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  • Writer's pictureFrankie Copsey

A Stress Free Christmas With the Four Gift Rule

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year, right?

It most definitely is, but it’s also the time of the year that many people spend money they don’t have, getting themselves in a financial mess they’ll spend the new year trying to dig out of. Christmas is EXPENSIVE!

If you’re looking for ways to save this holiday season, try the Four Gift Rule. I promise you’ll find yourself buying less and enjoying more!

I adopted this rule with my kids about six years ago after feeling overwhelmed with all the expectations of the holidays. My kids didn’t need MORE STUFF. They already had tons of stuff they didn’t want, need, or use.

And... I had set this unrealistic expectation for myself that I needed to decorate, bake, shop, make Christmas cards, wrap presents, watch movies, and chop down a tree all in the name of having a “perfect Christmas”. Sound familiar?? I promise there’s a better way.

So what’s the Four Gift Rule?

When your children create their Christmas, list have them focus on FOUR gifts.

  • Something they WANT

  • Something they NEED

  • Something to WEAR

  • And Something to READ

At first, I felt guilty about this, limiting my kids to ONLY four gifts on Christmas. They were accustomed to getting 10+ gifts under the tree. I felt like Scrooge!

However, creating their lists together and having conversations about the true meaning of the holidays was eye opening. Kids are amazing and don’t often get the credit they deserve. They understood and were more than willing to focus on things that were truly important instead of the quantity of gifts. Honestly, getting over my mom guilt was the hardest part.

So what things fall under these four gift categories? Before you do any shopping, set a budget (this is important) and get creative.

Something they want

This one is straight forward. If they’ve been begging for something for the last six months, this is it. Easy!

Something they need

This can also be something they want, you just have to tie it to a NEED. Last year for my son this was a new basketball bag. He needed it for carrying his stuff to/from games and he also really wanted one. For my teenage daughter it was new bedding for her room. Think of something your child needs, but would also be happy getting as a gift.

Something to wear

This doesn’t have to be clothing. It could be a watch, a necklace, or even headphones. For my son, it’s usually cowboy boots. Something he gets tons of use out of all year long that I am more than happy to buy. Teenage girls love jewelry of all kinds. Take a spin around Etsy, there's so many cute things you can find.

Something to read

I love this gift and it is my favorite to pick out. I love picking out something I think they might enjoy and then having conversations with them as they move through the books. If your child isn’t a fan of books, think outside the box.

One year my sports fanatic son got a subscription to Sports Illustrated for Kids. You can grab the subscription for less than $20 on Amazon and it's super easy to sign up.

Over the years my kids have loved these "Something to Read" gifts and we've been able to pass them on to other kids. Here's some of our favorites:

For me, the absolute best part of this simplified giving is the time we get back as a family. I’m not out scouring stores for gifts, stressed that I’m going to disappoint my kids. I’m at home spending the holiday season with them.

The money that we save allows us to do other things over the course of the holidays; things that are based on experiences we can share and remember; NOT STUFF. We make ornaments together, buy gifts for those less fortunate, spend time outdoors, bake, and so much more.

Someplace to Be

A new rule we implemented in the last couple years has been including a gift of “Someplace to Be”. This is a gift that grandparent(s) can give your children and is all about an experience. It could be a gift of movie passes, a family pass to a water park, tickets to a sporting event or concert. All it has to be is some type of experience they can enjoy together; the price DOES NOT MATTER.

Last year our boys got to attend a college basketball game with their cousins. They had an absolute blast and had an experience they won’t ever forget.

Focusing on what’s most important for your family is truly what matters most. Open lines of communication up early and have the conversation with your kids about expectations of gifts and the real meaning of the holiday season for your family. This helps them to understand and avoids any Christmas morning meltdowns.

Our family has had great success with the Four Gift Rule for Christmas. It’s allowed us time together filled with more joy and less stress. It’s a fantastic idea that teaches lessons of giving, gratitude, and togetherness.

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