Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also become stressful. This is why we love the 4 Gift Rule!

Between yourselves and your extended family, kids can end up with so much that they don’t even appreciate what they received. If you are a large family, you also know the expense of buying gifts for the entire family. This is one of the reasons why we implemented the “Four-Gift Rule” in our house several years ago. By giving fewer gifts, we are able to make everything special and intentional and focus on the most important parts of the holiday season.

So what is the 4-gift rule?

This means that we get each of the girls something they WANT, NEED, WEAR, and READ. This has allowed us to scale back and focus on what they can really use, but also helps us makes everything more meaningful and magical feeling. Now there is a fifth gift rule, which is one of our favorite Christmas gift ideas: experiences.

You can personalize this as well, to make it work for your family. For example, if your family is moving into a new life stage and maybe one of the categories isn’t needed anymore, try instituting a three-gift rule instead. The main idea behind this Christmas tradition is focusing on thoughtful gifts, and eliminating buying a bunch of stuff just for the sake of opening lots of stuff.

Throughout this post, I’ll walk you through each category and we even have a free printable to help you start following the four gift rule with your own family!

The following categories make up the four (or five) gift rule:

  • Something you want
  • Something you need
  • Something you wear
  • Something you read
  • Something you do (this is the newly added experiences category, which is my favorite!)


Something you want is the category of gifting that holds those items that your kids have been eyeing for a while…the newest game, trending sneakers, or the latest doll. The “something you want” category is a big deal, because it comes from each child’s own Christmas wish list. My girls run free in this category, thinking of a few things every year that they’d really just love to have. This is the fun gift, the new lego set or video game, or maybe finally getting that cell phone (for older kids). Here are some items this year that are high on our list:

something you want christmas


Sometimes what you “need” is easy enough to get throughout the year, so we don’t require our girls to put basic necessities down. However, there are always a few things that are needed that are more giftable. For instance, this year we’re looking at new backpacks for travel, a cozy sherpa blanket, and electric toothbrushes!


When my girls were little, this is the category where I would run wild, picking out a few new pieces for them to have to start the year. But now that they’re older, they love to build a list of new items to wear. This year, the girls are looking at some new slipper socks for travel, a sherpa coat, and some stackable bangles. For this category think new pair of shoes, new lunchbox, or a new winter coat.


We love reading in our family. I particularly love to curate book collections based on holidays or units in our homeschool world. So, having the girls create a list

of books they’d love this year is fun for everyone. However, this year we are getting the girls Kindles as a big “read” gift so that the opportunity to get more

books becomes easier while we travel! You can’t go wrong in the “something to read” category, a new book is always a great gift.

something to read christmas gift
something to read christmas gift
something to read christmas gift


Experiences make the best gifts! Using an experience as a gift is a great way to check travel destinations or experiences off your bucket list, while gifting quality time to your whole family! While experiences can be expensive gifts, they can also be a joint gift for everyone, which also cuts down on your holiday shopping.

Experience gifts don’t have to be major trips either, it could be an amusement park, zoo trip, tickets to a sporting event or play, or even paying for some type of classes your older children have been wanting to take. Experiences are a great idea because they will never be forgotten.


In our house, we also have our big Santa gifts to look forward to. This is usually something big that we normally wouldn’t buy one another. Something that each of us “wished” for and only the elves can make happen. Sometimes it’s a combined gift for the girls, like a playhouse or it can be individual wish items.

That’s it, our shopping list is not too long and our Christmas budget doesn’t have to be too big to make a magical Christmas season!

Following this “gift Christmas rule” has worked really well in the past and is incredibly helpful in keeping me organized when gift-giving. We also love that this rule keeps us from focusing too much on material things. This family tradition is also a big teaching opportunity for younger kids at Christmas time. You don’t need a mountain of gifts to make Christmas day special for your family members. If you have younger children, this is a great time to start your first year of the 4 gift rule (or 3 or 5 gift rule, whatever works for you!)

Find even more gift ideas by shopping my other Gift Guides here!

The 4 Gift Rule Printable Wishlist

4 gift rule printable

Christmas Gift Ideas

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