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4 Gift Christmas Challenge – Want, Need, Wear & Read


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Christmases in my house are very different from the Christmases I had as a child. My mother would shower us with gifts…too many gifts…too much money spent. As an adult, I didn’t know any other way, so when my children were young, I did the same thing. Dozens of gifts and hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars spent.

It wasn’t until the year after my divorce that I realized how crazy my holiday shopping had been. That first year…not only did my children get a dozen gifts from me…but they got a whole bunch from their dad….their grandmothers, their aunts and their uncles. All of a sudden, my kids were up to their ears in gifts! And the worst part is…if you asked them what they got for Christmas..they couldn’t even remember any of the gifts!

In 2011, I put a stop to the crazy holiday spending and told the kids that they would now receive only 4 items from me. Only 4. I fully expected a coup d’etat to take place…but guess what…they were cool with it. They didn’t even complain once! So now every Christmas, my kids get the 4 items you see listed below (plus, this Christmas Eve Gift!). And here’s what I’ve found…they are more grateful for the gifts they do get…they remember each gift and we get to spend more time together as a family instead of picking up wrapping paper!

I dare you to take the 4 Gift Christmas Challenge this year:

  1. Something they want
  2. Something they need
  3. Something to wear
  4. Something to read

I think you will be surprised at how well your children respond to this new kind of gift giving!


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This article has 249 comments

  1. Melanie

    Wait, I’m confused, are people normally buying their children more than 4 gifts?

    • Christie

      Absolutely! Some people go crazy buying gifts! I remember when I was a child, my mom did the same thing… and so I thought that’s how it was supposed to be (much like the author of this article). I bought like that for my nieces when they lived with me for a short time. A terrible idea in hindsight, since their own mother never did that :( I didn’t understand it at the time… I thought she was being cheap or selfish. I didn’t figure in that the gifts came from everywhere and the kids were actually overwhelmed to a point of complete disinterest in what any of the gifts actually were. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I saw the light. I think the 4 gifts are a great idea… though, I might add a 5th – a gift to share, like a board game or something like that.

      • CC

        Ooh..I love the idea of a gift to share! :)

      • Kathy V

        Yes! Something to share within your family and something for someone outside your family. There are so many possibilities locally (such as kids in the community such as Shop with a Cop, Toys for Tots etc. ) regionally and internationally.

        This year, as a family, we bought a gift bag for a child in Haiti for an upcoming mission trip at church. While we’re not part of the travelling team, this ongoing trip provides practical helps. Our simple gift bags included a whole list of things including simple things like washcloths, toothbrush, toothpaste pencils for school etc and even something they might want such as a soccer ball. It was humbling to think these basic needs are so hard to meet in their lives. No concerns about computer games and cell phones.

      • Nancy

        I agree completely. Both of my “kids” are now adults & I did the same thing. Whoops…Live & Learn is what we do, right?! In the last 4 years of my marriage we went through a big time financial crunch & everyone around me grew to understand I couldn’t even give any gifts At All. Life teaches you & you along the way. It’s the choices we make that we learn/live by. I LOVE this idea & will be creative with definitely doing this 4 gift idea going forward. I hope everyone remembers why we have Christmas. It was a gift to Jesus First, Family comes Second and gratefulness/compassion is passed around to everyone you know. This iswhat I believe Christmas is.

      • Mary

        I would add 1 that makes a memory or a family tradition.

        • Sandra

          That could always be your Christmas Eve Gift. I started the tradition last year (my child is only three) that she will get a set of PJs and a movie/book and ornament for your Christmas Eve Gift. I try to make the themed :)

          • Inez

            I did this for my kids for 20 years. 1/ great Christmas eve pics in new PJs, (also new slippers) and then a read of the new book before bed. The ornament was the gift tag. (oh, and ‘Santa’ gets them what they really want, in their hearts, not what stores sell. Advertised toys were for birthdays, because one could BUY them. Santa gifts were different.)

      • Theresa

        I think it depends on your family. We grow up very poor so all year around we didn’t get anything except for our Birthday’s of course it was always small nothing too big but Christmas was always big and when I look back on that it makes me smile not because of what I received but because I know my parents worked there butts off to see our face Christmas morning and that is the greatest gift any parent can get.

        • Mandy

          I had the same experience. I think it is relative to what you already have. We were poor. Didn’t get anything new (including clothes) during the year. A small birthday and typically no party. My parents, however, did figured out every year how to do Christmas HUGE for us. We’d get some new clothes which was a HUGE treat. I don’t understand why parents with young children end up spending hundreds or thousands really…even today, most children’s toys are CHEAP! We could barely see the tree. I was such a thrill…and I GUARANTEE you…that we knew and appreciated EVERY gift we got. I still remember what years I received what-and I am 34 now. The irony to me is most of my friends that had some money growing up are the ones reposting this article. It really is relative to your childhood experience.

          • Renee

            I whole-heartedly agree. Growing up, I never received any special treats or gifts. Those were reserved for birthdays (smaller) and Christmas my parents always found a way to go all out (at least in my perception). It was such a special day and we all took turns opening gifts so everyone could see what everyone gave to one another. I think that makes a big difference as well that it is not chaos. I remember savoring opening every gift, trying to keep the wrapping paper in perfect condition. I’m 32 and still the same way. It is great that this gives a framework that works for many families. In mine, I would have never received some of the extravagant items that my peers received as a matter of course outside of the holidays. I think the appreciation comes not from limiting the gifts (although one should always stay within their means) but rather through the quality of time that is spent together. My mom would always buy a Kringle and make homemade hot chocolate and play the special Christmas albums; at night she would make prime rib on the special china, play one of the board games that was received, and we would all watch a movie together. All of that made it such an incredibly special day.

          • Key Typer

            I was raised by my Grandparents, who lived through the great depression. Christmas for me was always a huge deal, I couldn’t have candy or sweets, so that meant a lot of smaller, handmade things and tons of toys and clothes. I knew how hard they saved b/c I went on trips to pay on lay-aways and Christmas club accounts (still available at credit unions) there are ways to save up and have good amount to spend IF you plan ahead. Don’t let the big banks rip you off on credit cards’ interest. I am in my 40’s and I remember every thing I ever got, even the goofy air fresheners that smelled like cinnamon and the huge oranges in the toe of my stocking.

        • Debi

          Theresa, same at my house. We were poor, my father dies when I was young and I had 3 brothers. My mom saved and saved ALL YEAR to give us a great christmas because she knew that she could not do anything else all year. Even though we are not poor I till followed that tradition but now that my kids are older (11, 20 and 22) I am going to do this. Even though my 11 still believes in Santa (he is homeschooled and naive) I will ad 1 gift from Santa under the tree.

        • Joel

          …Great perspective!

      • angela

        Do they still get presents from Santa?

      • Kathy Kinyon

        I myself stopped over shopping for Christmas along time ago. I spend only $20 to $25 on each grandchild and give them more at their birthdays. The older grandchildren are given the money so they can add with other money they receive and buy the one big gift they personally want. I do buy an ornament for their tree, plus have in the past bought a board game that the whole family can enjoy. So my Christmas bill only comes out to around $150, plus the ornament and the game.

        • Trudy

          I do the same thing Kathy! I now have 13 grandchildren and 2 more on the way. Nobody told me when I had 6 children they would multiply exponentially…lol. I also have 5 siblings, their mates, and nieces and nephews so it adds up! I try to find the best deals on things they really want. The older kids get T-shirts with their favorite bands on them which I can find for around $15 and they love it. My kids/mates get a gift certificate to the same place and they all plan a night to go together which is so much fun. They all love B-Dubs so that works out well. My siblings get baklava which they ask for each year. I make my mom a coupon book to take her out to lunch once a month and my Dad gets Lebkuchen and Pfeffernuse once a year homemade. I found deals this year that averaged around $15 a person with free shipping so I saved there. It adds up! So much fun though!

      • Stacey

        Instead of something to wear (growing too fast) we have them pick out “something to give”. They can choose local charities or one of the bigger organizations out there. My kids really get into it.

        • Trish Ketvirtis

          Maybe things are different now, but when I was a young girl the gift of something nice to wear always meant a lot to me. There wasn’t a lot of money and most of my things were either hand me downs or thrift store finds, way before it was trendy.

    • CC

      LOL! Yes :) I used to be one of those crazy people.

    • Alex

      I was thinking the same thing

    • Robin W

      I taught my son that Jesus got three gifts and that is what he was allowed to ask Santa for. When he was 3 he wanted a dollhouse, a kitchen set and playdough, at 4 he wanted a calculator, a gold pen and some Smud. Santa usually brought what he asked for and mommy and daddy gave him some clothes and underwear. I’m glad we don’t have Santa anymore… Less gifts now. generally what he needs and something creative.

      • Kitty

        Make sure you let your son know that you lied to him, also. Santa isn’t in the Bible and he has nothing to do with Jesus or Christianity. No wonder our kids don’t trust us.

        • Natalie

          Obviously Santa is not in the bible, I’m sure she realizes that. Ripping on another mother isn’t in the bible either. Santa if taught right can be the spirit of giving. There is nothing evil about it. Judging others however is.

          • Doady

            Good answer Natalie to kitty’s remark.

          • Cathy

            Thank you, Natalie. Miss Kitty is a little ridiculous. My children were raised with the true meaning of Christmas and the wonder and magic of Santa as well. They are now grown and married with children of their own and trust me and always have.

          • Elaine Leavitt

            Wow Kitty, harsh and not a very Christian at all , shame on you !

          • Liz

            I completely agree with Natalie. Whenever my kids asked who Santa really was, I always said “Daddy”. They just looked at me like I was crazy and I would explain that Santa is the spirit of Christmas. Just because you can’t see doesn’t mean you can’t believe or that it isn’t real. It’s called faith. Believing in the spirit of Christmas is a wonderful thing.

          • Amy

            “Ripping on another mother isn’t in the bible either” AMEN!

          • Anonymous

            ST NICHOLAS, is real

          • Nancy

            I agree with Natalie’s remark also. We as a tradition had Santa and read a book “Santa Are You For Real”; based on St Nicholas and his motive for giving. Children should be taught sharing/caring and giving out of love. Using Santa for a visual is ok if that works for your family. It is the commercialization of Santa that has become a nightmare for parents/society.

          • M. Logan

            I’m amazed that this was even thought of. This has been such an enlightening blog up to this point of criticism. Sorry it had to appear and change the tune. Not necessary at all.

          • Danielle

            Santa Claus is just a derivative of St. Nicolas. He wasn’t in the Bible, but he was a real person, a devout Catholic Christian, the bishop of Myra. He was a very giving man and had a great love for children and protected them. You could use his example of giving in your family’s Christmas traditions.

          • M

            Please get the book buck Denver asks why Christmas? By Phil vischer. Totally answers the questions of Santa and Jesus and yes you can have both!

          • Tasha

            AAAAAAAAAMMMMMMEEEENNNNN, Christ is LOVE, and tells us to LOVE AND NOT JUDGE!!!

        • Chris s

          A little harsh there Kitty. Santa. or Saint Nicholas as he is also known may not be in the Bible, but is associated with doing good and helping others. Isn’t that the Christian way???

        • Lio

          Someone told my daughter that when she was about 10, she told them that Santa was an angel, how could he not be? Watching over us and loving us enough to bring us gifts.

        • Katie

          That’s just a mean spirited comment Kitty. Also, Santa is not the reason that children don’t trust adults. It is consistently poor parenting choices and many other reasons.

        • Lori

          What a stupid comment! How about this: if you don’t have anything nice, constructive or mildly intelligent to say, don’t say anything at all.

        • jenny

          How did we go from great tips to being called a liar. As parents we want our children to have great Christmas memories. And is that a Christian kind of remark? No Santa is NOT mentioned in the Bible and it is up to parets to teach the true meaning of Christmas. So lets be adults here and let it be up to each family preference on how they let their children celebrate the birth of our Savior. Santa and all

        • Marie

          Did you have to go there? Oh, my God. There’s one in every crowd.

        • Cazza

          The bible isnt end all be all, you people make me sick, live your life as you want not what is written in a book, Santa is a big part of a childhood, and yourbkiss will always remember the Santa memories, its not a lie its creating memories and believing of the unknown.

        • WI Patzke

          Yeah…many would say Jesus isn’t real…so maybe it’s you who is lying to your child/children. Your “Christian”self-righteous is showing…you may want to tuck it back in. Smh…

          • KS

            Maybe you angry atheists should work on Christmas then… You’re always full of hate.

          • Martha

            Jesus was an actual historical person mentioned in Roman historical writings of the time as well as in the Bible. His existence cannot be denied. You can only deny your acceptance of him as the Son of God and your savior. As for Santa not being mentioned in the Bible, this is true. St. Nicolas, or Santa Claus as he was called by the Dutch children who settled New York, was a Christian bishop who gave gifts to the poor. His saint’s day is December 7. That was the day that gifts were traditionally given to children in Europe. Gifts were also given by the 3 Kings on Epiphany, or 12th night, January 6. None of these traditions is now, or was ever, un-Christian. Back to the discussion at hand, I love the idea of the 4 gifts and their significance. I also like the idea of taking children to the store to select a gift or gifts for other children in need, giving them the chance to learn to give to others.

        • Jo F

          Telling kids you lied to them about Santa isn’t necessarily the best thing. Lots of non-Christian people celebrate the season with Santa, but apply it to Chanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas. Santa isn’t necessarily about Christmas, he’s about giving. If you’re Christian, the gifts at Christmas, should actually be about the epiphany when Jesus was brought gifts by the three wise men. If you’re Jewish, as Jesus was, same difference – gifts came at the epiphany from the three wise guys. Now for the fun part. Mary and Joseph were on their way to Bethlehem to pay their taxes, which would have actually put them there around April, not December. It would have been too cold to travel in December. Shall we quit lying to the kids and tell them that Jesus was actually born in April, and not on December 25? Oh the deception we put upon our children! My daughter freaks out at the thought of climbing onto a man’s lap that she doesn’t know and asking for things. She, now at age 12, says she hates is, and that Santa is Creepy. She’d just rather make things for her family and friends and leave the man in the red suit OUT of the picture.

          • Katt Sieger

            Yes, we, here in the USA, pay our taxes in April. Doubt if it was the same for Mary & Joseph 2,000 years ago.

        • K0406

          Geeez, nothing like getting nasty. My parents had Santa at our house. I never thought of then as lying. Santa got the credit for the big presents….if that isn’t love….why is it that devout Christians are some of the meanest, hard hearted people ever???

          • Joanna

            Agree! With all of what you said x

          • Debbie A

            Maybe the reason why they are the meanest, hard hearted people is because they don’t know anything except that they’ve been brain washed into thinking that THEIR religious/spiritual beliefs are the ONLY beliefs.

            I think the 4 gifts is a great idea. I go one further. I have 4 grandchildren, and not a lot of money. I also have a bunch of nieces to purchase for, so, I go to Barnes and Noble, or somewhere that has gift cards, put about $20.00 on the cards, and let the kids pick out their own books, etc. My two youngest grandchildren get a day out with ‘grandma Debbie’ at B&N, and we do lunch and other things. Isn’t that more what Christmas is supposed to be instead of buying, buying, buying until you’re broke or until you have credit card debt out the nose? I have no credit cards, so, all of my gift buying, making is within budget.

        • Anonymous

          Omg really? Talk about a Scrooge.

        • Joanna

          Kitty- did you get out the wrong side of the bed lol
          It’s not lying to them it’s making Xmas magical for them I don’t know anyone who’s grown up and thought their parents lied to them they all have kids themselves and do the same … It’s christmas yes it’s about Jesus but its also about fun and family and having a nice time father Xmas is a massive part of that for kids x

        • Please Read Correctly

          What I read that Robin wrote was:

          “I taught my son that Jesus got three gifts and that is what he was allowed to ask Santa for.”

          Nowhere did Robin say those 3 gifts were from Santa. If you read the Bible I’m sure you will see those gifts came from the 3 wise men. ;-) Knowledge is power and criticism isn’t necessary here..

        • Amy

          Get a grip. Not everyone follows your Bible, and even for some that do, Santa is about magic, tradition, and giving. As my kids have gotten older, they have gotten to “help be Santa” for their younger siblings, which has been a different kind of magical experience. My children still trust me, and to indicate otherwise is either an attempt to troll, or downright ludicrous.

        • Tasha

          Yes! Thank you. Children don’t ways have the ability, until much older, to differentiate fact from fiction, even when they’re told. So we feed them all this junk about Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, etc and wonder why they question if Jesus is real once they learn the truth. It would be different if we perhaps told them it was just for fun and just pretend, but so many people legitimately convince their children that this is real and break their hearts when they find out it’s a lie. I knew Santa wasn’t real growing up, but that it was just for fun if we wanted to pretend. I knew it was about celebrating Jesus coming to this world for us and I never had an issue with it as a child and grateful for it. I also gew up poor and often wondered why we got so much stuff when my parents could barely pay the rent. It actually stressed me out as a kid. Maybe I’m weird in that respect though.

        • Amy

          Christmas didn’t originate for Jesus anyway, it was a pagan holiday to celebrate the Winter Solstice.

        • Maggie

          Christmas trees aren’t in the Bible either Kitty, but being kind, tolerant and charitable to others is.

        • Megan

          Lol That made my day! Such a rude and unChristlike comment.

        • Mary Bell

          Oh my goodness !! Feel SOOO sorry for your family /children .. I too am Christian and understand the real meaning of Christmas .. But .. Still enjoy the celebration of “ST Nickelous ” and if you are a believer you will note that after following the star . The 3 wise men also brought “gifts ” .. (Gold .. Frankincense and Myer.. ) to celebrate the birth of Christ !! Although not dressed in a Santa suit ???

        • maryann willmeng

          Kitty…..Santa and the magic of Christmas is in most everyones hearts……relax and enjoy this beautiful season….my husband and older son (now) have played Santa for years, and then ask the children if they know the real reason we celebrate Christmas…..it all comes together……..

        • Goldwave

          Woah. I’m a Christian, and I like the fact that Christmas is now featured as a good time to focus on certain Christian principles.

          However, it’s worth pointing out (although I’m surprised that not everyone has actually learned this yet) that Christmas is actually a pagan holiday (Winter Solstice) and was morphed into a Christian celebration in the past because the Catholic Church couldn’t stop the populace from continuing to celebrate their traditional holidays (including Easter and Halloween, various saint holidays, etc. as well).

      • Saddened

        It saddens me that the most vocal and loud of Christians now believe that self-righteousness and “correction” of others is the main indicator of their faith instead of self-examination and acceptance of and giving to others. I guess they don’t read the Gospel much. Jesus said the bottom line is love God and love others.

        • Alison

          I agree. It saddens me also that Christians are often mean in the name of righteousness. I am a Christian and none of us are perfect. I have said some un-Christian things, but I am learning more all the time that the best reponse to ANYONE, no matter their position, should be GRACE. If you don’t fully understand where someone is coming from, then it is best to grant them some grace. That is the love that Jesus talked about. That is why he came. Merry Christmas everyone.

    • AS

      I agree!!!! Who’s buying that many gifts?!
      I’m thinking one!

    • dcm5150

      Well I used to buy my children many many gifts. Most were cheap dollar store item or even less cost because what they really loved was opening presents. It wasn’t about spending money. I literally wrapped things that they already owned (a couple times).

      So I think the idea is crap. I would certainly get in trouble is I did that too my wife. Here honey, here is a new blender, sweater and a book that you probably already read.

      I don’t mind the idea behind it. Yes, sometimes less is more. But to imply that if you give more than 4 gifts you are somehow a bad person is ridiculous.

      I mean if you wait until Christmas to give a child something they need then what does that say about you as a parent. Gee, my kid doesn’t have shoes? Well, it is not Christmas yet.

      Christmas is a time of giving. Can parents go overboard? Of course. Should we relinquish Christmas to a formula of what we should give to one another? I hope not.

      • Jersey

        Agreed, even though I’m sure some will find it harsh :)

      • JackieMichele

        It’s crap because…you feel the author implied giving loads of presents makes you a bad person? Either you are being deliberately obtuse or you are projecting because no where did she imply that. This is all about bringing family back into the holiday and not bankrupting yourself in the process. Furthermore, this is for the KIDS. No where did it mention that this is for your spouse. Additionally, it does not imply that you wait until December to get them something they need. It means, you look around and fill an immediate need they have at the time.

        • ANN GRAHAM

          I am a granny in my 60’s with 10 grand kids. Since I am basically skint most of the time, only the kids under the age of 16 get a gift. They understand not everyone has money to spare

      • Lyana

        I think it’s okay to teach our kids that they might have to wait sometime even for the things they “need”. And I don’t think the author of the post is making up a formula, just an idea of how to keep Christmas gift giving under control.

      • Mariann

        I agree – the unwrapping is the best part. I sometimes will buy something that has several pieces and wrap them individually just so there is more to open. I don’t have kids yet but I buy for family and friends, and my best friends son (whom I probably buy too much for!).

      • VR

        Yes all of this confuses me. My kids have everything they need. And how in the world do you explain that between mom and dad and Santa you could only have 4gifts this year, when your best friend gets 50 gifts.

        If I had to do the four gift I would buy my son and Xbox 1 (want). A big flat screen for his room (need). A kindle or nook (read) and expensive “cool clothes” to (wear)

        Thre is no way I would not give my kids hardly anything and it also be cheap crap.

        My children are grateful, they are kind, they help out. They also understand they/we have to earn everything we get.

        Personally Christmas is the only time we do go splurge and buy whatever we want. I couldn’t take that away.

        • Katt

          In response to VR. The writer said she was putting a stop to the crazy madness and Christmas shopping for herself and offered a challenge to others. You are free to do as you choose.

    • lily

      Another good one (similar to the gift to share) is a gift of giving. My grandma always takes one of our gifts to give to someone else. It might be putting money towards an organization that gives teddy bears to kids in hospitals or chickens to a village in Africa. Its a fun tradition every year to see where our other present goes.

    • Eddie


    • Eddie

      Stay confused!

    • Cher

      I could comment on all of these issues. However, my focus will be on the elderly. Please, do not give Knick Knacks, they don’t need more to dust, and are downsizing. No cut flowers, they die, and most elders see them as a total waste of money. Sometimes a small potted plant that is easy to take care of, is okay for the flower lover. No hats, gloves or scarves. They have a ton already, and barely go out anymore. Food, is appropriate IF you know their diet restrictions, and personal likes and dislikes. Baskets of fruit, etc, will normally not be eaten in time, before they spoil. If the elder is still driving/living unassisted, or can call the store and have their items delivered, a gift card to their favorite grocery store, is so appreciated. Assorted cards, with envelopes and stamps is great, if they are still able to write. What elders really want? It’s YOU!! That’s right, YOU. Whether in person, or a phone call. Seniors are LONESOME. If you can’t go see them, send them a Christmas card stating how many times you will call them. Give them the day of the week and a specific time of day. It doesn’t matter if it’s once a week, bi-weekly, or once a month. It doesn’t matter if it’s a five minute call, or fifteen minutes. All they really want is to hear from YOU. Hear your voice, let them know you love them, and that your always thinking of them. Give them the gift that they will look forward to. Just don’t be late with your calls. Mark them on your calendar, so you don’t forget, as I promise you, they won’t, and will be waiting by the phone. Too busy yourself to call? Have your children call, they love the little ones in your life. Or send them a card each month, with a short paragraph telling them what’s going on with you, your family, and your pets. Elders often miss having their own pets, so they love hearing stories about yours. If you can visit in person, know what they like to eat or their favorite drink, bring them a FRESH baked good, from a local bakery and maybe a cup of coffee, just the way they like it. If you can afford to, bring one of each for their roommate, from time to time. Or a small box of goodies for them to share in the lonely evening hours, as their watching TV. And lastly, if your budget allows, (NOT AT CHRISTMAS OR ANY OTHER HOLIDAY), please remember the nurses, aides, maids, STAFF, of ALL the shifts with a box of fresh bakery donuts, a bag of small assorted wrapped chocolate candy bars, etc for the staff to share. Be sure to write on the outside of the box, that these goodies are for everyone. NOT just the nurses. For these care givers and cleaning staff take care of your loved one, day in and day out.

      • Cher

        Oh, one more thing to consider: If your elder is still able to walk and go out of their home, nursing facility, etc, “Break them out”! That’s right! Take them out for a drive, lunch, dinner or shopping! You will see your elder so happy, come alive, and cherish this special moment with you! Merry Christmas to all!

        • Julie

          Well said Cher! I agree with everything you suggested about giving to the elderly folks in our lives & their carers.

      • Linda

        Beautifully written, a gentle reminder that most people would rather forget, our elderly should be cherished not forgotten! Thank you <3

      • Mariann

        I whole heartedly agree with this. My Grandma passed away last Christmas Day and I miss her terribly – we were very close. I spent as much time with her as possible and called her almost every single day. She was my very best friend – I know a lot of people don’t treat the elders in their lives this way and it’s really a tragedy. They don’t call them The Greatest Generation for nothing – they deserve our time, respect and love. I would give anything to have my Grandma here with me again, even for just an hour.

      • Aless

        This is a beautifully written message and sooo timely.Well said,Cher.

      • COL

        My husband and I always did this for out parents as they aged, a gift card to their supermarket, gift certificates for the beauty salon and barber,gift card for oil changes gift certificate to a restaurant that was special to them. Anniversaries we gave them a night out (or in depending on their state of health), occasionally when we could afford it we would get them someone to come in for the heavy cleaning twice a month. They were always thrilled as these were things that could at times put a strain a fixed income. We had the four gift rule also with one present from Santa. We have a giving tree at church and each child would choose a name card. My daughter had a woman once who asked for cleaning supplies (bucket, bleach, Lysol sponges etc) so sad. She bought her some nice hand and skin creams, some spa socks and a gift card. My kids knew to save money from allowance, birthdays etc as they bought these gifts themselves.
        Please why snipe at each other. As my gran would say if you have nothing nice to say say nothing at all.
        Have a wonderful holiday this year and God bless us everyone!

    • Vicki

      I would add a 5th item (6 if you count the Christmas Eve gift) … a donation to a charity.

      • Aless

        One year we gave our 2 children and our daughter-in-law one gift that was a donation of a specific item(eg school supplies for teacher daughter).I was shocked when d-i-l expressed disappointment-she WAS an adult after all!!Somewhat spoilt it all for me.

    • Hannah

      I grew up with loads of gifts each year. I don’t know how my parents did it because i’m not even a parent yet and already i’m looking at the daunting cost of having them, Christmas alone my goodness. I like this 4 gift idea. But i think while they are younger a couple extra specifically from Santa would be ok ;)

    • Sarah

      I do, but I’ve only had 1 child but with the economy it has been hard the older he gets, I am doing this this year for sure

    • Catherine

      I too am overwhelmed by how many gifts children receive. We grew up receiving one and it hasn’t changed. It taught me to cherish what I was given.

    • Leora

      We use this, with a little modification: a want, a need, a read, a wear, something to give & something to share (usually a puzzle or board game.)

    • Lori

      Good question. is this the idea for Santa’s gifts to bring or gifts from parents? Because we only buy 1-2 items for the kids from us.

      • Anonymous

        It is four gifts total. Plus the Christmas Eve gift. You determine who they are from. Every family is different. The idea is for parents that want to save money and cut back a little from all the craziness. Read the comments as this seems to quite controversial it seems!

    • Andrew

      My wife goes nuts at Christmas with gifts. We are a blended family and by the time we buy the gifts we are left wondering if we got enough for this boy or the other boy. I think this is a great solution to the problem. This year money is going to be tight and I really do not want to go into debt like we have in previous years.

    • Mariann

      My brother and I (at 33 and 30) have always gotten way more than 4 gifts. I’d say we each average about 10 things (if not more) from my parents (my Dad just passed away in July) and one or two from my Grandma (who passed away on Christmas Day last year) and something from my Uncle – I also do gift exchanges with several of my friends and their kids. With my Grandma and Dad being gone, things will change but we’ll still get more than 4 gifts. It’s not even about the gift itself, really, it’s about having stuff to open. I like to buy things that have multiple pieces and wrap them all individually. To each their own. There is no wrong way to celebrate Christmas.

    • Ryan

      I absolutely spoil my son and don’t care. I’m a single dad and his mom doesn’t get him hardly anything, so I literally get him dozens and dozens of presents. Just posting this to say I don’t think there is anything wrong with spoiling, so long as you can afford it.

  2. Tiffany

    So we’ve done this the last few years but added something to watch because we’re movie lovers. My question is does Santa bring one of your 4 gifts or is His gift separate?

    • CC

      One of the gifts is from Santa and the other 3 are from us :)

    • Trudy

      The Christmas Eve gift is a great idea! Pajamas, Movie, Snack, Drink. Love it.

      • Nicole

        My Mom started the PJs forty years ago and when I did the same with my kids but added a single family movie to share and we ate pizza and popcorn while watching the movie on Christmas Eve. My kids have always loved it and I plan to do the same with my Granddaughter for her first Christmas this year.

        • Kate

          I always get Christmas Eve jammies. It wasn’t until I turned 37, after my daughter was born, that I bought my own Christmas Eve jammies (for the first time) and also jammies for my husband and daughter. I love the tradition!! Granted, it was a bit sad buying my own but I wrapped them up just like the others and it was still fun!

          • Brenda

            I have been doing the jammies all my life. My kids as young adults still love and have started looking for jammies for me now. It eventually comes around that you don’t need to buy your own. Patience. I’m sure my kids will continue the tradition through their life

    • Deb

      All the presents come from Santa at our house. BUT Santa only delivers if people who love you send him money. So we always buy an angel tree gift too, to love even those we don’t know.

      • Rachel

        I love this idea! Such a great way to explain the need to give to others around Christmas time! My daughter gets gifts from Santa, me, her grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. So I always just told her that even though there is Santa some kids families can’t afford any gifts. I like your idea though.

      • Brenda Teckman

        Hooray, Deb. We love the Angel Tree and I taught both my children and my grandchildren that giving to someone else is part of sharing love.



    • CC

      Gift cards are a great way to go. You can get some for as low as $5 for restaurants and coffee shops!

    • MomOfFour

      Christine, you could make her a little gift basket. Go to the dollar tree, get a basket, some potpourri(sp?), a few candles, a couple of Christmas knick-knacks, some soaps, etc. I do several of those for different people every year :) Have your kids (if you have any) make her a card with their hand-prints or something personal as a holiday keepsake.

      • Sharon

        i was always told to give older people ‘disposable’ items. Now that I am older, I realize what was meant…we don’t need more knick knacks, do dads, etc to sit around. Flowers, a small fruit basket, homemade cookies, a hug certificate, promised phone calls at regular intervals. Things to look forward to…a ride in the park, a meal out, ….you get the idea.

      • Peggy

        Candles may be dangerous for an older person.

    • Barbara

      I would suggest a stuffed bear or cat. My father in law loved the Braves and one year we got him a stuffed bear that we dressed in a Braves outfit from infants wear. He kept that bear until the day he passed away and my oldest now treasures it.

    • Liz

      My grandparents and great-grandmother always appreciated food and consumable gifts (i.e., candles). They had already collected a lifetime of “things”. They didn’t want or need more, particularly as they eventually started downsizing. Depending upon budget, you could make something, “go big” with Harry & David, or find middle ground. If the recipient is on a tight budget, your gift may also allow them to entertain “nicer” than they typically do (a small plate of great quality chocolate at bridge club).

    • Cheryl

      Xmas cookies if you like to bake,special card with memories that you remember to each one written or words of encouragement ! Have younger family member help you with project

      • Evelyn

        If your Mom lives on her own and still drives, gas cards and a tune-up; pay for a housecleaner or lawn mower or snow removal; if she doesn’t drive, coupon for a drive to her favourite spot 4x/year, one in each season. If she lives in assisted living, coupons for time and an activity with you and with each of your children; a frame that you can put grandchildren’s (or great-grandchildren’s) artwork and change it monthly; read a book to her. Hope these spark other ideas.

    • Aileen

      Assorted cards (birthday, thinking of you etc.) and postage stamps to mail them.

      • Robin W

        Assortment of cards is a great idea; I ordered a large box for my uncle who is 86 , who loves to keep up with everyone’s birthdays and all other occasions. The stamps are a perfect addition as well.

    • Jen

      Soft socks, chapstick, lotion, soft blanket, mittens,scarf,hat, nail files, favorite snack

    • Gladys Whipple Hurtis

      I have an older sister (90) living in a nursing home. She lived in assisted living until she could no longer afford it … it is VERY expensive. For her 90th birthday I set up an account at the home, for her to use at the beauty parlor, as needed. A couple of my sisters and nieces added to it. She was thrilled.

    • Maria

      My grandparents have 12 kids and about 30 grandkids, so I understand this. She has a rule: every kids of theirs and the kids’ spouse get the same gift (calendars, clocks, lots of 12 things that have pictures included); all grandchildren that are boys get the same gift; and all grandchildren that are girls get the same gift. One year she gave every grandchild Christmas baked goods and a $2 – that was a fun year. She likes to buy Avon gifts that go on clearance (lotions, emery boards, etc. for the girls and wooden puzzles for the boys). I hope that helps!

    • Trudy

      I am the only one that is confused…lol. Christine, are you 86 or the person you are buying for?

      • Asia

        No Trudy, you’re not the only one. The way I read it was SHE was 86, had a big family, and didn’t want to do a lot of shopping. But hey, maybe it’s the other way around. Lol

      • Robin W

        She is buying for an 86 year old

    • Diane C

      Christine B. Give each family a bag/basket that has hot cocoa, marshmallows, popcorn, etc. You could include individual envelopes with a $5 McDonalds (or Dairy Queen, or whatever) gift card for each of the kids. The World Market is a great place for getting unique food gifts.

    • Judy Baker

      I am 72 and bed ridden. I give my grand kids(17) & great grand kids(13) money to spend on themselves…

    • Rhonda

      I have told my grown son’s and families there are only 2 gifts I will accept..something they have made, or something from a thrift store.

      • Tammy

        Your comment made me smile. Reminded me of something my mom would have said. She was one that always went overboard on the gift giving for everyone but never wanted anything in return, unless it was something we made or had not spent alot of money on.

      • S

        Great idea

    • Tonya

      My grandparents used to give each grandchild a silver dollar for Christmas. I treasured mine because I knew it was a sacrifice for them.

    • alie

      A nice memory photo of you and a written note on a special memory of something they would enjoy knowing about you…family history is precious. I wish my parent’s generation were still around for me to store up memories of their lives…

      • Taunya

        I think that is the best! I would love to know all the memories the picture evoked.

    • Laurie

      When I was a teen my Grandma started giving us boxes of chocolates with a Christmas ornament attached to our name tag. I still have my ornaments, hang them on my tree every year and I’m in my 40’s. I think they were the most memorable gifts I received from her, something sweet and traditional.

    • JenG

      Hand-write (or type if it is difficult to hold a pen) a letter to each person. It doesn’t have to be long. A personal memory of something you two shared (remember the time when we went grocery shopping and all the oranges fell off the wagon and rolled everywhere? or when you were born, I was such-and-so years old and living in this place and doing this thing). Or an anecdote, or a favorite Bible quote and what it means to you or whatever.

      The only cost here is the paper and your time. If you want to add something, a gift card or stamps or even a “coupon” for time to spent with you doing something.

      People want time & attention. Gifts are nice, by the overwhelming desire for most humans is just to have some devoted attention to validate the importance of their exsistence.

    • Brenda

      Books are always a great idea. If you go on the Chapters website you can do one stop shopping. They have books blankets,candles and lots of games now. Hope that helps

    • Beth

      Christine, if you like to cook, you can give baked goods. I loved when my grandmother baked for me. One per family. A restaurant gift card for a family is also nice. Small treat basket for each family. Movie Theater gift cards…etc. Something for each family rather than each person.

    • Jeanne

      Elderly people can always used greeting cards to mail and postage stamps to go with them. A gift certificate to a favorite restaurant is always good. As far as elderly folks giving gifts, I am going to be giving some of my own jewelry to my female kids and grandkids. I also have a few dishes that the kids always admire. I don’t use them anymore. The Spirit of Christmas be with you all.

  4. Diane

    Would love to do this but how do you do it and incorporate Santa? Our kids are young and all gifts come from him. Was thinking maybe a note from “Santa” explaining something about new way of gift giving?? Thanks!

    • MomOfFour

      Honestly, if they are young enough for Santa, you really shouldn’t need to explain. You would be surprised what they will just naturally except.

      We have a huge family (4 kids of my own[2boys2girls] and I have 4 sisters[each have 2boys] my husband has 3 siblings[1neice] and my kids have 18 living grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents) and we have extended family and friends. Adults get home-made candies/cookies or a small gift from the dollar tree from each household. Kids get a small gift each from each household(some of the grandparents send money instead, and some go way beyond a gift each). Sometimes we make almost all of the gifts. Christmas is crazy. My kids would not even notice if we decided to just do stockings and leave it at that. Honestly, I try to just get each of my own children what I know they need or will soon need (I even put a new toothbrush in the stockings every year) and a few small items that they can use.

      Also, a month before Christmas, we go through all toys and clothes and throw away broken ones and they choose ten toys to keep, and we give away the rest to a family that could use them.

      • Mariann

        Your children (and you, for that matter) are so lucky to have your grandparents, great grandparents, etc. Treasure them.

    • Shannen

      When my family started this several years ago, I gave my kids a heads up before the Christmas season. The kids knew we were simplifying the holidays with the four gifts, and that Santa always know what Mom/Dad want to do. The “something you want” is from Santa at our house, while the rest is from Mom & Dad. The kids also get a few little things in their stockings. It’s worked really well for our family.

    • Deborah

      I have 2 children, first was my daughter. 8 years later I had my son with my second husband. Son was born in March so he would only be 9 months old at Christmas that year. So I decided to only buy gifts for my daughter, she was with her dad until late Christmas Eve. When he dropped her off she would go to bed and then Santa would come to our house this year, previous year he went to her dad’s house. Meanwhile my husband and I are putting out her Santa gifts and it dawned on me, she would be mad at Santa for not bringing her baby brother anything. OMG I thought what will I do, luckily lynold’s play world was open till midnight. My behind got there in time to buy a few puffalumps (who remembers those) for my 9 month old. He had allergies and these were hypoallergenic. Santa “knew” this and my daughter was impressed. If I had not panic attack I could have told her Santa realized baby brother was young enough that he would not mind another older child getting a gift in his place. Kids are now 33 and 25 and reading these comments brought back this memory. You can make the gift they really want the one from Santa and then the other gifts from parents and siblings. My parents had 5 kids and I remember we always got clothes, coloring books or books to read, and a “big” gift. My big gift one year was an Easy Bake Oven. I just knew my parents could not afford this gift and that it had to be from Santa. I never did find out how they managed to get this, my dad was in the hospital that Christmas so maybe his parents bought the big gift. Both parents are now gone but I always remember the Oven Santa brought me. So the one they want from Santa should be the main gift. You can build around that gift. You knew Santa was bringing the bike, get them the helmet and knee pads. You will figure it out based on the age of your kids. Merry Christmas.

    • Kaila

      We only give our kids their necessities as gifts from Santa because you can always explain to a child that you make more or less money than other mommies and daddies but you can’t explain to them why Santa brought them or their friends something that is the latest fad but brought the other something not so cool…. Just a though

  5. marti

    I feel that 4 presents is far too many.

    • sherri

      Your poor kids-SCROOGE!!!!;

      • Shirley

        Wow, calm down, lady! How rude of you to assert such a mean thing about someone you know nothing about. Every family has a different perspective, circumstances, and values. See my comment below.

    • sherri

      Your poor kids-SCROOGE!!!!

    • Jacq

      Yes — I was thinking the same thing.. LOL. But all my kids are young and there’s not much money on both sides of the family … I think they enjoy the decorations on the trees more than the gifts themselves at this point. This year, one child is getting shoes. The other, some (2nd hand) board books (she’s only 1). Christmas on a shoe string… but our home is filled with peace, joy, love, blessings and contentment. I cannot think of any “thing” that I would want for my kids to experience during Christmas time than the intangible gifts from God. :)

    • Anna

      If it’s 4 new toys, yes that’s too much, but if they are practical items, I don’t think new pajamas, a book, a practical item, and new toy is too much.

      • Shirley

        Every family has a different perspective. My kids don’t need new pajamas. Or any new clothes. They get all the clothes they need throughout the year thanks to hand-me-downs, which we are very grateful for.
        Also, we collect plenty of books on the cheap or free throughout the year so I won’t buy books for them at Christmas time.
        We’re poor so we’re happy if they can get one fun item from Santa and one thing (fun or practical) from Mom and Dad. We do what we can afford. One year Santa brought the 3 kids a $5 thrift store doll castle. They loved it! And to this day it’s one of their favorite toys.
        My children do not get 4 gifts each and they have never felt neglected. “Stuff” is not what makes children happy and it isn’t what makes the holiday magical.
        I do not feel bad about being unable to afford more for my kids. In fact, the thought of having more “stuff” gives me anxiety! They are growing up happy and healthy and learning to appreciate all the blessings they do have.

        • Laurie

          I love reading these comments about simple Christmas giving. When my children were young I would have them write out their list asking for 3 special items they would like for Christmas. Without fail, every year my son asked for socks. From the age of about 3 until I’m sure this year at 18. We start our Christmas celebrating early in December by baking and decorating, making small gifts to give to family, so the store bought gifts were never the huge part. It was the build up of going to give our baked goods and share the holiday meals with all of our extended family that the kids looked forward to. It makes me happy to see others are the same. I was raised with loads of gifts but didn’t want my kids spoiled like that, I did it once or twice when they were very young and learned quickly that they don’t appreciate what they don’t remember seeing in all the rush.

        • Rhonda

          I agree. My kids are 27 and 29 now. We always did small gifts. The very best we did was going to the homeless shelter and give hugs and love. We would volunteer to help feed and do what was asked of us. My kids absolutely loved helping out. We have some fond memories from many years. I will never forget the year my son received a remote control car. And our daughter received a doll. They were in the car while we were serving, the kids went to my husband and asked if he would go out and get them. There were two kids that day, that were homeless and received nothing. My kids gave those gifts freely, on their own. One of the most proud moments of my life. To this day we still serve at a shelter or church, and so do my kids! Everyone have a blessed Christmas

  6. Trudy

    With six children, six siblings plus their mates and children, Christmas was crazy for a couple of years until we started a new tradition. Each person picks out a gift and then we go around the room, one at a time, say who it was from, and open the gift. Now everyone knows who gave them what, and the mess is non existent as we put the paper in a bag as each gift is opened. Yes, it takes a long time but that is part of the fun! We only give one gift from Santa and as the children got older they realized we actually bought those other gifts…lol. I like the four gift idea too!

    • crystal

      we always had a “santa” my dad. sit under the tree and hand out gifts one at a time. i would open mine and then he would hand my bother one and so on. we do the same with our kids. i admit i do go a little over board with gifts. thats just the way my childhood christmas was. now seeing this though i think its how we’ll go next year (to late to start this year im already almost done for the most part lol)

  7. Bill

    Might I suggest a 5th gift? Something that they can give to those less fortunste. It teaches that Christmas isn’t all about getting and reinforces that there are many who have less than they do. I recommend either something early on for Toys for Tots or winter apparel for the Salvation Army.

    • Alex

      Many of my christmas gifts growing up where games. One year my sisters and i where given monopoly.

      ( yes 1 gift, 3 kids. And we love it!)

    • Trudy

      Bill, I love this idea!

    • Lorraine

      I gave away a doll every year as a child. As soon as our son was old enough to understand he would help shop for gift to give to a boy his own age. This became his favorite part of the season. I agree – Something that they can give to those less fortunate would make a great addition.

  8. Nicole

    Jesus received 3 gifts at his birth; and my children receive the same!

    • Cindy

      I started doing the same thing for my grandkids a couple of years ago. We are up to 8 grandchildren now and the “over-gifting” had to stop!

    • Cindy

      I started doing the same thing for my grandkids a couple of years ago. We are up to 8 grandchildren now and the “over-gifting” had to stop!

      • Trudy

        I am right there with you Cindy! With 13 grandchildren and two more on the way it gets pretty costly with six children, their mates, the kids, six siblings and parents! Most of the adults ask for Baklava every year because I am the only one that makes it. The younger girls usually want nail polish so that is easy. The boys are a little harder. Would love some ideas for them!

  9. Nikki

    I love this idea. I was an only child in my mothers house and every christmas morning there were presents galore. (Well atleast thats how i remembered it). I started out doing this for my kids but i have 3 now and its getting harder and harder to do it each year. I know my 9 yr old will understand but how can i explain it to my 5 and 3 yr old?? Im tired of wasting money at christmas time when there really is no need for it.

    • Trudy

      With six children and now 13 grandchildren I completely understand! We were never the family that drew names from a hat either and with six siblings it is even more! Some might not agree but we don’t consider clothing a gift at Christmas, unless it is a hoodie or something they really wanted and we could not afford it at school shopping time. We had to save all year for Christmas so I understand how hard it can be! We tried to give that one gift they really wanted badly so when they didn’t have a huge pile of gifts they were pretty happy. You could cut back bit by bit each year rather than switching things up suddenly. The kids love getting games if we sit down and play them together!

      • Jenn

        My daughter’s name is Trudy. We never see her name anywhere so I had to comment. Hi. *waves* Haha.

        • Trudy

          Jenn, I have only met one other and she lives 8 miles from me! People always ask if it is Gertrude. Nope. I was born at St. Mercy and the nuns tried to talk my mom out of naming me Trudy. Didn’t work. Hi back!

  10. Mj

    I would say 1 or 2 are from santa, it’s always sad when some children only get something small from Santa as their parents aren’t rich, and their classmates get lots from santa. Thechild wonders why Santa doesn’t like them, so make most of them from yourself

    • Trudy

      We always give their “big” gift from Santa…the one they really wanted. As my children got older they really were grateful after they realized we really got it for them.

    • Shirley

      I explained to my kids that it’s because Mom and Dad have the final say in what Santa, Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy bring. Having Santa bring something extravagant doesn’t fit with our values, so that’s not going to happen, no matter what Billy’s parents allowed Santa to bring him. We choose to live more simply and we don’t “need” more “stuff” so more junk that Mom and Dad and Santa know that you’re going to grow bored of soon isn’t going to be brought into the house. So far that explanation has worked for us!

  11. melanie

    My kids always get a group gift.It is a board game every year. They still get excited to see which one it will be. Scattagories is huge hit in our house. Also we let them open a present on Christmas Eve. It is usually a dvd or new pj’s and candy.

    • Aileen

      Assorted cards (birthday, thinking of you etc.) and postage stamps to mail them.

  12. Jenny

    Not sure it says good things about our culture when buying “only 4” gifts for each kid is revolutionary…not counting a “gift” the night before that’s really 5 gifts in one box. I appreciate that this author is willing to share her ideas, though. We do pjs on Christmas Eve too.

    • Shirley

      It’s not even just 5 gifts, though. Because the Christmas Eve box supposedly contains pj’s, movie, book, and snack. That sounds like 8 Christmas gifts total to me! Every family gets to make their own decisions, and I’m not condemning this author at all. I’m just supporting your first thought.

    • Lindsey

      I had some of the same thoughts. I come from a family culture where 4 gifts each would have been a huge haul! It’s all relative I guess, but for the more extravagant givers looking for a way to start paring down, this is a good way to do it. We open a family gift of a book on Christmas Eve to read and share, and the kids usually get one present from us (as parents) on Christmas morning. Of course, there are stockings too (which for some can turn into a whole other load of gifts), and we sort of continue the tradition my parents had of nuts, candies, an orange, and a few small/inexpensive/practical things. In our house, we “play along” with Santa (my kids are 3 and 5), but we’ve never made a big deal about it. We say Santa fills the stockings. :) Sometimes I still feel like it’s a strain on our wallets, but I try to think and plan ahead and shop sales.

      We are trying to figure out ways to make the lead-up to the Christmas season less about “what I want.” Helping the kids plan and prepare their own gifts for others (in the family, or others in need) has helped. I’d love to hear how other are combatting this!

      • Anonymous

        One thing our family has been doing (2 kids, now 9 and 11) is that we do an advent calendar that includes an activity to do as a family on each of the days. So its things we like to do anyway, but in the morning they open the day and can anticipate what the activity will be. We do things like decorate the bathroom, bake cookies, take food to the food bank, take cookies to neighbours, walk around the block to look at the lights, etc. we have things that are giving to others included at least twice a week in the 4 weeks leading to Christmas.

        Our stocking stuffers from Santa include many practical items, always a toothbrush, always Chapstick, always an orange in the toe…

        We also have always had the kids choose 3 toys to take to the Goodwill before Christmas to make room for anything new.

        And our rule is that Santa can’t bring a pet (asked for every year, lol) or electronics.

        We also love to wrap things in different s ways, like a book in a tomato crate from the grocery store. Oh and living in a snowy winter area Santa always brings a sled or snowball maker or something for winter.

    • Minnie

      Well it is only one toy and a book. Then a couple of things you were probably going to buy in the next couple months anyway. It sounds like a lot to say 4 gifts but the big expense is probably just the ‘want’ item. You can probably get most of it at the thrift store too. They always have lots of kids clothes and books.

  13. Shelly

    We usually give on this principle to our 3 children 11, 8, 2. Always a clothes item. Sometimes that becomes 2 gifts depend on their need. Last year was a full outfit and a pair of pajamas. Always a gift with a book or two depending on my thrifty finds. I try to get them one of their biggest wants but those were always “santa” gifts. My husband is the one that it’s hard to rope in to this plan. He grew up with exceptionally small Christmas’s and wants to shower our children like he would’ve liked. Slowly he’s learning that there is such a thing as too much.
    Last year and the year prior I stopped labeling gifts from ‘mom and dad’ or ‘santa’ because the oldest two were becoming wise to the tags and writing. They all seem happy with their gifts. Usually we do get reports back when they go to school that “Santa” brought “Johnny” everything on his list even the $300 Lego set. It makes it hard but there’s nothing I can do about other parents. I can try to teach mine that less is more and material things aren’t necessary to be happy. Love is all.

  14. Me

    Ummmm and why is one gift not sufficient?????

  15. sheila

    I actually have always gone overboard too… just as my parents did when I was small. I am doing something similar this year to limit myself from going overboard, so for my children, it’s 7 gifts instead of 4. I am doing the 4 listed in this article plus these three: 5. something to eat 6. something hand-made 7. gift card. To some it may still be going overboard, but to me it is cutting back. We all have our own ideas about gift giving and what our limitations are so to each their own. :)

  16. Diana

    When I was a young parent, and budgets were tight, this is how we did it…
    3 presents from mom & dad. After all, Baby Jesus only got 3 gifts and do you really need more gifts than that?
    1 gift from Santa. All the old stories and songs tell of Santa bringing one gift to each good boy & girl, that’s plenty.
    There were also gifts from grandparents but it was not a huge consumer frenzy of “gimmee! gimmee! gimmee!”

  17. Lisa

    What about the stocking..do they still receive that?

  18. Elisha

    HELP!!! I love this idea but how do you switch it when you have a 8 year old and 4 year old who have been spoiled on Christmas morning from the start? How do you explain it? We have huge family on both sides so it seriously gets out of control with gifts. On top of that there birthdays are November and February so it gift overload for months. Thank you :)

  19. Ann

    Does this also work for a single mom on a budget? This is a fabulous idea however, I am seriously on a budget. I have two kids. I am not sure if this will go. Should I split it up between me and my ex husband?

    • Sanrdy

      Dollar stores. You can get toys, school supplies, books, games and stay within your budget.

    • Minnie

      Lot’s of kids clothes and books at thrift stores. You can probably do the ‘wear’ and ‘read’ items for $5 a kid. Toys can be hit or miss at thrift stores and it really depends on what the ‘need’ item is. You can always skip the ‘need’ one if there really is nothing they need besides clothes.

  20. Karen

    While I can appreciate your efforts, I think 4 gifts is still many for one child. In my home, my kids get 2. One from Santa and one from me. That is plenty…

  21. Beth

    We have 5 children who are all married & have children of their own so several years ago we started a new tradition, at Thanksgiving, all of our children and their significant others as well as the nieces & nephews who are over 18 put their name in a hat and then they all draw a name so that they each only have to buy one gift, we set a limit of $15. That way they’re not overwhelmed trying to buy for all of their siblings!! Works out great!! Stockings have always been a big thing to our kids and they still look forward to them! We have 4 boys and 1 daughter and now also 4 daughter in laws and a son in law, ages 23 to 34 and they still look forward to them!! For the boys I always put pajama bottoms, winter socks, travel size deodorant, a mini flashlight & a new toothbrush. The girls get warm socks, scarf, lotion, chapstick, hand sanitizer, candle & a new toothbrush. I tried to change this a few years back and they were disappointed so I have resumed this! Lol.

  22. Michelle

    Our family (aunts, uncles, a few kids and nieces and nephews) about 11-13 people and instead of a large gift exchange we only give things that we make. I made scarves one year, dehydrated fruit and apple butter another year. My one aunt gives us homemade yogurt and granola. Nothing store bought. My niece made Christmas cards and decorated them with pine cones. It doesn’t matter to us because it comes from the heart. As for my husband and myself, we are allowed to buy one thing each that we have wanted all year (within reason) and instead of giving a tonne of gifts to each other we just fill each other’s stockings. Simple and easy but the Christmas joy for us is spending the time together.

  23. Janelle

    When our extended family gets together for the Holy days we do white elephant gift giving. Each person, all ages, brings something (wrapped) from their home they no longer need or use. We either sit in a circle and go one-by-one or draw numbers or go by age. No matter how it is done everyone enjoys it.
    Oh my, the fun we have stealing other’s gifts and the excitement to see who brought what is a hoot.
    We also bring our stockings.
    You may bring separate gifts for the kids but it is not required.

    I do like the idea of the 4 gifts for the immediate family. Thanks for a great idea ;0}

  24. Pam

    On a side note, I now wrap each child’s gift with their own wrapping paper, and the Santa gift with Santa paper. No more need for tags, etc. They know that their own presents are the ones with the Puppies, or candy canes, etc on it. It makes it so much easier than wrapping them with random paper or all the same paper, etc.

  25. Trude

    I was raised with three gifts. Something for my body, something for my mind and something for fun. Simple and fun.. I can probably go back lots of times and gifts as a child. Simple and loving… we have lost the reason for the season…

  26. lisa mayback

    I average 12 gifts apiece for my kids, not counting stocking stuffers. And I’m a single mom. very low income. I save coins all year for Christmas spending. I’m very thrifty and buy on clearance all year. I also don’t buy much for my kids throughout the year (only necessities) so I have fun seeing their joy opening new clothes, etc on Christmas Morning. When they were little, I literally never bought toys for them except for birthdays and Christmas. I just liked to save everything up for Christmas so they would wake up to a room full of presents. I loved that. With my teens, and where I live, it’s not necessary to buy warm clothes when they go back to school, so I wait til they’re on sale and buy for Christmas presents.

  27. Barbara Simpson

    To Christine Blandford, regarding Gifts that an 86 year old woman could do for a large family…….. have you considered writing your personal/family history and giving a copy to each of your family members? There are so many ways this can be done….. if you have a computer, you can write your own. Then you can have it prepared in a book format (this can be done through “apple” but there are other websites as well. At 86 you have a lot of history behind you, and preserving your life experiences for your family is a wonderful enduring gift. All the best for a wonderful Christmas!! Barbara from Canada

  28. Jersey

    Every family has it’s own traditions. Growing up I remember Christmas morning being magical. Time spent with family and yes what seemed like tons of gifts. I try to celebrate every holiday the way I did as a child. On Thanksgiving my children make their lists for Santa and they have 10 items they can list. They know that it is a guideline, Santa can choose whatever he wants from that list and he may not bring it all. He may throw in a surprise that he feels they need instead. My children have always been happy with that. Personally I too think four is too few. Once we all grow up the gifts we receive for Christmas almost vanish, we don’t get Easter baskets, we don’t egg hunt or go trick-or-treating, our birthdays are non existent other than a Happy Birthday on Facebook. There is a reason why we remember our childhood as being magical. It’s all the things that our parents did that made it special and Christmas is a huge part of that. As for cost if you plan you can put what they want under the tree and it doesn’t have to break the bank. One other tradition is we always had was Christmas pajamas and I do that with my kids every year along with each child exchanges gifts with their siblings on Christmas Eve. Those gifts are usually small but they put a lot of thought into them so it’s really sweet.

  29. Joanne Q

    I have wanted to give a family favorites cookbook to my grown children now for several years. It takes a little time to do the way I want it (I intend to type them all into Word and print them on beautiful paper) but even handwritten cards in an index card box would work. This year, I’m remembering early enough to actually do it!

  30. Savvy Mom

    I do this with our 5 kids….even as 2 of them of college students. They have never complained. The 5th gift that one mention is always a family gift. Last year we got them an old atari game set….they loved it and spend hours playing that and enjoying family time!

  31. Sarah

    Whether you chose to give 5 gifts or 500 I also think it is important to consider making the bulk or them come from you and then only one or 2 come from “santa” because it can be hard for less fortunate families to explain to their child why “Santa” brought little Johnny from school an Xbox 360 a playstation 4 and 27 remote control cars (or whatever) and he only brought them a pair of shoes or a calculator or a dollhouse. Because that was what they needed or asked for because they new better than to ask for anything so extravagant.

  32. Ellie

    wow there’s the spirit of the season people what started out as an awesome idea ended up as bashing each other wow nice happy holidays

  33. Linda

    When my siblings and I all were married or left home, we decided to change our Christmas gifting habits. We no longer exchange gifts. We go out to a nice restaurant for dinner just the adults. Mom and Dad have insisted on paying on dinner (even though that was not the idea at first), as our Christmas gift. But the idea was to spend time together and not have a mess for anyone – anywhere. We still get together at one of the sisters homes with all the kids and do get the kids usually gift cards and do a potluck for Christmas day. But no time or great wads of money or time spent on gifts, shopping and wrapping. Just good time spent together.

  34. Bev

    I love this idea as a grandparent. It helps in the decision making if you have a “list” like this to keep you on track. Also, it doesn’t mean that,you have to spend more just because it is only four gifts. This could help with the giving budget.

  35. Elizabeth

    I believe Christmas is about giving as well as receiving. When my kids were old enough to understand, we took them to a toy store and told them to spend $50 on either a girl or boy, choosing the toys that were their own favorites. Then they took those to the Salvation Army. This made a huge impression. They were so excited choosing things that would make another child happy. It was a wonderful tradition and taught about love and sharing.

  36. Sabra

    I just read article to my partner and our 13 year old son…we will be taking this 4 gift challenge and he is on board for it!!

  37. Mary Ellen

    In the days when there was a Santa bringing gifts we were able to get a lot of gifts for the amount budgeted but as they got older and finances got tighter the number of gifts decreased. And as this article says, they received so many other gifts, they didn’t even notice as long as they got the one or two gifts they wanted from us. We emphasized the real meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, and that giving to others was what really maters. They helped me pick the gifts for others and sometimes spent their own allowance money to buy others gifts. They were great children and are great adults, now the grand children get one gift from Nana and Popaw. I just love Christmas and so do they.Merry Christmas and many Blessings.Keep Christ in Christmas.

  38. Kylie

    Would love to hear how you go… and the sorts of things you put into these different categories. We’re thinking of paring things down a little this year too. I think the “less is more” concept make everyone {children and parents alike} appreciate what they have and what they are given so much more.

  39. Pat

    All of our children are grown-ups now, but it was always something they wanted (within reason) and something they needed and their stockings were filled. The adults got together and planned a Christmas event like a tobogganing party with a feast afterwards for cousins and friends. My children remember the events, not the presents. As a Christian, Santa was real in my house, anything that is a reminder of God’s love is a good thing. I have always told them the story of the real St.Nicholas and giving without the expectation of something in return has its own rewards.

  40. Janet Hulstrand

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful, intelligent, wise approach to holiday gift-giving. How we all became so caught up in a frenzy of gift-giving is not completely clear. But what is clear is that as a society we really need to find our way back out of it. Because we are drowning in stuff!! This post gives people a clear, and helpful idea about one way to begin.

  41. Susan Lee

    Thank you to the author for caring enough to give some of us new ideas, and thank you for the other comments that got us thinking. I hope we can just keep the magic in Christmas and give our children what they want – us to love them and give them good values, the best gifts are not the ones that costs us money just ask your kids. x x

  42. Deb Downey

    Instead of #2, how about “something for those in need” – where the child chooses the charity?

  43. Melanie

    My extended family has started doing a “Make it, Bake it, Sew it, Grow it” gift exchange instead of buying gifts for one another. Everything in the exchange is something that the gift giver has made themselves. It’s SO neat to see what people have made, and lets everyone use their talents and give in a much more meaningful way.

  44. Lynette Brown

    My kids are 7 and 4. For the last 3 years, I have made their Christmas present (hours and hours of work) and also given them a present on “behalf” such as a ball that has actually gone to a child in Bangladesh who wouldn’t otherwise get a present. This year, I’m making a quilt each – having never quilted before!

    • Trudy

      My mom made blue jean quilts for us one year and now my kids and grandkids. Best. Gift. Ever! Look on Pinterest for easy quilt ideas. Good luck!

  45. Michaela

    The way I do Christmas for my son is to get a lot of little toys, ornaments, etc. (mainly from Dollar Tree, or similar low-cost stores) and put them in a bag or box marked “From: Santa”. The “big” gift(s) come directly from me. The reason why I do that is because there are a lot of children who are confused as to why Santa gives them socks and such but gives game consoles to other kids. Making big presents come from the parents/guardians instead of Santa helps alleviate that confusion. That all being said, those who make all gifts come from Santa aren’t bad parents in my eyes. Not in the least. This is just what I choose to do with my family. It’s what works best for us. :)

  46. Keith

    We have an even simpler system than this that my wife and I have been using ever since we got married 27 years ago: the Holiday Club account and the Christmas budget.

    A certain amount of money goes into the account with every paycheck, and in November the credit union says “Here’s your money for spending on gifts!”

    Once we have that, each family member or friend is allocated a certain dollar amount to be spent on from us. Currently, immediate family members get $150 each, our parents are $75 each, certain friends are $30 each, and the Salvation Army tree gets $100. We’ve also long since negotiated cutting out our siblings and their children.

    Since our kids have never known any different, they haven’t complained (they’re 13 and 22 now)…even if they know kids who get laptops for Christmas.

    They also know that if they want a specific large thing…like an iPad, that we’ll give them a $100 Apple Store card toward it and $50 worth of tangible stuff under the tree.

    But I still like your idea.

  47. Michelle

    When my daughter was little (3 yrs old) I started a tradition that every year in order to get gifts from Santa she had to give away three of her toys to children who weren’t as lucky as she was. Every year pretty much right after Halloween the pile of toys started. They changed somewhat through the month of November as she rediscovered toys that she had forgotten about. There were conditions that had to be met for the toys that were being given away in that they had to be clean and in good working condition.
    This taught my daughter that
    1. Christmas wasn’t about the amount of toys that you got from Santa.
    2. To respect her things.
    3. Christmas was about giving as well as getting.
    4. Not everyone has a great Christmas with tons of presents under the tree from Santa and family.
    Not only did she learn these lessons she learned them very well. One year I got a call from work that I had to pick her up after school because the Shoe box Program had started and she couldn’t carry her boxes on the bus. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this program the students are given shoe boxes to take home and fill with things like toothbrushes and toothpaste soap and other staples mostly from dollar stores to be sent to third world countries. Well that day when I went to pick her up at school she had 10 shoe boxes to fill !! I asked her why she had gotten so many and her reply was that I had taught her to give to people who weren’t as lucky as we were so that’s what she was doing. What could I say to her after that? LOL

  48. Maureen

    Our family added onto this guideline,
    Want, need, wear, read, give something away and do a good deed.

  49. Terrie

    we did three gifts when my kids were growing up. The grandparents really piled them on. Now that My children are married and having kids, my husband and I started doing the 12 days before Christmas with them. Each day there is a gift for the family to open (they don’t cost a lot of money; a book, I made Carmel popcorn, socks, pj for everyone, ect.). I also put a Bible verse on it as a hit to what the gift might be. This is the second year I have done it. I have enjoyed doing it, and my kids and their families have too. I do buy things year around if I see something on sale or I make things.

  50. Anna

    I like to add a fifth category- an experience. Tickets to a concert, the zoo, etc. What better gift than memories of time spent together!

  51. Angela

    i would add large gift…family outing…whether it be to dinner or mini golf or a movie, just time to spend together

  52. Linda

    One year we gave each person at the dinner table a blank card with only their name at the top. We passed these around the table and each person wrote what they loved and appreciated about the person who’s name was on top. Particularly the oldies kept theirs forever!

  53. Hannah

    I feel this solves another issue. When I was little and hard core believed in Santa, I would often talk about what he brought me for christmas, on the school bus or with friends. My Santa brought me lots, now that I am older and wiser to Santa and life, many of those kids came from pretty poor families, I wonder how that could have made them feel? “why did santa not bring me as much?” not knowing its because their parents couldn’t afford as much.

    • Paula

      I grew up in one of those poor families. Family of 8 & my dad worked odd jobs while my mom stayed home with us. And I never once felt shame or embarrassment for what Santa brought us. We never got much, but I never could remember what “Santa” brought vs. anything else. I didn’t make mental lists of who gave what. It was simply Christmas. Those with excess always feel bad, those with less simply don’t notice.

  54. Ness

    One gift?? Geez.aybe I was spoiled but I remember the piles of gifts taller than me. Now I do the same even of o can’t afford it. But I will consider doing less as the kids are so overwhelmed, that half the stuff doesn’t get played with.

  55. Lynn

    What about the gift to give away to those less fortunate?

  56. Angela S

    As a single mother Ive always done this just didnt realize it. My son knew I would get him one big gift he wanted (within reason) new jeans or pajamas, a couple small match box cars or something similar and something educational. He never wanted for more because that was all he knew.

  57. Karyn

    Three gifts at our house. Just as the wise men brought three to Jesus. And they are wrapped in silver, gold and blue or purple. Giving is a beautiful thing when it is meaningful.

  58. Dena

    My kids got one, sometimes 2 nice gifts. Each year my daughter also got a special ornament and a snowglobe. My son got a nutcracker and a Hallmark lights motion and sound ornament. They got clothes, a few movies or video games. Not too much but not too little either.

  59. Michelle

    I am taking your challenge! I would like to know though how you handle Santa? Do you use one of these gifts?

  60. Paula

    I get the gist of this message… But, no.
    Too many people are taking the global stage to order other parents what to do (and NOT do) for their kids this Christmas based on their own adult insecurities and shortfalls.
    My husband & I work hard for our money, we love going all out for Christmas, and our kids are still young enough to sense the magic too.
    We are Christian, and always attend the big Christmas Eve candlelight services to set the mood for Christmas Day. The gifts my children get are our business. Nobody else’s. I’m not going to let someone else dictate how many, how much, or how big a gift I get my kids.
    The parents are the insecure ones who compare what other parents do.
    Leave the ADULT issues at the door. Christmas is personal, Christmas is about about families.
    There is no place for communism. At least not in my house, and certainly not during Christmas.

  61. RAE

    When our kids were younger Santa only brought things that fit into their stockings – including an orange, candy cane, socks, small toy – i.e. a truck/car or lego or small doll. We gave one maybe 2 gifts from us – often homemade, there would be gifts from grandparents and aunt and uncles. We took turns opening gifts – no big rush – enjoying what each person received. Now the deal is that if you are planning on being “home” for Christmas morning you contribute something towards each stocking. I continue most years to make something for those grown-up “kids”. The big gifts were never from Santa – this meant that “he” never had to preform – no matter what our budget was.

  62. J

    I REALLY appreciate this idea. Christmas ends up being entirely frustrating when there is a present overload…Especially with five kids! Love the rhyme, and I think it will make sense to my kiddos. Thanks for sharing the great idea.

  63. Sandy

    God so loved the world that he wanted to give us a great gift, the gift Himself. So He gave the gift of Himself, in Jesus, born on Christmas day. We gather to exchange gifts to one another on Christmas Day to remind us of how much God loves us and how He wants us to love each other. This is what I say to my grandchildren on Christmas as I give them each ONE gift. I also will take them somewhere or just spend time with them baking or making homemade gifts for their parents. We also pick a child from the Angle Tree at church (usually the same age and sex as the grandchildren) then take them shopping to pick out the gifts. The shopping trip is ONLY for he Angle Tree child. We then go home and wrap the gifts. The children love this and the focus is not on what they want, but on what they want to give. As for my children – when they were little they had to clean out their toy chests to send the used toys back to Santa so he could make them new again to give to another child. This way the toy chest was cleaned out and they learned to be a bit discerning about what was really important to them. Give up a toy to get a toy. This proved a bit harder than it sounds, but it worked great. Go with whatever works for you.

  64. Iva

    Really cute post… But I would say that children today have too many gifts and it is a question how much they appreciate them at all – even 10 minutes after they’re out of the box. In my opinion, it should be only 1 gift…something they want…and to be aware that there are so many those who are lucky to even get chocolate.
    Kids get things they need anyway (including clothes and something to read)

  65. Josh

    Ladies. Both boys and men hate getting stuff to wear as a gift. That should come out of regular budget stuff. This is pretty much universal. GUYS HATE GETTING CLOTHES AS GIFTS.

    • Stephany

      I am married and have 3 sons. They are all boys jeans and t-shirt boys. But all 4 of them asked for clothing. My 11 year old asked for a Puma aweatshirt, socks and underwear.

    • Stephany

      We are miles away from my family and do not exchange/give presents with my husband’s family, we get together. Which is great, because that is important as well. Both my parents have passed. So my children do not get presents except from me and my husband.

  66. Helen Winter

    and to get a GREAT idea for Christmas you will be astonished by this IKEA ad (really, truly, … watch it) All the kids ask for more time with their parents – in preference to the long list for the Three Kings (Sweden, so not Santa)

  67. Fiona

    We have done this for years instead of Christmas stockings. There are 8 of us in the household and each person is given a name to buy for and they have to get 4 presents for £ 10. It is up to the buyer how the £ 10 is split and second hand gifts are fine. Last year one of the family was struggling with what to get for the person they were allocated so we all agreed that one of the gifts could be substituted by “something to eat”. This way the shopping is actually fun. There is no pressure to find the “perfect” gift – it’s all about getting something that shows you have put some thought into it.

  68. Kate C

    When I discovered that Santa wasn’t “real”, I told my mom. She then told me not to tell my grandmother, because she still believed.
    Now come forward in time to the last Christmas my grandmother had. I was living out of state from my family, but I bought them gifts and sent them…I picked out a bright fuchsia blouse (a color she hadn’t worn before). So on Christmas morning, Grandmom opened the box with the blouse and was very pleased. 2 or 3 gifts later, she opened a box from my mother…with a skirt that matched the blouse as if they had been bought together. Oh, I believe in Santa Claus, which is two words that essentially means “the spirit of giving”.
    When my kids were little, they were told “If you could only pick one present, what would it be?” and that was from Santa, always wrapped in “Santa” paper. The rest of the gifts were from their father and me.
    One of the “cheapest” Christmases I ever had was the year that I was living with my girlfriend and her boyfriend, and all of our kids. We took everyone to the dollar store and told them they had $10–$1 for each person. We also bought large bags and put the gifts into them. It was a lot of fun, seeing what was given–and there were no duplicates! Each person got 10 different items. So that cost about $150–for gifts for 11 people. And if I were starting out with kids now, I think I would do things more this way than the piles of toys they did get. (I blame the grandparents.)
    The cool part about Santa being the spirit of giving is that Santa is then available all year. Never about the amount spent, just the desire to gift someone with a present that shows you listen to them, you know the things they desire–and so you don’t give “useless” (or worse, “unusable”) items.
    May this season of giving hold the magic and wonder that we used to feel as a child…may your family create memories that will be remembered longer than the gifts…and may your house be filled with lights, music and love.

  69. Lynne

    I think two presents is enough. Something they want and something to read. They get things they need and and things to wear year round and don’t care if they get those kinds of gifts under the tree. Plus the Christmas stockings are always the most fun.

  70. MONIC


  71. Goldwave

    We had a fun tradition of handing off a very tacky pair of earrings (blue enamelled lips!) to another relative every year. Whoever got them that year had to wear them at least briefly. Part of the fun was disguising the earrings with deceptive packaging so no one could guess who was going to get them that year. After about 20 years apparently someone either lost them or “lost” them on purpose. :)

    Another thing we have done is bring items such as apparel that was still nice but which for whatever reason we weren’t using, to trade with relatives. These aren’t wrapped “gifts” per se, but it is a pretty cool way to get some new clothes, especially if your relatives are fashionable!

  72. Katie

    I really like this idea. It’s good too because once it’s a rule of thumb, the kids won’t build up their expectations to TV advert piles and piles of gifts.
    For any budding sewers out there, the £2.76 pyjamas I made this weekend could easily be made in children’s sizes.


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  75. Jasper Whiteside

    More often than not, Christmas is a stressful time for gift givers. Everyone wants to give a gift that means something. It’s such a good idea to limit how much you give, for all the reasons you listed. I especially like the idea to give something to read. I had thought of giving something to watch, a movie or tv series. But something to read seems healthier. How about something to do, like a board game that the whole family can share?

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