 3 hours. A couple local bike clubs are on hand to do the fine tuning and make sure the bikes are “ridable” after we put them together. This will be the 3rd year we have done this and it has become part of our Christmas tradition.

  14. Lo

    I really like these ideas! I’m curious to see what my kids would write as their need gifts. My kids usually include Mom,dad and sibling gift on their lists which is cute to read.
    Growing up all the siblings picked names out of a hat. You got and shopped a big gift ($20) and a little gift($10).

  15. Michelle

    Growing up, my parents didn’t have a lot of money. Daddy was in the USAF and Mama was a stay at home mother. Christmas time was no doubt hard on them, and I’m hard pressed to ever remember a Christmas where there was an abundance of gifts. Once, we’d just been stationed at a new air base and it was so cold!! (UP of Michigan) Normally, you’re in a temporary living facility for weeks, but this one time we got in our base housing right away and were thrilled we could spend Christmas together in our new home. We had no furniture as our household goods hadn’t arrived yet, and spent the nights on pallets. We each had one gift, but were so tickled to be “home” that we didn’t mind. We’re all grown now, and that is without a doubt one of our favorite Christmas memories. In fact, for years afterwards, our standard “grace” at dinnertime was, “Thank you Lord for this house and food.”

    One year, we all received bikes. WE WERE BEYOND EXCITED!! We had wheels!! FREEDOM!!! LOL My bike had a baby seat on the back for my youngest sister and I hustled her everywhere. (Times sure were different then!! LOL) The memory of her little hands holding onto my braid or ponytail or pressing against my back are so sweet. We took them with us to our next base and gifted them to kids in the neighborhood when it was time to leave so we didn’t have to ship them back.

    What we remember most of all is the time our parents spent with us all year long. As I said, I’m hard pressed to remember very many gifts from Christmas, although a few stand out. But my siblings and I treasure the fact that our parents were present in our lives and took the time to do things with us. Mama taught us to cook, and gave us a love for reading, and was open to any questions we had, and boy–did we have some doozies. We’d talk her poor ears off and she’d listen patiently and we knew we were heard. Daddy would take us fishing. All four of us kiddos in a flat bottom boat (I always wondered why mama stayed home and now as a mother, I know! She needed some time for herself). 🙂 We would fish for hours and when we grew tired of that, he would lay on the front of the boat on his stomach and with one paddle would move us all over through shallow water. We called it “exploring” and we’d pick up rocks and shells from the water to examine. No doubt he was tired by the end of the day, but come next weekend, we’d head out again. In summertime, he’d rig our plastic sled up behind the boat and tow us around. He gave me a love for football, and was patient and explained the game–to the point I wanted to be the first female coach of an NCAA Division 1 college team. It’s a love that has endured. To this day, I enjoy watching games with my boys and he comes and watches them with us. They’re making precious memories and don’t even realize it!!

    I want to do with my children as my parents did with us. I want to give of my time year round and do the best we can at Christmas, and I don’t want to stress! I want them to appreciate what they do receive, sincerely and honestly. I want my kiddos to know they are loved and appreciated and that we are there and present for them, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a pat on the back, a high-five, and a PARENT. Sometimes they need to hear no, and know that we’re looking out for their best interests always.

    The memories we make will be the ones they treasure when they’re older and I’m long gone, and while a few presents at Christmas may stand out, most will be forgotten. We do our best to give them a nice Christmas, some years are leaner than others, but I want to teach them that our love isn’t measured by how much money we spend on them, and that things don’t equate to love. It’s a lesson that will serve them well in their adult lives. 🙂

    • Laura

      Love this heartfelt post! I agree, I can’t remember too many specific presents but I do remember the time we spent together as a family and I am trying to do the same for my kids. They are all older teens so presents aren’t all that important to them these days. They have jobs and buy their wants for themselves generally. Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories and good luck making lots more with your own kiddos!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      How sweet. Thanks a bunch for taking the time to share your memory with us! I agree! The gift of time sure is important. 💖💕

    • E

      That was beautiful and heartfelt. Thank you for sharing

  16. Linsey

    Curious what others do from divorced families, that feel they have to compete with the other side? His father makes way more than me and always gets him tons more and Santa is way cooler over there! Ugh!

    • HQB

      This sounds tough; I am sorry. I recommend a focus on experiences and activities over things. And let go of the idea of competition. His dad does his thing, you do your thing, they don’t have to be compared. If your son makes it an issue by saying things like “I get so many more presents at Dad’s house.” you can acknowledge it, but don’t have to justify it. “Yes, you do get more gifts at your Dad’s house.” instead of “Yes, but he makes more money and this is what I can afford, etc.” If you try to justify, then your son will look for ways to “win” against the justification. If you just grant the point, then he’s “won” the conversational point, and then where does he go next?

      • Linsey

        Yes, true! Makes me think about the tooth fairy. He gets $20 a tooth there and a few at my house. I say “Wow, she must start at your Dads house and run out of money by the time she gets over towards our area.”, lol! Conversation was done.

    • Sadie

      Focus on making what you can do really special. My mom has this situation with some of her grandchildren, whose other grandparents can afford a lot more than just one Grandma gift at Christmas. But she does the gingerbread house with them, makes the food super special, lights candles on the table for dinner, etc… Most of the toys go untouched because they are all so busy playing cards to win M&M’s. She has also done just one big family gift for each set of grandchildren, like a zoo membership that they can use all year long. They remember that, but they don’t remember which of the zillion Lego sets was from who.

  17. Lisa

    All of our children are grown now as of this year. My husband likes to get what they all ask for. We obviously can’t buy everything, but at least we know it will be put to use since they want the items. We typically go by a budget for each child $200 or sometimes less just depends. Our 18yr old usually gets a little more since her items are less expensive, but our system works and everyone is happy on Christmas Day. My husband loves to buy presents he lights up every year while out shopping.

    • *Angela-Miles*

      Sounds exactly like what my parents always did/do. They split the list of each of us and got it all, except my dad is the shopper of the famly. Everyone was content. We are older now but he still goes out shopping and beams with joy buying all of us gifts. Glad it makes him happy tho to do his shopping every year for the holidays. 🙂

  18. Kim

    As a mom to 4 adult kid & Nana to 6 grandbabies my DIL asked if this year we could only do handmade gifts. All the kids have a ton of toys they play with for about 5 minutes. We looked all over Pinterest and other places and came up with a game plan. We are making activity tables for the 2 & younger crowd (because I have some Fisher price toys I caught on sale) and room decorations for the 6-8 crowd. For the adults I am making food gift baskets. With the summer winding down I am going to try my hand at canning berries, pasta sauce & hot sauce. I am going to make sugar scrub & bath bombs for the adult girls & beard balm & shower melts for the guys. I have already made vanilla extract & a few yummy fruit flavored vodkas (there might be some left by Christmas) I am excited to see what everyone comes up with.

  19. eabw

    Loved your comment, Michelle !!!

  20. Tracy

    We’ve done this for Christmas and birthdays for years. Sometimes we include an extra gift for the whole family like a new board game or a dvd set we can watch together (I Love Lucy complete series, Full House complete series, etc).

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      I love family gifts. Thanks for the suggestions, Tracy!

  21. Suzanne H

    I understand that notion behind this but it would make me sad. I grew up with next to nothing and Xmas was always very understated. I remember being embarrassed at how few gifts I received growing up. I’d go back to school and people would be talking about the TVs, private phone lines, VCR’s, computers, etc. they received when I got a knock off Cabbage Patch doll and a box of candy. I get it; life is not all about things and you absolutely should not overextend yourself for Xmas but I don’t want to limit myself to 4 gifts if 1. I can afford more and 2. I find things I know they would really enjoy. Also, we use Christmas as a time to restock things like underwear, socks, tshirts, pajamas, etc. so a lot of their gifts are needs, not wants. And the # of gifts depends upon how much they cost too. Last year, our eldest got a big screen TV because his roommate’s cat knocked his down and broke it. We spent about $300 so that and a stocking is all he got. We bought football tickets to take our youngest to his first professional game b/c football is his PASSION. So that and a stocking was pretty much all he got. Years when they don’t want big ticket items, they get more. Anyhow, point is, for me personally, the 4 gift rule would not work and I don’t think folks should feel guilty if they do more.

    • Meg

      I do think it’s tougher but instead of buying my kids big gifts I go for smaller things. One of my boys collects bears and another transformers action figures. I wait for sales and grab them. I definitely have a pile for them but a lot of smaller things and definitely books as well as a couple bigger things they REALLY wish for all year. You do what makes you happy!❤️

  22. Linda

    My Mom did this and I am 68 years old. I did the same with my children. It was still a wonderful Christmas and we were not overwhelmed with too much stuff. Great idea!

  23. Chelsea

    We do this and it works well for us. Thanks for the printable, we will be using it!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      You’re very welcome, Chelsea!

  24. Ashley

    I think this year is finally the year I’m going to try this. My girls are 5 and 8. They have way too much and their grandparents give plenty every year too. Every year I’m embarrassed by how much I’ve bought for them because I shop all year and forget about stuff. This year the toys are not calling my name. I’m such a kid at heart and I love all the toys! It’s so hard to hold back especially when I find good deals but this year I really feel they don’t need it. I would rather save for a trip.

    • Dezi

      I am the same way. On Christmas Eve, I get embarrassed because I forgot about how much I purchased throughout the year too. Sometimes, I’ll even put gifts back in the gift closet for someone else’s gift.

  25. Cassie

    I have a certain number of gifts that I stick to for each of my children & I use extra deals I find to donate. I love choosing families off angel trees to give them a great Christmas! That way I don’t feel like I am passing up on a great deal AND not spoiling my kids with extra gifts.

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      What a nice idea, Cassie!

  26. Jj

    My family disagrees. My husband grew up in a large family and four gifts per child filled the entire room. We have a much smaller family, but my hubs wants the same awe and excitement he had as a child. Many say our Christmases go overboard and they can. But I only have these little people for a short while. I want them to love Christmas and the excitement it brings. They aer grateful for their gifts and because of bargain hunting, most of Christmas is finished super early. I even have all teens! I am grateful to be able to spoil them and spreading the shopping out all year helps the pocketbook tremendously! To each their own, make sure the real reason for the season is celebrated. Love and spoil your monkeys for as long as you have them!

    • Alli

      Yes, yes, and YES! 😊

    • lynnleco

      I love your perspective. It is similar to ours. I too look forward to gifting my kids and grands, and can’t wait till the new holiday season but I too bargain shop so that I am gifting “great gifts” for less. I too have already finished Christmas shopping (will just need to grab two or three more gifts for daughter’s bf who recently came back into her life after 6 yrs) but that’s it. I do need to start wrapping them though.

  27. Laura

    I try to stick a big gift from Santa, then 3 (wiseman) gifts + stocking. If you really feel the need to buy more those 3 gifts it doesn’t have to be one thing…lets say one of the gifts is stuff for fishing, it could be a fishing rod, reel, fly cast kit, lures, fishing hat, wadders, etc and that would be considered 1 gift. You can wrap them all individually if you want but tie it all together or all of the gifts for that one in one bag. I guess that defeats the purpose though doesnt it:)

    • Sher

      I agree with the bundling of like items to make “one” gift. Also, the kids give gifts they bought to each other and to us parents so that adds a few more gifts to open and the excitement of watching their loved one open a gift they bought.

  28. CJ

    I like the wish list with categories & will definitely use it this year. We are not extravagant at Christmas. Typically 3-4 gifts per kid from us, one small gift & the stocking stuff from Santa (which often includes needs like new toothbrushes, toiletries, socks, a book, etc along with a few candy items, granola bars & little games or toys). I shop deals all year long to keep costs low & if I end up with more than I need for Christmas it gets saved for their birthday or even next Christmas. Haha.

    I grew up with extravagant Christmases & remember feeling like we opened so many gifts & then had a ton of stuff from Santa too. It was a lot of fun but looking back I realize my parents must have spent a fortune.

    My kids are used to what we do & have never mentioned feeling like it’s not enough. We talk a lot about not comparing ourselves to others in every day life though. A minimal Christmas to one might be extravagant to someone else.

  29. Another Shelly

    We’re not doing this. I want to give my child everything possible. She can also enjoy the spirit of giving by donating some things before Christmas.

  30. TS

    I only have 1 kid and Christmas is just something that is magical and exciting and I don’t by my son toys and things throughout the year so to me I like to keep Christmas magical especially since he still believes in Santa. So I do the 4 gift categories for him as a Christmas eve tradition from mom and dad and Christmas morning is the Santa stuff. Once he no longer believes in Santa I will probably switch the 4 gift rule to Christmas morning.

  31. Lynn m.

    This is our first year doing this. W are also taking a trip when kids go back to school bc we homeschool. I would rather spend less on things and more on memories. We are doing a week set disneyworld bc I will be eight month pregnant and it is close to home. But decided Christmas 2020 will be California and 2021 will be Australia or Europe.

  32. Ashley

    I enjoyed reading everyone’s comments and this post! I am currently pregnant with our first and want to create traditions for our little one. Nice to hear everyone’s perspectives.

  33. Mrs BK

    I really like the ideas and simplicity of this. Seriously considering this for my 2 kids this Christmas.

  34. SavingMama

    Santa has always been 3 gifts for me growing up and the kids in the family now. It ties in perfectly with a biblical aspect, but also has the same benefits as listed above. For parents, a great idea is the “experience” gift someone had mentioned. A gift often overlooked or assumed that you won’t have enough money. Following Hip2Save very, very closely….utilizing coupons…accepting free sample offers, and minimizing so much “stuff purchases”, like at Christmas makes it possible. The experiences of a trip to a zoo, or a really neat play…a concert they choose or a day at the beach…an overnight at a fun hotel w pool etc. Your kids will cherish those memories longer than what pair of Vans you got them lol.

  35. Kathy

    I purchase 7 small “fillable” items each year. A box a trinket etc. after dinner my grown children and grandchildren each pick a box. Sometimes we play a dirty Santa game sometimes we just ask once for a trade. Inside I have stuffed money in different amounts 10-100. Only one has the large amount and each one is different — my kids and grands enjoy the challenge to see who gets the most to the point we do this at Easter as well. As the kids get older the gifts are fewer but the dinner and passing of the “boxes” will possibly be a fun challenge and tradition that will go on and on and it started “just because” it’s more fun than opening gifts


    I also add something homemade.. (for example my daughter who is 10 is disney obsessed so I’m making her a bunch of disney fabric headbands) then I stack the gifts like a snow man and add a new hat and scarf for each kid. 🙂

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      I’m loving that idea! Thanks for the suggestion, Heather!

  37. Momof3

    Last year we told our kids that they could only ask Santa for 2-3 gifts because we wanted to make sure he had enough for all the kids. They had those gifts plus the gift they wanted the most from mom and dad and maybe 2 more smaller gifts. We also do family gift like a movie or board game. We try and keep it small because my kids don’t play with toys very often and 2 of my kids have birthdays close to Christmas. I feel like no matter how you choose to do Christmas gifts just make sure that you and your family are happy and you aren’t going into debt over things.

  38. CD

    We do…

    Something you

    plus one Santa gift.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Love that, CD! Thanks for taking a moment to share with us!

  39. Faith Grows

    We have six children & we also do the three gifts because of the 3 kings. (A gift they want, a gift they need & a gift of our choosing). Since the wise men didn’t actually arrive on Christmas (& my husband is too tired because he tries to get in all the hours he can at this time). Those gifts get opened on New Years Eve. On Christmas morning, we do Christmas stockings that the children were told that Jesus placed in our hearts what should be in them. OR if they want, they can pretend Santa brought them. Even though they all know the story of Santa & how he lived many years ago. But no longer exists. Because how can we teach them to believe in Jesus (whom they can’t physically see), when the Santa smear campaign is going on & Santas CAN be seen all over?

  40. MamaBear

    How old were your kids when they asked about Santa? My son is 9 and I’m pretty sure his friends told him Santa isn’t real. 🙁

    • Meg

      I think my son went through this and he’s only 7. I told him some people don’t believe in Santa and that’s fine. I also said if he stopped believing Santa might not bring him gifts anymore. Trying to keep the magic alive here! After all, 7 and 9 is pretty small imo

  41. Marilyn Conselyea

    When my children were little it was an easy 3 gift rule. Something you want, something you need and a book. It worked well for us when money was very short. One year for the boys, the “need” was underwear! Good for a laugh to this day.

  42. Thrifty mom

    At our home we celebrate Jesus’ birth. We have 6 kids so many gifts turns into way to much “stuff” that they don’t appreciate. I try to get each kid a giant pool foot when they go on sale at the end of the season to use in our pool in the summer, goggles. The last few years the younger kids get a large combined gift of something to do outside. We have done a trampoline, teeter totter and power wheels car over the years. It is less things and also solves the “nothing to do” dilemma. I also keep my eyes open at yard sales and thrift stores for items they would like to have but not waste money on things they won’t appreciate after a day. Hubby and I were raised with the tradition of Santa, so the gifts for the kids come from us, but Santa fills the stockings with treats (junk food) and necessities that they don’t normally get through the year like licensed underwear and toothbrushes.

  43. Kelly

    We have been doing this for years. As our kids became older and loved mp3’s we added the category….”and music because it’s good for the soul” (my daughter’s idea). We would typically get them an itunes gift card for this category 🙂

  44. NV2007

    I think this is a really great idea and works for a lot of families. Selfishly, I don’t want to do it. I just enjoying buying gifts. It’s what brings ME joy. I have tried very hard to focus more on needs and very specific wants (we don’t buy everything they list), but I really and truly enjoy filling up the floor under the tree on Christmas Eve. We don’t spoil our kids all year with gifts and whatever they want – we save most gifts for birthdays, rewards for exceptional report cards, and Christmas. Period. The rest of the year we focus on experiences vs. “stuff.” So Christmas is the big deal for me (us) and it’s how we like to roll on Christmas – and I buy everyone quite a bit b/c it’s what truly makes me so happy. And darn it, I deserve it (haha!). But I do think this is a really nice way to simplify and focus more on specific items (and really put hard thought into them) and keep it easier for buying/wrapping.

    • Dezi

      Same here! I enjoy GIVING. I actually tried the 4 gift rule a few years ago and 2 weeks before Christmas, I felt so guilty and horrible. I went on a shopping spree and failed the 4 gift rule lol. I have come to realize that giving brings me joy…and yes, I give to families in need too. But I really enjoy giving to the ones I love and watching their faces light up. And I’m the same way with my kids, nothing througout the year except birthdays, Christmas, and good report cards. That’s it!

  45. Stacy

    I think this works great for some families, but for other families, especially that are low income, a more bountiful Christmas is more practical. When we had reeeeally lean years, we ONLY got clothes and toys at Christmas because that is when stuff is less expensive and when there are places and programs that help out low income families. So its okay if this model works for you. It doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent or spoiling the meaning of the holidays.

  46. Lisa

    I buy all of these and much more. My kids ( now adults) only got gifts from us (or Santa) and their only living set of grandparents so I went all out their entire childhood and still do so with them and my grandchildren. 50 gifts min. I’d say (a little less now that they are) Christmas is a huge deal for me. It was the last happy memory I had with my dad at age 6. He died 14 days later.

  47. Pam

    We’ve done the want, need, wear, read Christmas gifts for a couple of years now and it’s great. We’ve also encouraged the grandparents to do more experience based gifts instead of just giving stuff. They’ve given coupons for movie theater days, trampoline parks, plays/theater type shows, etc. It’s nice that the kids can make memories with them and we don’t have excess toys that just get tossed in a bin.

  48. Dezi

    I have an extremely small family. My kids only have 1 grandma and no uncles or aunts that they’re close with. So I choose to spoil mine on Christmas….however, my friend has a HUGE family and every year she hosts a Christmas breakfast and each family member brings a few random gifts….then they give out raffle tickets to everyone and they raffle the gifts out. I just thought it was the cutest idea and I enjoy hearing about her Christmas every year.

  49. Kari

    We do a version of this:

    Something you want
    Something you need
    Something to wear
    Something to share or do (board game, craft, art class etc)
    Something dad and I think you would like

    I wish I had started this when they were itty bitty as it would have saved lots of “one and done” toys!

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