Christmas can be overwhelming and expensive, but to keep it fun for our kids and easy on our wallets, we have implemented the 4 Gift Christmas Rule.
Christmas On A Budget
We all know that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the most priciest time of the year. We love Christmas and value its meaning, and have chosen to not go overboard with gift giving so that the meaning of Christmas isn’t overlooked or forgotten.
Troy and I have always been conscientious of our spending at Christmas, but definitely in the younger years of our marriage because we were already on a very tight budget. We entered marriage young and started out on a beans and rice budget. A few years into our marriage we had Kallie, but when she was 4 we became foster parents and welcomed our 2 additional daughters into our home 2 weeks before Christmas. It was a joyous occasion and we quickly filled our Christmas tree with additional gifts, and extended family helped too by surprising us with gifts for the 2 girls!
Fast forward another year we welcomed our son. We cared for many more children in our 3 year foster care journey, but in the end God gifted us with 4 beautiful children to care for. We started a tradition of having different themes for gift giving over the years, but our favorite tradition now is the 4 gift Christmas rule. This gives my children a chance to receive some really nice gifts, but also allows Troy and I the freedom to spend a modest amount for Christmas. We love that each gift has a purpose, is valued, and the meaning of Christmas is still the highlight of the day.
How To Save $1,200 For Christmas
Troy and I save a total of $1,200 on Christmas. That total includes gifts for teachers, friends and extended family, and even decorations. We save $100 every month and stick it in an envelope. Sometimes I will sell extra things on Facebook marketplace or save extra during months where we have a little more cash flow to gather the money quicker. This year I was able to complete our savings goal for Christmas by September. I always like challenging myself to fill my envelopes more quickly.
We do not split the money equally among our children and rigidly limit the amount we spend on them, but we also don’t go overboard for one child and leave the others out. I am constantly monitoring how much we have spent per child, and make sure that it stays pretty similar in cost for each category. I also am on the hunt for the best deals, which helps keep my budget in check.
Since our kids were young we have implemented different Christmas gift giving themes, but this 4 gift Christmas rule has been our favorite. One year we did a homemade theme, where Troy and I made the kids their gifts, which included wooden closets for their American Girl Dolls clothes, and wooden rocking chairs in half moon shapes that also were fun toys. Another year we didn’t give gifts, but instead we went on a big family vacation. One year we gave the kids little presents individually, but gave the kids a huge swing set as a group gift.
How The 4 Gift Christmas Rule Works
What makes the 4 gift Christmas rule so special to us is that each gift has a purpose and meaning. We wanted to really focus on what our kids actually wanted, give them the gift of education through reading, and also give them an experience that would create lasting memories for them. There is nothing limiting by only receiving 4 main gifts from us, but it’s actually expanded our abilities to really focus on the unique interests of our children.
There are several 4 gift themes that people have shared all over the internet, but these are our favorites: something you want, something to read, something to do or something to wear, and somewhere to go. Often times you might see people give a gift for “something you need,” but we felt like that wasn’t a practical category for us since we already buy our kids what they need. To keep Christmas exciting, we wanted to build in an experience, which is why we have adopted “somewhere to go.” Let me break down each category for you and explain my process for what I purchase. Just a heads up, my kids LOVE each category! They look forward to all of their gifts equally.
Something You Want
From the categories that we use when purchasing gifts, you can see my kids don’t receive many toys for Christmas, however, this is their category to really ask for that ONE thing they just really want to have. We have our kids fill out a Christmas wish list each year and I ask them to give me 3 options per category. They know that if their is something just really special to them that you just have to have, then they need to write it down in this category. The 4 gift Christmas rule has challenged my kids to really focus on their interests and seriously consider that one toy they long to have.
As my kids get older I have noticed their interests are changing and my older girls aren’t asking for toys anymore. Electronics are high on their list, but they honestly are just happy with simple girlie things.
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Something To Read
Books are a big deal in our house. My kids love their books so much, and tend to reread them over and over. All of my kids still love picture books, but the books they request the most are now chapter books. I typically purchase the books on their wish list in October. Yes, I have my kids make their wish lists in October because it gives me time to find the best deals.
Amazon and Target both run the same book sale in October at the same time. The sale is Buy 2 Books, and Get 1 FREE! Whatever books are not included in the sale on Amazon, typically are on sale under this promotion at Target. You can buy multiple books at once. What makes the sale even better for Target, is that you can take advantage of the sale in stores and online. Many parents want to look inside the books before purchasing, and Target makes it easy for you to do so with this sale.
Another tip is buying books in series. I have saved so much money by buying series of books at a discounted price. My rule of thumb is typically 5 books per child, but it tends to be more since they normally get a series of books too. I typically spend around $30-$40 per child on books, but because of the sale they end up getting a lot for that money.
I am not afraid of used books. In years past I have purchased books from garage sales, used book stores, and online with thriftbooks.com.
Something To Do or Something To Wear
This is a child’s choice category. I really want my kids to receive items that they will truly cherish. I’ve noticed that as my girls get older they are more into fashion and trends. I wanted to give them the option of receiving a special outfit, but also stay true to the category of offering them a gift with a fun activity to work on at home. This is a fun category for me and one I really enjoy putting together for my kids. Here is a list of ideas if you’d like to implement this category into your 4 gift Christmas rule.
Something To Do:
- Kiwi Co box – STEM activity
- Baking supplies kit
- Art supplies
- Color or paint by number
- Sewing book with fabric and supplies
- Clay with sculpting book
- Pottery making kit
- Outdoor activity like a basketball hoop or soccer ball and net
- Jewelry making kit
- Horseback riding lessons
- Date night with mom and dad
- Game control
- K’NEX roller coaster set
Somewhere To Go
This category is one my kids are most excited about. We love giving our kids the gift of experiences, and the 4 gift Christmas rule gives us the opportunity to do just that. With this opportunity I would definitely consider being careful with your budget. There are 2 ways you could handle this category. You could take your kids one 1 big Christmas vacation after Christmas day, or you could gift each child an individual experience locally. Here are some ideas for “somewhere to go.”
Somewhere To Go:
- Nearby zoo
- Color Me Mine
- Local ice cream shop, gift your child a gift card
- Movie night to the Theater
- Concert with their favorite band
- The beach
- Camping trip
- Professional game of basketball, baseball, etc.
- Gift them money and go to the outlets
- Discovery Science Center
- Disneyland (very pricey!)
- Pottery making class
- Head to the spa for a pedicure together
- Dinner at Chuck-E-Cheese with lots of tokens
- Gift card to a restaurant and only order dessert
- Miniature golf
- Hot air balloon ride
- Spend the night in a local hotel, staycation
If you take the whole family on one big “somewhere to go” I would love for you to consider renting a cabin. This can be such a fun experience and a great way to enjoy the rest of your Christmas vacation. Going to Disneyland sounds amazing as well!
Family Gift Exchange
As an added bonus to our 4 gift Christmas rule, we love participating in a family gift exchange. In years past we have typically taken our kids to Dollar Tree to pick out something for each sibling, but this year we’re doing something different. We’ve decided that this year we are gifting each other a gift that’s homemade.
As our children get older we are able to get a bit more creative. The kids have been told that once we choose names out of a hat, they can come to me and I will help them get the supplies they need. We are putting a limit of $10 on each homemade gift. The can either sew something, build something out of wood, or paint something. Other ways of inspiration might be to look on YouTube for ideas or check out a library book to help them. We love to bake, so baking a sweet treat is a great idea too.
Christmas Stockings (Santa Comes!)
This time of year is a special time, and we like to enjoy all the Christmas festivities; which includes Santa filling the Christmas stockings on Christmas Eve night. This is a jolly experience and one I enjoy the most. Out of all the shopping there is so much enjoyment in filling the Christmas stockings. Many have different traditions of putting an orange in the stocking, filling it with loose coins, and always including a candy cane. For me, this is my time to get my kids some of the little items they are wanting. A few of my kids are really into Pokemon and have requested some trading cards. This gives me the opportunity to gift them these items.
Normally I will include a new toothbrush and toothpaste, some candy treats, and some fun Dollar Tree items as well. Santa definitely spoils the kids and makes them feel really special. However, the budget is still important, so I would definitely set a limit to keep yourself in check.
4 Gift Christmas Rule FREE PRINTABLE
My hope is this article inspires you to think a little bit differently about Christmas gift giving this year. The 4 gift Christmas rule may sound restrictive, but it has actually opened the door to be even more focused on the desires of your kids. This helps you not go too overboard on your Christmas spending. If you have any questions, please leave me a comment below and I will answer them. Merry Christmas!
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Thanks Aimee. I enjoyed this article-it gives good ideas without being boring and is well written! Xx
We are doing something similar this year!
Something you want
Something you need
Something to read
Something to wear
And something to share… probably a family board game!
I also make my kids list in October and try to be done shopping by Thanksgiving!
Eating Healthy Spending Less says
Sounds like a lot of fun! I love the board game idea 🙂
I wish I had something like this when my kids were younger. I will definitely refer back for gift ideas for the grandkids. Thanks for sharing Aimee!
Eating Healthy Spending Less says
Thanks so much!
Love these ideas. Definitely trying this out this year!
Eating Healthy Spending Less says
Awesome! Let me know how your family likes it 🙂
Great ideas! Thank you