Why My Kids Only Get Four Christmas Gifts Every Year

I am going to let you in on a little holiday secret, Mamas. Each year I start my Christmas shopping mid-October. You see my daughter’s birthday is November 16th, my husband’s birthday is November 26th, and my youngest son’s birthday is December 17th. My oldest was the only one who had the decency not to be born during peak holiday season. About six years ago, I discovered after the Christmas and birthday-palooza season was over that I had way over-spent. Keeping track of all the presents I had to buy in such a short amount of time had gotten the better of me. I knew something had to change for the next season, and so in 2012, five years ago, we adopted the four Christmas gifts principle. (Which I shamelessly stole from my friend Tess.)

The four Christmas gifts principle is simple: each child receives four Christmas gifts in these categories: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. Brilliant, right? (Because again, most birthdays fall so close to Christmas in our family we decided to implement this for birthdays as well.)

I looked back at an old blog post of mine to see how my older two children reacted when I first told them about the four Christmas gifts policy. (My youngest is simply too young to remember us having done it any other way.) Back then I wrote:

At first, Sophie was excited about it, until Joshua clued her in to the fact that it used to be “something you want, something you want, something you want, something you want.” So they both kind of pouted for awhile, but after a few weeks of talking about it on and off – I think they’re both finally on board! 

Here is the Christmas wish list my son made for me that year. He was eight then and is 13 now, so it pains me to look back at this! (Holds back sob!)

Four Christmas gifts

I have to admit I was nervous that first year about how it would all go down. But the truth is my kids did not lack for presents even though they were getting less from us than they had in the past. Four Christmas gifts from mom and dad proved to be plenty. They still got gifts from their grandparents and great-grandparents, they still got gifts from their cousins, and we allowed them to pick out a small gift for each other as well. Our budget and the amount of new stuff that entered into our home in such a short span of time stayed under control and we were very relieved.

And so, the four Christmas gifts (and four birthday gifts) is a tradition I think we will always continue until our kids are adults. It’s helped rein in my parental tendency to go overboard and it has helped the kids keep their “gimme’s” under control as well. It is much easier for me to keep track of my birthday and Christmas spending (handy dandy Google spreadsheet with 4 slots for each kid for Christmas and the two holiday-time birthdays!) and it helps our family to both keep the focus on Christ’s birthday at Christmas and add a little extra in our budget to give to others.

Do you use the four Christmas gifts in your family, or do you have another way you moderate gift-giving at Christmas? I’d love to hear about it. If you don’t already have a system I highly recommend that you give the four Christmas gifts a whirl this year!


Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson
Jenny is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor.

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