Minimize Your Holiday Gift Giving with the 4 Gift Method

Does your family go overboard on gifts and are you ready to minimize materialism? Using the 4 gift method each Christmas has helped us save money for the holidays, get cool gifts that the kids want, and keep the house less cluttered!

I remember sitting around the Christmas tree one morning a few years ago just so excited for my (future) stepson to open his presents covered in Paw Patrol wrapping paper.

It was the first Christmas I was dating my boyfriend (now husband) and really wanted his son to like me. I wanted him to have a lot of gifts to open and think that I was just the best.

I had gone to Five and Below because I still wanted to stay relatively on budget, and left spending WAY more than I meant to. But to me, it was all worth it.

This 5-year-old would have more gifts to open than he could even imagine and I would be the “winner of Christmas”.

minimize holiday gifts

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Minutes later, wrapping paper strewn all over the floor, it looked like a tornado had hit our living room. He was excited about the number of gifts, said ‘thank you’, and went to play with a toy.

Weeks later, one-third of those cheap toys had broken or lost pieces, another third were still unopened and the last third was still getting played with.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Why do we feel like we are the best when we can give a lot to our children and those in our lives.

Now don’t get me wrong, my love language is gift-giving (and if you don’t know your children’s love language, you NEED to read this book! It’s helped me a ton to connect with my kids the way they receive love). I LOVE to show people appreciation by giving them gifts but one thing I have learned the past few years, at the expense of my wallet, is that the QUALITY of gifts matters much more than the QUANTITY.


Once we decided we were going to grow our family, me and my husband had a sit-down. We decided that we wanted to return to Christmas being about Christ and not the stuff.

The trouble was… all of the people that we celebrated with were used to massive gift-giving. How would we tell a then 7-year old that instead of getting his typical gifts, he was only going to get 4 gifts from Santa? How could we actually explain that without giving away the truth behind Santa? Would he be disappointed? Would it put a damper on Christmas?

Instead of making a huge deal over fewer gifts, we decided to have a talk with him about what Santa was planning on bringing and how he made his Christmas list.

We told him that Santa wanted him to fill out this specific wish list so that Santa could bring him the stuff he actually needed. Our conversation was about how Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and not the gifts and Santa wanted him to remember that.

And though I could see the confusion in his face about why things were changing, in my heart I knew we were doing the right thing. Kids already have so many things, and as they get older those gifts to add up and get more expensive.

On top of it, between other family members giving him gifts, I knew he’d have plenty of gifts to open come Christmas morning. I decided to drop my ‘mom guilt’ and take charge of the excessive spending that I had previously been doing during the holidays.

Christmas Lists for Little Kids

Now that 4 gifts are our norm for Christmas, it doesn’t seem strange to any of us. We’ve been able to start the other kids from birth just expecting the 4 gifts (and they are still too young to have any clue what is actually going on).

I know that by doing this, we will help them grow an appreciation for their material things, really think about what they want instead of making a list of random things they have heard friends talk about or see on TV, and limit the amount of clutter, unplayed toys, mess and debt that is in our day to day life.

The 4 Gifts Method

What are the gifts that they actually get on Christmas? We’ve given them the option of 4 things to ask for…

Something they want

Something they need

Something to wear

Something to read

We have them fill out a chart (and you can download yours at the bottom below) as their ‘letter to Santa’. It gives them ownership to really think about what they want, help us make sure the gifts we are giving them are things they actually are wanting, and helps them start to think about needs vs. wants.

Some examples of these types of gifts would be:

Something they want: Lego Set, Cars, Dolls, etc…

Something they need: Learning Toys, Sports Equipment, etc…

Something to wear: Sneakers, Christmas Pajamas, Clothes they have been asking for, etc…

Something to read: books, graphics novels, etc…

I want to note that we do also fill up their stocking with smaller things like craft supplies, tiny Lego or cars, and some candy.

These things are extra and only cost around $10 in total. Not only have we been able to teach them valuable lessons about materialism during the holidays but we’ve also been able to SLASH your spending during the holidays.

What do you and your family do for gifts? Do you have any sort of theme? Post in the comments how you shop for Christmas and if you want to download a “Dear Santa” list for your kids to try this year, just drop your email and I’ll send your download right over!

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