The 4 gift rule has completely changed our Christmas.
When I was growing up, Christmas was a huge production. There was always a mountain of gifts under the tree, and over-filled stockings, and it was downright magical to wake up to as a child. When I first had kids, I wanted nothing more than to give my babies the same experience I had growing up…. but there was one small problem: I couldn’t afford to do it. I spent the Christmas season stressed, and filled with guilt. These days, we have a little more wiggle room in our budget, but I struggle with something different:
I want to avoid excess.
My kids have plenty of toys. My house is easier to keep clean when it isn’t stuffed to the brim with stuff. And so, a couple years ago, I implemented a new way to Christmas shop and do the whole gift thing.
We follow the 4 gift rule, which is actually very simple. Each child gets 4 things:
Something You Want
Something You Need
Something to Wear
Something to Read
And, I kind of love it. Each year, I make a spread sheet, and plan out well in advance of actually going shopping what I am going to purchase. This way, I am able to see how much I am likely to spend, and stick with a budget, and when I actually go to buy, if it isn’t on the list, it doesn’t make it’s way into my shopping cart.
In our home, we do have a bit of a “last second wild card” gift- the Santa gift, which I wait to purchase after the kids have a chance to see the big man in person. I limit the cost of this gift, so I know I won’t blow my budget, but it does get purchased last second, because I love to keep the magic alive and have their (reasonable) requests show up under the tree. Luckily, my kids haven’t said anything crazy yet, I mean, last year, Mr. Man asked for a red bouncy ball, so it’s not a big deal. (so, in reality, as long as they “believe” in Santa, there are 5 gifts for them under the tree)
What I don’t do is ask the kids what they want for Christmas from their Dad and I. I do listen in to the things they talk about, but we avoid the whole asking thing entirely. I do this for a couple reasons- I don’t want the kids to mistakenly think they will get everything on their wish lists, and I don’t want them getting overly “gimmie gimmie” during the holiday season. We talk a lot about service, and helping others, and yes, I have been known to tell them that Santa and his Elves have so many kids to take care of that we can’t be selfish. The biggest reason though is that I love to surprise them with gifts, and what fun is it to only buy what someone specifically asked for?
If you’d like to try saving your budget this year, I created a spreadsheet printable for you to use in your planning, as well as a printable fill in the blank Santa letter if your family does the Santa thing and you wanted to let them ask for specific things.
Here are some other ways you can stick to a budget this Christmas:
Stockings are the ultimate money suck, in my experience. Sure, I could fill them with an orange and socks and it wouldn’t be so bad, but the truth is I often stuck things like small toys and other goodies in them. Before I knew it, I had blown an extra 100 dollars on “junk” when really, all my kids cared about is the bigger gift. These days, our stockings are decor only, and no one seemed to notice we no longer do them.
Give an Experience
Why not give the kids a date with Dad, or cookie making with Mom? I actually have a free printable book of coupons you can give your homeschooled kids this Christmas that is sure to be a hit!
Limit Kids to the Dollar Store
Do your kids give each other gifts? Have them get those goodies at the dollar store!
Pull a Name
If you have a large family, try having each child pull a name for giving gifts.
When all else fails, have a homemade Christmas. My favorite Christmas gift is still the family cookbook my mom gave me one year- all she did was type up the tried and true recipes I grew up on, and I still use it daily.