Why I’m Buying My Child 4 Gifts this Christmas

Why I’m Buying My Child 4 Gifts this Christmas

Oh, how the holiday season can bring out the little shopaholic in me. 

This was me last year: walking through the stores, with the happy, jingling music playing in the background, my eyes darting from one shiny item to the next; from toys to books, to clothes and holiday décor. Before I knew it, I was at home wrapping gift after gift and wondering how I bought so much.

On Christmas morning, my son tore the paper off gift after gift, creating a mountain of red and green in a matter of minutes. After the first two or three gifts, though, he started to look bored. He just wanted to play with the first present; a fire truck/garbage truck combo.

Ok, I admit it. I went overboard. I told myself I wasn’t going to do that again. Next year, I would get my Christmas shopping under control.

I had no idea how I was going to do that, but saying “get it under control” somehow made me think it was possible.

Then earlier this year I heard about the “four gift rule”.  Under the “rule”, each child gets four gifts:

  • something they want
  • something to read
  • something they need
  • something to wear

It sounded pretty reasonable, so I decided to give it a try.

At first I thought, is four gifts too many?

First, I broke it down financially.  I estimated the four gifts would cost me around $100.

I budgeted $30 for a toy, $10 for a book, $40 for something he needs (this year, it was a new comforter for his bed since after transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed, I realized his baby size comforter was way too small!), and $20 for something to wear.

But asides from helping me to manage my budget, the other reason I love the four-gift rule is that it helps me to teach my son about needs versus wants.

Yes, you need a new comforter because your current one is too small for you, my growing boy! Oh, you want a new bed? Well, you don’t really need a new bed because there’s nothing wrong with your existing one. Yes, that paw patrol bed is really cool (probably a lot cooler than your beige bed) but your boring beige bed isn’t broken. You don’t really need to have that. You just want it.  (Oh and by the way, in 6 months when you’re over Paw Patrol, you’re going to want a different bed). 

When we talked about wants, we went through the dozen gift guides that came in the mail from all the toy stores and he pointed to every page, declaring all of the 197 things he “wanted”. That’s fine. Go ahead and want all the things.  Then, after you’ve put all the “I want this” stickers all over the book, look through the pictures again and pick the ONE thing you REALLY want.

We had a ton of fun going through the gift guides, and he thought about that “one gift” for a while – a couple of days, actually– before finally coming back and saying the one thing he really wanted more than anything else in “Santa’s books” (yup, that’s what we call the flyers) is a paw patrol pup pad.

What amazed me was that after he picked that one gift, I could have asked him to name five other things in the book that he said he wanted two days prior, and he probably couldn’t have done it.

The other amazing thing is, I managed to get the pup pad second hand from a parent whose child had outgrown it – a BONUS for my budget! 

So, this year, my son is getting 4 gifts: one to play with, one to read, one he needs, and one to wear. It took me moments to plan and a few minutes of shopping and now we’re done.  I think this four gift rule will become a tradition in our house.

I’d love to hear from you! How do you handle holiday gifts in your house? 

Do you apply the four gift rule?


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