The 4 Christmas Gift Rule + Other Awesome Ways to Buy Fewer Presents

Give your kids something they will want, need, wear and read with the 4 Christmas gift rule!

Narrow down your shopping list and only give your kids 4 gifts each for Christmas this year: something they will want, need, wear and read.

Benefits of the want, need, wear, and read 4 Christmas gift rule

Using the want, need, wear and read 4 Christmas gift rule has many benefits:

  1. It can cut down on the amount of Christmas shopping you need to do
  2. You may spend less money on Christmas gifts
  3. There will be less time spent wrapping gifts
  4. Your kids may learn to prioritize their wish lists
  5. They may learn that Christmas isn’t only about receiving presents
  6. You may feel more intentional and select their gifts more thoughtfully
  7. If you have an excess, you may consider making a monetary donation to a worthwhile charity

According to a 2018 survey from T. Rowe Price’s Money Confident Kids, 59% percent of parents admitted to spending more money on their kids’ Christmas presents than they should have. 

How to start the want, need, wear, and read 4 Christmas gift rule at your house

To start the want, need, wear, and read 4 Christmas gift rule at your house, it is a good idea to first discuss it with your spouse. 

simple christmas gift giving ideas

Once your partner is on board, you’ll want to present the idea to your kids. 

At first, they may not like the thought of getting fewer presents for Christmas, but having a plan to help them create a wish list based on the four categories can really help! 

Free Printable Letters to Santa Templates

You can always give a Santa gift in addition to your Want, Need, Wear, and Read Gifts!

Find out exactly what your kids are hoping Santa will bring with these cute and FREE Letters to Santa templates!

Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that I may make a small commission if you click through or purchase at no cost to you. For more information, click here.

Want, Need, Wear and Read Gifts

The want, need, wear and read categories are pretty self-explanatory.

Having your kids create their wish lists according to these categories will make your life so much easier!

And it will help them understand the new gifting process too.


Want gifts

This is simply a gift your kid really wants. It can literally be anything! It’s a great gift to let your kids think about first, so they don’t feel too limited by the other categories on the list.

Need gifts

Have your child think about an item that he or she needs. This could be something to replace an item he or she has outgrown.

For example, if your kid loved his old three-wheeled scooter, but has outgrown it and is ready for a two-wheeled Razor scooter, this could be something he “needs.”

Wear gifts

This gift is obviously some type of clothing. It can be winter weather gear, clothes for a fancy occasion, daily wear or casual clothes, shoes, etc.

Read gifts

Again, this category is pretty easy to understand. If your kids are big readers, you may consider giving them a box set of their favorite book series. Here are a few of my kids’ favorite read gifts:

Want, need, wear, and read gift tags

As you begin to purchase gifts to fit in the want, need, wear, and read categories for each of your kids, keep track of each gift by making a simple list.

Finally, as you wrap the gifts for your kids, be sure to add a tag to the present that tells your kids what type of gift is inside: want, need, wear, or read!

Other Awesome Ways to Buy Fewer Presents

In addition to the want, need, wear, and read 4 Christmas gift rule, here are some other awesome ways to buy fewer presents for Christmas:

Give experience gifts

If you want to avoid clutter and create special memories with your kids, giving experiences is a great idea!

Giving experiences can be as simple as purchasing tickets online or from a vendor, putting the tickets in a box, wrapping them, and placing the gift under the tree.

Here are some awesome gift experience ideas:

  • tickets to a local holiday event, such as ICE! or the Nutcracker ballet
  • a museum membership, such as a children’s or science museum
  • movie tickets
  • admission to a sporting event
  • a coupon book of various favors or events

The 3 Christmas Gift Rule: love, learning, and fun

This is similar to the want, need, wear, and read 4 Christmas gift rule.

Instead of 4 gifts, there are only 3 gifts given.

The categories are a gift of love, a gift of fun, and a gift of learning.

A Gift of Love

We give a gift of love, a gift of learning and a gift of fun every year.The gift of love is often something that isn’t necessarily on your kids’ wish lists.

Instead, it’s a gift that represents something you love about each of their personalities.

For example, my oldest is a very analytical thinker, so his gifts of love were often things like a chess set for kids or an electronic snap circuit board.

Often gifts of love can be personalized – sometimes with something as simple as a handwritten dedication on the inside of a special book. 

A Gift of Learning

The gifts of learning can be pretty easy to choose.

Think of something your child has expressed an interest in learning and find a gift to match.

For example, if your kids have a strong interest in music, you may consider a kid-sized violin and lesson book or a small piano keyboard.

Another year, we purchased Kindle readers for our kids. A few years ago, we bought a huge MagnaTiles set for all of our kids to learn from and enjoy.

Other ideas for gifts of learning could be boxed science labs, dinosaur kits, astronomy dioramas, fun piano books, and enrollment in classes and activities. 

A Gift of Fun

want need wear and read giftsFor gifts of fun, you can simply pick something that your kids have on their Christmas wishlists.

Things like LEGOs, dolls, Barbies, character toys, games, and Hot Wheels are the norm.

Santa gift

When we used the 3 Christmas gift rule, we also gave our kids one gift from Santa every year. 

This gift would typically come from your kids’ Christmas wishlists and can certainly be a bigger purchase without being extravagant.  

3 Christmas gift rule tags

Be sure to tag each of your kids’ Christmas gifts with the type of gift it is: a gift of love, a gift of learning, or a gift of fun!

Family Christmas Trips

Three years ago, my kids were sitting around the lunch table talking about fun vacations they wanted to take in the future.

As they shared ideas, I suggested very casually that someday I wanted to go on a Christmas trip as a family instead of doing lots of gifts.

I always envisioned these trips occurring when our kids were all teenagers, not when my youngest was only 2 years old. 

So I was completely shocked when my kids said, “Why don’t we start doing that now?”

I’d assumed that the littlest kids would probably still really enjoy getting four gifts under the Christmas tree.

But if your little ones are anything like mine, they (mostly) want to follow their older siblings, and they agreed immediately to the Christmas trip idea too. 

Christmas trip 2018

Our first family Christmas trip was to Great Wolf Lodge.We went to Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas for our first Christmas trip.

We went the week before Christmas, had the water park essentially to ourselves, and had such an amazing time being together.

The gorgeous holiday decorations and events kept us in the holiday mood. We left feeling connected as a family, which is a gift in itself.

Family Christmas trip 2019

This year's family Christmas trip was a cruise!Last year, we took our kids on our first cruise!

We sailed on the Liberty of the Seas around the western Caribbean.

We traveled just before Christmas, so the crowds were lower. The festive feel was in full swing, and we returned home feeling both relaxed and energized for the holidays.

The memories we made together and the fun we had are the most precious gifts to me. 

Future (Surprise) Christmas Trips

In the future, we plan to keep our family Christmas trip a surprise until Christmas morning.

Our kids will each receive a gift that they will need for the trip – perhaps tickets to Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty when we go to New York City, a French beret if we go to Paris, Mickey Mouse ears if we go to Disney World, etc.

After the big reveal on Christmas morning, we will travel sometime before the end of the year or the beginning of January. 

Intentional Christmas gift giving has made a huge difference for meFinal thoughts about want, need, wear, and read and other awesome ways to buy fewer presents

Aside from saving both money and time, following a plan like the 4 Christmas gift rule has made a big impact on the way our whole family feels about Christmas.

Just like the Grinch, we’ve begun to realize that “maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store.”




Related articles about family Christmas activities:

21 Awesome Christmas Books for Kids You Need to Read This Year

57 Easy Last-Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love

13 Awesome Christmas Traditions for Families You Must Try

11 Great Tips to Get Ready to Decorate Sugar Cookies with Your Kids

21 Brilliant Ideas for Hosting the Ultimate Family New Year’s Eve Party

What are your thoughts about the want, need, wear, and read 4 Christmas gift rule?

The 4 Christmas Gift Rule + Other Awesome Ways to Buy Fewer PresentsThe 4 Christmas Gift Rule + Other Awesome Ways to Buy Fewer PresentsThe 4 Christmas Gift Rule + Other Awesome Ways to Buy Fewer PresentsThe 4 Christmas Gift Rule + Other Awesome Ways to Buy Fewer PresentsThe 4 Christmas Gift Rule + Other Awesome Ways to Buy Fewer PresentsThe 4 Christmas Gift Rule + Other Awesome Ways to Buy Fewer Presents

Jen Bradley, the founder of Jen Bradley|MOMs

Hi there! I’m Jen and I’m so glad you’re here. I am a mom who believes that meaningful connections with our families can happen in small and simple ways. Read More …


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