This Holiday Gift Idea Will Change How Your Family Does Christmas

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boy and girl sitting on couch with Christmas decor

The 4 Gift Rule will change the meaning of Christmas.

As we all know, Christmas can quickly get taken over by a surplus of gifts and often times become overwhelming when there’s so much to open. Not to mention the clean up afterward is a task of its own! After years of contributing to the gift madness during Christmas, I decided to call it quits and enjoy a more simplistic holiday.

Today I’m sharing a fun & unique way you can do it, too. By simplifying your family’s Christmas this year you’ll be less stressed and in return, your kids will receive gifts that are more intentional, meaningful, and things they’ll actually love.

It’s called the “4 Gift Rule”.

playing santa and handing out gifts

Imagine the idea of just giving 4 gifts to each of your children. 😳

There was once a day where I certainly couldn’t, but two years ago after realizing how much frivolous stuff my kids received I couldn’t take it anymore – I decided to pull the plug and gave this trend a try in 2019!

wrapped christmas gifts for hope haven

I know this idea might come off shocking if you’re used to going completely overboard, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen parents asking on Facebook or Instagram what to get their kids because they already have it all…🤔

That said, I can promise the 4 Gift Rule takes so much pressure off YOU & your wallet during the holidays. This might also allow you to splurge (or hold out for a great deal if you’re a Hip2Saver) on a gift you normally wouldn’t buy if you were spending money on a boatload of other things.

Here are the 4 gifts you’ll shop for if you’re doing the 4 Gift Rule:

  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 like a fancy electric toothbrush.
  3. Something they wear – such as makeup, new sports equipment, or a favorite clothing brand.
  4. Something they read – could be educational, a college textbook, or an interactive toddler book.

This is our minimalist gift tree from last Christmas:

christmas tree with wrapped gifts underneath

Let me start by saying my kiddos still enjoyed Christmas just as much last year and they have every other year.

Instead of a 4 Gift Rule, I incorporated one more surprise gift (something you do) and a bonus gift for them all to share.

I chose to tune into my kids’ desires and not what the latest and greatest trending gifts were. I bought things I knew they’d really love and spent a little extra time wrapping them up beautifully so they were even more anticipated come Christmas morning.

various presents wrapped in red paper and ribbon

As an example, I purchased an Xbox as their “share gift” (and I scored a great deal on Black Friday), an NFL football jersey for my oldest son’s “wear gift”, tickets to go paint-balling with cousins as their “something to do gift”, and so on. I was so proud of my self-control! Even when I was tempted by last-minute things in the stores I stood my ground and said “NO! What I already have IS enough.”.

Every single thing was a total hit and I’m absolutely not tooting my own horn, rather sharing how life-changing this new way of gifting has been for us as a family. As a bonus, clean up was minimal and we enjoyed a delicious french toast casserole afterward (when normally they’d still be ripping through toys and making a mess). It was truly special.

Here are more of the 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.
  • Creates an equal playing ground when everyone gets the same amount.
  • Kids will think harder about the things they really want.
  • Create grateful hearts.
  • Kids will have more appreciation for what they have.
  • Christmas morning will be less hecticmore enjoyable.
  • Less clean up when all the unwrapping is over.
  • Helps everyone focus on what’s really important during the holidays.
  • Doesn’t make other kiddos feel bad when they didn’t get “as much”.

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 this 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

Hip 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

Letter to Santa  |  Christmas Wish List

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

little girl holding Christmas advent calendar

Christmas should be a season of joy, togetherness, and, for many, the celebration of Christ’s birth. We all have a choice to mold it into the way we want it to be, so make the most out of your holiday. No matter how you decide to celebrate this year, make it memorable, and surround yourself with family.

Merry Christmas, Hip2Savers! ❤️

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Join The Discussion

Comments 98

  1. Cristine

    We have done this for years! My kids are very focused for christmas, and it helps eliminate the constantly changing of the list based on advertisements. I do usually expand the list (i.e. buy extra barbies to go with the one barbie thing my daughter listed) and will ask the grandparents to buy something that maybe was item #6 that didn’t make the cut (we do the 5 things with the 1 item “to do”). But it has definitely kept the budget in check, eliminated extra stress and consumerism, and have not had any complaints!

    • Sara

      Love that Cristine and I couldn’t agree more!

  2. MrsG

    That’s what we did last year and it helped so much! I feel like I buy better quality gifts that I know my kids will love and I don’t spend so much time and money buying everything I see. Kids honestly don’t remember the toys anyway. They remember the traditions and memories as a family.

    • Sara

      You’re absolutely right, MrsG! So glad this tradition has worked well for your family!

  3. Tina Tina

    My mom felt the need to go quite overboard with presents for Christmas going for quantity over quality (most were used gifts from yard sales). With 4 of us there were so many presents, most of which I really did not want. I honestly hated spending hours opening gifts I didn’t want, and watching my siblings do the same. It was exhausting for us, and I know it put a huge strain on my mother trying to come up with gift ideas and wrapping all that crap. I would have loved something like this and I even remember begging my mom many christmases not to get a million gifts for me, that I would prefer one or two gifts that I really wanted to a million things I didn’t. I find myself getting carried away with my own kids now (especially with all the great hip deals), so I should probably try this before they get older.

    • Sara

      This is the first year my boys discovered the news about Santa, so I’m extra excited to see how this year turns out. They’re already spending more time really thinking our their gift ideas. If you do end up doing it, let me know how it goes!

  4. saver

    2 years ago, instead of thousands of dollars on frivolous gifts, we did a year of experiences. They did get one big gift they each wanted. We presented them with a box and 12 envelopes, one for each month. In each envelope was an outing, experience or trip we would do. It was amazing and created so many memories. Some simple things like a family trip to the arcade or a hike around the state park. In June, we did Disney world, in August we did Wisconsin Dells. It was fun to see how exciting it was for them to open the envelope each month. We did this again this year, but due to Covid, we weren’t able to experience it, so we out the $ aside for next year .

    • Joni

      Last year we gave gifts but scaled back and gave experiences too. We got all but one in before covid and aren’t comfortable taking a trip to where we were going but one day it’ll be fulfilled! I’m trying to be creative to do it again since we are pretty conservative about what we do in the pandemic. I was thinking one could be a science experiment subscription and some outdoor activities but I don’t know. Hopefully I’ll figure it out soon!

    • Sara

      How special! Thank you so much for sharing your unique Christmas gift idea! Love it!

  5. Andrea

    Awesome idea! We are going to give it a try after having our 4th baby this August. Would you mind sharing the recipe to your French toast casserole?

    • Sara

      Hey Andrea! This is the recipe I’ve used every year since my kids were born. I normally make it the night before that way Christmas morning is easy breezy! Also, make sure to use a good bread for the casserole, it really makes a difference!

      • Andrea

        Hey Sara! Did you post the link for the casserole? It didn’t show up if you did. Thank you!

        • Leslie

          If you click on the part “the recipe” it goes to the link of the recipe.

          • Andrea

            Thank you Leslie!

        • Sara

          Yes, just click the hyperlinked text, Andrea. Glad you found it! Thanks for the help, Leslie. 🙂

  6. Sarah

    Since my kids were born, we have limited all grandparents (there are 7), aunts/uncles and us to 3 gifts each. At first the grandparents were annoyed, but they’ve grown to love it. The gifts are usually something they want, need and wear. I don’t limit on books, because we are avid readers and in my opinion there can never be too many books. We a 6, 4 and 18mo, we’ve got a nice selection of books and toys. Limiting has made what they receive that much more special and really help them be appreciative.

    • Sara

      You definitely can’t have too many books, thanks for the reminder, Sarah!

  7. S

    Do you still do stockings with this also?

    • Cristine

      We do. I usually put the something to do in the stocking and nothing else in the stocking is expensive (bath stuff, candy, maybe a pop socket or if a book or two will fit).

    • Sarah

      We do.

    • Sara

      Hey S! Yes, I still do stockings to add a little extra excitement for the kids (and my littlest still believes in Santa so I choose to keep that tradition going.) I normally do one big gift from Santa and stick to more essential types of things for the stockings like gum, body wash, deodorant, etc.

  8. Beth

    When I was a child my parents always did three gifts. For Christmas we are celebrating Jesus’ birthday and He received gold, frankincense, and myrrh (3 gifts) so my folks said it was another way to remember what we are celebrating. I’ve continued to do that with my children. We read Luke 2 together from the Bible then they get to open their gifts. It’s so easy to get lost in the “stuff” aspect of Christmas. We try to keep it simple and enjoy the family time.

    • Sara

      How special, I love that you keep things simple. Thanks for sharing, Beth!

  9. Chris

    For those who follow this or similar, I’m curious, how you handle birthdays and also how you approach giving things that fall into these categories to the kids during the rest of the year. Maybe the thoughtful piece will be more relevant when my kids are older, but recent birthday a $5 stuffed animal was a favorite gift. Do you regularly give educational toys, arts and crafts, books, clothes, etc. outside of gift times?

    • Sara

      I’m sure other readers will have valuable input, Chris. For my family, I keep things really simple on every other holiday and birthday. My oldest happens to be born the day after Christmas, so it’s hard to separate the 2 most years. Depending on what they’re into I normally just get one nice gift on their birthday. I don’t ever recall spending more than $100.

      • ahiestand

        My 4 year-old son has a Christmas Eve bday. I’d love a post on some ideas of what people do with bdays around Christmas!

        • Betsy

          My son’s birthday is early January. I would always get him something that he didn’t get for Christmas for it but kept it small, he was fairly “gifted” out by that time. But we did celebrate his half birthday, when he was small it was with summer time toys and when he was older an experience with his friends movies and dinner, arcade or massive sleepover. It worked out well.

        • animity

          What about a big half birthday? Of course, celebrate their actual birthday but on a small level and then live it up on their half birthday?!

        • Sandra Pelott

          My son was born on December 23. Many family members would give him a gift and they spent a little extra on it they only got him the one. He got birthday cards, for your birthday at Christmas. He would get birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper. I always made sure he had a birthday gift in birthday paper, a cake not decorated for the holidays, and a birthday card just for him. I never said anything to me, but he told me later in life he hated that. It was like he was always sharing his birthday. So I would recommend that you be sure to keep them separated, even if their birthday is on the 25th. Let them know they are special too.

      • ahiestand

        My 4 year-old son has a Christmas Eve bday. I’d love a post on some ideas of what people do with bdays around Christmas!

      • lindsaypugh

        My firstborn was born on Christmas Day. Over the years we added five others. We never go too crazy for any holiday, even Christmas…we don’t want the meaning of the day to be lost in the gifts. For my special Christmas Day birthday guy, we have always made a point to enjoy birthday cake for breakfast on Christmas morning. Everyone knows and looks forward to eating cake Christmas morning BEFORE we do anything else: open Santa gifts, open gifts from parents, see extended family, etc. It takes a bit of planning ahead to make sure the cake it ordered/made/delivered the day before, but he absolutely loves this tradition. While we have never been birthday party parents, we do take our kiddos on a special birthday date of their choosing (sometimes with our help if need be). Usually they are allowed to invite a sibling or special friend to join. Nowadays it’s just me, as their father passed away a few years ago, but these birthday traditions are still being carried on and they all look forward to them every year. I’m a big believer of the notion you can’t replace presence with presents. My father said this to me for years. It took me a long time to truly understand those words, but it is indeed a powerful statement, especially in these days and times. Blessings.

    • Cristine

      For Birthdays, they can choose a party with friends or a special activity/trip. If they want an item for their birthday, it usually comes from the grandparents. This year of course, we had to change that up!

  10. Rebecca

    My husband went without for most of his childhood, so it’s important for him to have a tree full of gifts for his kids to open on Christmas, which is fine with me.

    • rochellemcgee

      I get him, although I’m probably somewhere in the middle of all this. I grew up poor and my parents discouraged us for asking Santa for anything specific because they knew they might not be able to deliver – I never wrote a letter to Santa 😳 Now with kids of my own, especially with one that is on the cusp of not believing, I will reasonably indulge for just a few years yet. For us, the toy/materialistic phase seems naturally short lived anyway – my 8 and 9 year old already seem to be more interested in shared electronics that everyone can enjoy, like the Nintendo Switch I got on sale last year; this year the only suggestion they’ve made is more games. I say “no” most of the other 364 days of the year 😂 I just want to make this one day magical for as long as I can.

  11. Sara

    I would love to try this!
    Does anyone else have an issue with family over-giving at Christmas time? I don’t mean to sound unappreciative but my in-laws have always gone big at Christmas, even when my husband was a kid. They didn’t have a lot of money growing up so Christmas was a big deal. They now have a set amount of money that they spend per grandchild to make it fair across the board, $250 per child. The kids get great gifts but IT IS A LOT OF STUFF. When asked if they can decrease the amount or telling them that the kids don’t need all of these things they really blow it off. It has gotten so that it almost overshadows our Christmas with our kids, ESPECIALLY if I tried this 4 gift thing. They are not crazy/manipulative/mean grandparents, they are really wanting to get them some cool stuff that the kids would love but it’s just too much. Any advice?

    • Becca

      One idea that comes to mind..have the grandparents pool the money for your kids and get one larger family gift, such as an experience gift – maybe a weekend away to a new place each year. You and the kids then could create a photo album of the trip to treasure and share with grandma and grandpa.

    • ShaJ

      Sara maybe you could ask the in-laws to set aside a majority of the money for your children’s college fund? How grateful the children will be knowing that the grandparents bankrolled a portion of college for them when they get there? Or ask them to pay for an outing they can take the children to that will create memories for the kids? Let them know that the kids are all good for toys this year. I had similar issue with my mother. She wasn’t terribly open at first, but has now come around and it’s been great! She’s funded my kids summer science programs, taken them to the zoo, the dinosaur museum etc. She loves these outings and even pooled the money one year and bought them a new computer. Good luck and God bless!!

      • PH

        This is what one set of grandparents do/did. My husband’s parents have given a few small gifts to our boys for Christmas & birthdays since they were little, but the main portion of their gift has been money put aside and earmarked for college. Now that my oldest is a senior and off to college next August, we have that money to assist for college and can’t be more grateful that they had the foresight to do this years ago 🙂

    • kd

      A few years ago, we started the tradition of my parents buying our year membership to the local science museum as our family Xmas gift and just a couple smaller gifts for our girls. They also buy our zoo membership in place of birthday gifts for my husband and I. Many other zoos/science centers offer reciprocity with those memberships, so we save money on activities when we travel. If your kids are older, the grandparents could pay toward monthly memberships to local places that offer indoor sports classes, rock wall climbing, trampoline parks, etc

    • 5pink1blue

      You could ask for them to pay for summer camp or dance or another class for your children. My in-laws love to spend $ on things we don’t need and really clutter up our house. Finally, my husband spoke to his parents and they have paid for Irish dance lessons, horseback riding lessons, summer camp and a zoo membership. They still give the kids stockings filled with gift cards to restaurants, clothing store, book store and candy. Kids are happy and we have less “stuff”.

    • Sara

      I think my mom is finally realizing how carried away she gets at Christmas. This year I asked her for a budget and told her I would let her know what to get each of the kid based on that price. They normally end up doing whatever they want though, so we’ll see how this year goes! I have a friend who’s sister lives in a small home in the city and she flat out told her mom that if she didn’t stick to one nice gift, everything else would be donated and it’s not that she’d unappreciative, but they simply don’t have the room for EVERYTHING.

    • Mcall26

      If your husband is on the same page as you are, it might be better coming from him (at least I feel like that is true for me). An awesome gift idea for them could be some piano lessons, or an outing where they take your child to a sports game, or a magazine subscription (we’ve gotten The Friend magazine, National Geographics For Kids, etc.), they could purchase something like a spotify account, or a membership to an online educational program. Another fun thing could be a bedroom makeover (especially if you have girls).

    • Kate

      Find something you and your husband can both live with and let your husband set the boundaries. I also ask for college money and experiences. We had a problem with grandparents overshadowing what I could do for my children with junky toys. When we explained that specifically to them it hit home more than a million previous conversations had ever done. I’m paying for lessons, food, rent and saving for college. You coming in once a year and spending $500 on junk we don’t need to be the big shot is annoying. You already had your time to do this for your own children. They came from a place of having uninvolved grandparents so they just couldn’t understand it until we explained it that way. I always appreciate books, clothes, experiences, and help saving for college but it’s took years to get them out of their mindset of “toys or nothing”.

    • Jenny

      My mom once felt the way that you do. We had a loving, but indulgent, grandmother who absolutely loved all holidays. Mom felt bad that Grandma wanted to gift us with both experiences and presents. When Mom brought it up with Grandma, it brought another perspective to light. Grandma knew that she wouldn’t be there to see her grandchildren through all parts of their lives. Those gifts and experiences were her way of showing all of us how special we were to her – and doing it while she was able. My mom may not always have agreed, but on this one point, she let Grandma win.

    • April

      Count yourself lucky and blessed nobody ever buys our daughter anything for any occasion. My parents are deceased. I watched my father buy gifts for his girlfriend’s daughter but he never bought me anything because he hated my mother. My hubby stopped receiving gifts at age 10 while his older sisters continued to receive gifts and he had to pay $35 a week rent because he had a newspaper route. At 12 his father evicted him and he had to illegally rent a room at a boarding house. Eventually his mother made his father go find him after about 2 weeks. He stopped charging him rent for about 2 months before he started again. For this reason he would never limit our daughter to 3 or 4 gifts. So she gets spoiled a bit for Christmas and has experiences on her birthday but she is still a loving, humble, and generous child.

  12. Nat

    Wow! Great ideas! Is there anyway that we can add the “experience” option to the beautiful Christmas wish list?

    • Sara

      So glad you enjoyed this post, Nat! I will check with Lina since this was something she created for her kids a few years back. I’m not sure she’ll still have it!

  13. mtrowbridge06

    How do you do this with Santa gifts? We have tried before and they have a different list for Santa than for us and I think this will be our last Santa year so don’t want to spoil that?

    • Sara

      Last year ended up being the last year my older two believed in Santa. Since I knew they were getting to that point I explained that Santa is really busy and we are blessed with enough stuff. Let’s pick one or two gifts that we really want from Santa and stick with those. It worked for us! As for my youngest…she literally thinks everything is from Santa, so I just roll with it. As long as she’s happy, I don’t care who she thinks it’s from. HAHA

  14. Jenk

    We done the experience box last year for Christmas, The kids loved the ideal and had a great time until COVID hit. We got to do Jan. Feb. & March, April was the “BIG” trip with a vacation at Universal and that was the first that was canceled. The kids have opened all the envelopes and small gifts (socks for bowling, Movie gift card for snacks, etc.) about two months ago. We have made promise of completing all of the trips next year but it really put a damper on what could have been an amazing gift.

  15. Taryn S.

    2 years ago we almost entirely eliminated gifts and started doing a family trip instead. BUT, we do this 4-gift rule as it relates to the trip and use the gifts as hints essentially. I’m undecided ehat the trip will be this year with COVID, but leaning toward a national parks road trip. So the gifts could be new jackets to WEAR, books to READ in the car, a Lego set they WANT for building in the hotel, etc. We also ask extended family to stick with clothing 1-2 sizes bigger or money toward the kids’ activities. I don’t think we’ll ever go back!

    • Sara

      Great idea Taryn! If you happen to have a 4th grader you can score this FREE National Parks pass for your whole family!

  16. Alyssa

    Clearly this has a Christian theme, but we’ve always done gifts this way:
    1 gift from Santa
    1 gift from each of the three wise men (because we try to tie in the reason we celebrate)
    1 gift from us (as parents)

    I got this idea from a friend when my first was an infant, and I’ve always liked the idea because it minimizes how much they get and puts some focus on the reason we celebrate.

    • Sara

      Thanks so much for sharing, Alyssa! Love this!

  17. nikkicr912

    I am going to use this tradition with my grandkids. First grand baby is due this January!

    • Sara

      Wonderful! Congratulations on your first grandbaby, nikkicr912!

  18. Lisa

    I just don’t think I could do this, I lost my dad 2 weeks after my sixth Christmas so it’s always been a huge holiday for me since I associate with my last memory of him. My kids are adults now, but I still over buy for them and my grandkids. I enjoy gift gifting too much to limit myself to four gifts. It’s not stressful for me. I do Christmas huge. Other than Christmas and birthdays my kids never asked for anything and never got anything. (Other than school clothes of course)

    Not to mention we have zero extended family members, so the gifts my kids got from us where the only gifts they get/got.

    • lmh

      Do what makes you happy! It’s your family and your family traditions! We also do a huge Christmas and overly indulge. No reason other than that’s what we do and you know what, I don’t owe anyone an explanation! Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy holiday.

  19. Laura

    We have something similar. One gift from the parents, one from each sibling (we have 3 kids) and Santa brings one, So I g used the total is 4.
    After the meltdown year we stopped buying as much as we could. Literally overwhelmed them and they threw a fit and broke down. This year we are also going back to bringing the presents up on Christmas Eve after they go to bed.

    • Sara

      I hope this year is seamless for you and your family, Laura! Thanks for sharing!

  20. Lynn

    I have 4 grandchildren and I don’t overdue. I buy one practical gift for about $25, then some small things appropriate to their age. I gave them a personalized cash box last year for their money. My nephew’s bday is dec 26. When he was young I gave him two bags. One with Xmas gifts, the other a birthday bag with summer things that I bought during the summer for him. Even an outdoor toy. He loved it!

    • Sara

      Great ideas, thanks for sharing, Lynn! That’s also my oldest son’s birthday. 🙂

  21. Evie

    We just do book exchanges! All of us are older. I also do not want more junk to clean! Most gets refitted by me!
    I especially hate when people give me clothing! Last year I received some collar that was fleece lined! I would regift, but doubt if any would want! Clothes are personal, very few get it right for me! Little do many know,how often their items end up at thread up! I do not donate to Goodwill, their prices are tooo high and they have become quit junky! Good only for $1.00 books.

    • Sara

      What a super fun idea, Evie!! Thanks for sharing!

  22. Sara

    I kind of like the idea of the 4 gift rule, because you can only have so many toys! But my whole childhood my mom went overboard for Christmas. We didn’t really get gifts or things or toys throughout the year, Christmas was mostly i. I mean we got birthday gifts, but not that many. Christmas was a big deal, and as a single parent for 1/2 my childhood I don’t know how she pulled it off. 1/3 of our living room was just the tree and all the gifts she’d wrapped. It was a lot, but also a blast honestly opening all the gifts and playing with all the toys. Of course as you got older the less you got since things became more expensive. I tend to go overboard with my son currently, I’m trying to reign it in lol. He’s spoiled, has way too many toys and he is overwhelmed. But my mom set a precedent of going all out for Christmas lol, so I am too. So I’ve thought about the 4 gift idea; but I still like toys too much lol.

    • Sara

      You have to do what works for you, Sara! Thanks for sharing – it sounds like you make Christmas super special!

  23. Ray

    a few years back our family decided to stop buying “stuff” for Christmas and make memories instead. We figure the memories of family holiday trips and adventures would last much longer than toys. honestly how many toys and shirts that you got on Christmas do you really remember today verse how many family trips from your childhood and teen years still bring you smiles and are conversation pieces at family get-togethers. we still do a small gift exchange on the day but the focus is on new memories of family adventures.

    • Sara

      I couldn’t agree more, Ray! Love that you started doing this – thanks for sharing!

  24. Tricia

    I just can’t do that little for Christmas. I only have 1 kid so for those with more kids I’m sure this is very helpful. I do the 4 gift rule for my son for Christmas Eve but each thing is under a certain price and then the next morning is the other gifts.

  25. Lpmousse

    My kids get soooo many gifts from other people at Christmas, my parents and my husband & I only get them a few things. They get two Santa gifts and a few gifts from us. They are fine with it.

  26. Sara

    Nothing new here… this is a concept many people have been doing for a long time

  27. carmen

    Hi Nat, if you’re still in need, I could probably make that change and email it to you. I’m no professional, but I like to tinker :). Email me the phrase you’d like to add, and I’ll give it a go (maybe “Things I’d like to do” ?)
    hip2savecarmen1-plumb at

  28. Clearance shopper

    I like my kids to have lots of presents to open on Christmas. A lot are small items wrapped in big boxes and then they get a couple of big gifts. We do clearance shopping all year long so Christmas is not a big expense. Lots of items were regularly $20-$30 and I got them for under $5. I love clearance.

    • Sara

      Way to be frugal!! Thanks for sharing your tips with us!

  29. Jessica

    I’ve been planning to do this for the first time this year, but I get waffling. My kids are 4 and 6 so I’m not sure they really old enough to not be disappointed with fewer gifts and I’ve always gone overboard and they are so young, I’m worried they will be disappointed not to see alll those presents under the tree. I love making a big deal of Christmas but we have such a small house theres simply no room for all the stuff.

    • Momofmany

      Since my kids were small
      I did a “Santa gift”
      Which has been their favorite. Santa has always given a family
      Gift and it’s an experience. (2 foot pizza slices, food tour, overnight at a hotel and children’s museum, zoo trips..)any fun thing we can do together. I have 4 kids (10-17) and they leave the Santa letter in the tree for last to read together. It takes some Planning but it’s the highlight every year.

    • ian

      Jessica-This is a perfect year to shake things up :), and since they’re so young, it’s a good idea to start NOW before things get out of hand, lol. Maybe they’re not ready to have a 4 present limit, but making a change for the better may not be as hard as you think. You may need to find a buddy to chat with, though, when you find yourself getting weak, and thinking of dropping $100 at the Disney store on December 23rd ;). You can still wrap one “finale” gift and lots of smaller presents without “going overboard.” They may not even notice. You can tell them you’re trying something new this year and plan an “experience,” then wrap a bunch of “clues” along with the other presents. You can find an organization to donate toys to, and have the kids help you pick out toys for others, telling them that you want to teach them about sharing. You can find ideas online about having a minimalist holiday, and pick and choose ways you can slowly cut back 🙂 and maybe start a new tradition. YOU CAN DO THIS! :). If you think it’s important, the reward for your family will be greater than any “things” they will get.

    • Sara

      I’d be lying if I said one of mine wasn’t disappointed in the first year. They ripped through all 5 gifts so fast and then that was it! Luckily they still had grandparents to look forward to, but after a long talk about why we celebrate Christmas, they were okay…they truly had a blast being surrounded by all of their family, and this year they already expect to only get 5 gifts and have been racking their brains to make it worth it! It’s so fun to watch them reason with themselves on what they REALLY want to get this year.

      • kelly

        awesome :).

  30. Funfunfun

    Thank you all for sharing your ideas! This is great! We have 3 kids and I started doing something to wear, something to read and something to play with…plus santa and stocking. This is the first year I’m wondering if we’ll do santa. The last few years we’ve done a shared play gift, like ps4, or one year they got inexpensive laptops for school. Preteen/teen everything is becoming harder, but I like the ideas of taking them out or gifting a class.
    Any tips for gifts for your own siblings and parents? I’ll do couple gifts like kitchen things or something they both like, but its getting harder.

  31. Heather

    The past two years we have tried to focus on the whole month instead of just the one day. For Christmas we do a parent gift, sibling gifts and stocking from Santa because they always get additional from grandparents. And our parent gift is usually a family experience. (This year is building a Rockwall in our garage. Thanks Covid. 😜 ) But for the 24 days leading up to Christmas, we do a countdown that included crafts, activities, local experiences, small gifts, sewing and baking. My kids look forward to this now every Christmas season. We are still making tons of memories and we aren’t spending money on random stuff that gets donated in two months. This past year we wrote a riddle for each day They could read in the morning about what the days activity was. I love Christmas so this was a way to make it last longer!

    • Sara

      I love hearing that stuff isn’t sitting around or getting donated now, Heather, that is amazing! Way to turn around your traditions and make the most out of them!

  32. Beth

    We have done this for the last 10 years. I LOVE that it helps to keep Christmas in check and we can stay focused on the true reason for Christmas. From family members we often ask for activities or gift cards to cut back on the stuff and clutter.

    • Sara

      How amazing you’ve been doing this tradition for so long, Beth! I love hearing that. 🙂


    Oh, no! The christmas list notepad is written in the wrong order, so it doesn’t rhyme!

    • kelly

      that’s funny. I wouldn’t have noticed 😉

  34. Brittany

    We’ve done some version of this from the get-go and I love it. It doesn’t always “line up” with the rhyme (I don’t have a “read” for my oldest this year) but we keep the gift count to 4-6 each. Sometimes it’s expanded to “something to share” or “something to do” or “something surprise” but generally speaking it has made our Christmas mornings so sweet and simple. Now if I could JUST get Grandparents on board we’d be totally set!

  35. Laurel

    I never had Christmas as a kid. Two horrible parents who didn’t even care if we had the things we needed (no coats in the winter, no school supplies…spent most school days without lunch because in the 90’s people minded their own business; so no one ever halped us or called CPS) much less buy us things we wanted. I have risen above it but Christmas brings up bad memories for me. So, for my kids I buy them about 4 or 5 gifts each (some are requests & some are practical needs) but don’t keep a tally of each amount as it’s too hard to buy them the same monetary total of gifts; especially since they are 5 years apart in interested in different things. We don’t have a limit on books. If they ask for 2 or 27 different titles they always get those. Santa brings “Santa sacks” and in there are bath bombs, new flashlights, marshmallow shooters, play doh, legos, and things like that for each of their interests).

    They get a “better together” gift to remind them that they are a team; built-in best friends for life…so it’s always something to share (one year was a set of new board games, another was a giant marble run, the next a trampoline & one year was a zoo membership & last year was a hugglepod).

    Birthdays are a no holds all out huge celebration; I will ALWAYS celebrate the day they were born and made me a mama in the biggest way possible! I want them to know that of ALL the days in a year that the day they were born is THE BEST day of my life!

    • Suzanne H

      Yes to all of this! I love the “better together” and the all out birthday parties!!! If you can and you want to, why not? If you can’t, you can’t and that’s okay too.

  36. Erin Garrett

    We have always done 3 gifts and a stocking filled with goodies. If they ask why 3 I ask them if they think they have been better than Jesus this year. 🤪

  37. Casey

    I would like to do this but I have 2 teenagers and I’m pretty sure they dont want no books for Christmas what can be a replacement for something they read

    • Suzanne H

      Maybe change it to “something entertaining” – i.e. movie tickets, a DVD, gift card for streaming service (Netflix, Hulu…), Apple music gift card, etc.

  38. Suzanne H

    I am cutting back this year because my 2 are older and their wish list items are more expensive than when they were little. I am all for everyone doing what works for them but I could not do this little for Xmas. I grew up poor and not having a nice Xmas was always such a disappointment not to mention embarrassing at school. I know it shouldn’t matter but it did to me. Fortunately, with only 2 kids, it is easier + frugal shopping all year long. Also, they get a lot of practical gifts i.e. clothes, shoes, books, etc for Xmas. My stepson gets gifts from his mother and her family but my other son only has 1 grandparent still living (but he lives in another country) so he basically only gets gifts from us which is another reason I don’t want to do this. Again, to each their own!

  39. Lesly

    Mother of 4 here… I never realized how many presents other families give per child, until I saw this very interesting and eye opening post ☺️ I give 3 presents to each of my kids, and 1 “from Santa”not more than $100 per kid, also put small toys/candies in stockings, they get presents or gift cards from in laws and uncles/aunts they all know not to spend more than what I do on gifts. The main thing for us on bdays and holidays is the food, getting together for a homemade meal and spending time playing the value of a present it’s not as important

  40. Toni Potts

    My kids are teens and we have been doing a Christmas vacation. They get a few gifts the vacation is the big one.

  41. Heather

    I did this last year for my 3. I also included “something handmade” for each of them and “something to do” (an activity/putting for each of them). Then I wrapped the boxes in white wrapping paper and stacked them like snowmen and put new hats, gloves, and scarves for each of them on their snowmen. I still did overboard on their stockings as I always do (they have 3 feet stockings lol) but that’s their favorite part of Christmas gifts so I was okay with that. It worked out wonderfully.

  42. jen2020

    We don’t go overboard, even if we can afford it. My son is only getting books for Christmas ( he really likes the warriors series) and I bought a prism. My husband and I are not doing any gift exchange because we buy what we need, when we need it. Also due to the pandemic since we have not been very social this year, we are only giving gifts to very close friends and family. This pandemic has taught me that you never know when tragedy can strike, so it’s best to be frugal and save for a rainy day. All the excess stuff we buy end up as clutter and harm the planet too. We are trying to spend our time by taking walks in the parks, playing family board games and doing art watching YouTube. I have also been able to de clutter and donate a lot of items to families in need and honestly this feeling is much better than the instant gratification from shopping.

  43. Observant Mom

    I’m appalled at the comments saying people ask extended family to get specific gifts or pitch in for a specific gift. If my family did that I would just not get the kids a gift and tell the parents why I didn’t buy the kid a gift. You can’t tell me what to get your kid! When I shop I look around for things I know the kids are interested in. You can either accept what I find for your kid or I’ll save myself some money and not buy them anything. As for those saying all kids need to get the same amount of gifts, that is complete nonsense! I might come across 3 things that might be perfect for my niece and only 1 thing that is perfect for her sister. When one of the kids asks me why the other got 3 I tell them why and they usually seem to understand. In my experience, kids are more understanding than parents. It is the parents that have more of a problem with it. With that being said, I make sure I get each kid an age appropriate gift so long as their parents don’t tell me what to buy. I’m always open to suggestions, but those are just that- suggestions. I was brought up to always give thanks that someone thought of me and decided to bless me with a gift. It didn’t matter how big or how small it was. We all get gifts sometimes that don’t quite go with us, suchas a scarf when you don’t wear scarves, but I still say thank you and always genuinely appreciate the sentiment. No one is entitled to gifts so I think we should all be appreciative of any gift anyone gives you or your kids.

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