* We sometimes use affiliate links, so we may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Check our disclosure for more info.
Last year was the first time since becoming a parent that I did not dread Christmas. Instead I had the best Christmas I’ve ever had. And it’s all because we celebrated the day differently. It was the first time our family implemented the 4 Gift Rule for Christmas and it was a game changer. As a Mom, I encourage you to give this 4 gift challenge a go because it has transformed Christmas for our family forever.
Christmas Gift Challenge
Pre the 4 Gift Rule Christmas, Christmas went a little like this. I stayed up late Christmas eve wrapping last minute gifts., making sure all the kids had an equally-sized present pile. We arranged the gifts around the tree, satisfied that it looked like ‘enough’. Our Christmas morning was spent watching the kids open present upon present upon present …..
You know what though, instead of being happy on Christmas morning, I felt a little ‘dirty’.
The joy of Christmas was replaced with the guilt of unnecessary gluttony.
I knew why I did it. It was a mix between lack of self control, a skewed ambition to ‘Keep up with the Joneses” and equating more gifts to mean more love.
Most of our friends have a large extended family. Gifts start collecting under the tree from Aunties, Uncles, Cousins, grandparents weeks before the actual day.
Not at our home. Oh no. That empty space under our tree gathers dust until Christmas morning.
Our family is really small since we immigrated. The presents under the tree are all from Mom and Dad. In my head somewhere I equated Quantity of gifts to equal Quantity of love. If I piled the gifts really high no-one would notice that it was just us.
OK, so I know it’s ridiculous, but I am pretty sure I am not alone.
You may have a different reason for doing it, but so many of us feel the pressure to overspend on gifts at Christmas.
I see Moms and Dads cramming boxes and bags into the cars. Loads of boxes. Too many bags.
To be fair, It’s kinda hard not to go a little crazy during the Christmas Season. Your inbox, mail box, TV … well… pretty much every media out there is fighting for your attention. Special Offers, Sales, BUY BUY BUY. Kids shows are interrupted with the latest toy they need to ask Mom and Dad to get them. Even the bloggers I love to follow are sending me out a tirade of promotional emails encouraging me to buy. more. stuff.
What Is The 4 Gift Rule?
Up until last year, Christmas season was always a time of stress for me.
That heavy, worried feeling would start mid November, about the time stores unpacked their Christmas window displays. I had this sick feeling about spending too much on things we didn’t really need just to full that little space under the Christmas tree. Christmas became about money, not family.
I was obsessed with what we didn’t have rather than taking stock of everything we did have. Over the last few years, we have made some huge changes in our life.
But it’s the other things – the things you can’t see – that have been the hardest changes for me to make.
Learning to let go of our ‘stuff’ is hard.
Teaching your kids that they don’t need all the ‘stuff’ to be happy is hard.
It’s hard to say ‘No’.
It’s even harder when it’s Christmas.
Starting The Christmas Challenge
Last year I decided I’d had enough.
I stumbled upon the 4 Gift Rule (I think I saw it on Facebook) and I admit I was skeptical. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I was tired of the over spending. I was tired of feeling overwhelmed. And I badly wanted to enjoy Christmas with my family.
I made the decision to drastically reduce the number of gifts I gave my children and give the 4 Rule Gift thing a go.
It was scary.
I was actually really, really nervous about disappointing my kids. They were used to copious amounts of gifts under the tree and I seriously wondered if I was about to ruin Christmas for them forever.
Yup. Silly, hey?
And I did it anyway.
What Actually Happened …
OK, so last Christmas we took Gift Giving in our home to a whole new minimalist level.
Each of us received 4 gifts under the Christmas tree. Even Mom and Dad. I cheated a bit because I also gave the kids each a Christmas stocking which I filled with homemade gifts, chocolates and a couple dollar store stationery items. I budgeted on $5 – $7 dollars per stocking just to keep myself in check.
I told the kids before hand what to expect. And I watched them take in the news.
The weird thing is, instead of being disappointed about it, they were surprisingly excited. Kids are not dumb. They also feel our stress during the Christmas season. I think they felt relieved. I still can’t quite explain this properly, but there a few moments as a parent where you feel on top of your game. For me, this was one of them.
Our First 4 Gift Christmas Morning
Christmas was not ruined. It was different, though.
First up. The tree looked different.
There were a lot less gifts. The piles for each child weren’t ‘equal’.
The kids weren’t rushed.
We made cocoa.
Opening each gift was genuinely special.
Maybe that sounds a little corny (is that still a word?), but it’s true. Each gift came from the heart. And everyone knew it. They had been thought through and planned and it showed. And each gift was received with gratitude.
It had been a long time coming, but Christmas morning finally felt like it was supposed to.
Magical. And full of love.
How the 4 Gift Rule Works
So, it’s pretty simple. Each family member, Mom and dad included, gets 4 gifts each. Yes, I still cheat with the extra Christmas stocking too. But this works well for us.
If your kiddies still believe in Santa then feel free to make one of them from Santa (maybe the ‘Something they want’?).
The 4 Gifts to Give
The idea of the four gift rule is to cover all bases:
- Something you Want
- Something you Need
- Something to Wear
- Something to Read
Something you Want
I let the kids think about this one and give me suggestions about what they really want. The little ones have a long list to start but it is easily narrowed down to that one special thing that they really, really want.
Something you Need
This one is an easy one for Moms. School supplies and new sports gear are always needed. I like to think of this as anything which I would have to get them anyway for the next year.
Something to Wear
Now I may be tweaking this a bit this year.
Normally I would get each of the kids an outfit to wear, but this year I’m going to change it up a bit but giving perfume to the oldest daughter as she doesn’t need more clothes (don’t worry, the kids don’t read Mom’s blog :) ) and a piece of jewellery to my youngest daughter. Technically all things they can wear.
Something to Read
I love choosing books for the kids. My oldest daughter is a reader, so I try find a whole series for her but the others get one book. They’ll take about the same time to read that one as she will reading her entire series of books.
Here it is.
One more time.
If you’re looking for a way to bring the magic back into Christmas, then take the 4 Gift Challenge this Christmas. I have a feeling you will be surprised at how well your family responds to this new kind of gift giving!
This Challenge has been around for a long time, but it’s a pretty new idea for us (second year this year). Do you already do this? I would love to know if your family implements the 4 Gift Rule and how it’s changed Christmas Day for you.
4 Rule Gift Variations
You can 4 rule gifting thing. If one (or more!) of your kids is especially into something, horse riding for example, you can theme the gifts to this hobby. You know your kids better than anyone so stick with the rules and adapt it to suit your family.
Here’s some other ways to vary the 4 gift rule:
- Theme the gifts to a hobby
- Create gift experiences instead of ‘things’ – give them a day out, a baking experience, lessons in something they want to try etc…
- Give them something to make – Instead of something to wear (how many clothes do kids have today?) give them a kit so they can make something themselves. The kids love these kits!
Four Gift Rule For Christmas Printable
Planning ahead makes your life easier. The end :)