Will the 4 Gift Rule Work for Your Family this Christmas?

Every year, parents struggle deciding what to get their kids for Christmas. It can be challenging to find or even afford the ‘perfect’ gift. It can also be easy to lose sight of your budget when you’re out shopping. When that happens, you come home with considerably more than your kids need. I like the 4 gift rule for Christmas as a way to guide holiday shopping and saving money. Whether you’re on a budget or trying to discourage materialism in your family this holiday season, you should consider the four gift rule this Christmas.

The 4 gift rule has been circling the Internet the past few years. I do not know the origin but there are a few variations of it. The idea is that you buy your children no more than four gifts for Christmas to help simplify shopping and not overwhelm your children.

what is The 4 Gift Rule?


The four gift rule sounds difficult but it’s not. It makes shopping simple, and can keep you from overspending. Here’s how the 4 gift rule for Christmas works:

1. You buy something they want

2. You buy something they need

3. You buy them something to wear

4. You buy them something to read

That’s it. That’s all they get. It’s broad yet specific enough that your kids should receive most of the gifts they want without breaking your budget.

A note about older kids. If you’re considering the 4 gift rule for older kids this Christmas, you may encounter some disappointment, especially if they are used an abundance of gifts or have friends who will receive far more gifts than four under the tree.

However, you can use this as an opportunity to encourage thankfulness and help them understand the importance of living on a budget.

Help them see that you are still giving them something (up to four somethings, in fact). Explain to them that you are being responsible with your money so that you can help them later in life.

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Saving money now means you can help them pay for something like college or a car or other big ticket items they’ll appreciate more than junk they’ll end up giving away or throwing out.

The beauty of the four gift rule for Christmas is that you can modify it to fit your family. Gifts can get expensive, especially with older children. So, if you have multiple older children, don’t feel bad buying two gifts instead of four to fit your overall spending within your budget.

With that said, here are some examples of Christmas gift ideas for kids using the 4 gift rule.

4 gift rule ideas for kids


If you’ve always bought a lot of Christmas gifts for your children, narrowing down what to buy might be difficult. Below are four gift rule ideas for kids you can use for your family.

For Infants:


1. Something they want: A nice, wooden toy

2. Something they need: Put money in their investment accounts. Ally Invest is a great option if you don’t already have an account. Ally Invest offers custodial accounts and the lowest price in the industry – $4.95 per trade, with no minimum balance requirement.

3. Something to wear: A puppet or socks since they have so. many. clothes.

4. Something to read: Any book with something interactive in it. My son could watch me open and shut the little windows on Brown Bear, Brown Bear all day long.

For Toddlers:


1. Something they want: A play kitchen to use in their playroom

2. Something they need: A new coat and gloves or a big-kid bed

3. Something to wear: Dress-up clothes

4. Something to read: Something inspirational or memorable

**Related – check out Amazon’s 12 Days of Deals for deals on gifts for your family!**

For Older Children


1. Something they want: A new bike to ride around your neighborhood

2. Something they need: The musical instrument they’ve been practicing in school

3. Something to wear: The sneakers everyone has but you swore you wouldn’t buy

4. Something to read: An entire series they can enjoy during their winter break

The 4 gift rule for Christmas helps you stay on budget and still get your kids gifts that they want. Here's how the four gift rule can make shopping easy.

For Teenagers


1. Something they want: A cell phone so they can talk with their friends.

2. Something they need: A tablet or laptop for school.

3. Something to wear: A gift card to their favorite clothing store

4. Something to read: A new series, a magazine subscription (Amazon has some good ones to select) or a book related to their career aspirations.

If all else fails for a teenager, you can buy them an American Express gift card so they can pick out what they want.

You can also get them an experience through Living Social if you’d rather get them a memory than cash or something material.

Benefits of using the four gift rule for christmas


The main benefit of using the four gift rule for Christmas is that it makes shopping simpler, especially if you have a larger family. We find that having different categories to direct our shopping helps us buy items our kids will actually use and enjoy.

Another benefit of using the 4 gift rule is it that it makes receiving presents simpler for the child. If you have grandparents and other family members buying them presents, it’s easy for your children to become overwhelmed. Utilizing a system like the four gift rule cuts down on the presents, letting your child enjoy each one more.

The final benefit of the rule is straightforward – it saves you money in certain circumstances. Having a budget for holiday spending is great, but the 4 gift rule gives you a bigger reason to keep your spending in check.

However, if you don’t use either a budget or the four gift rule, it can be easy to overspend. Overspending means carrying debt into the new year.

Are We Using the Four Gift Rule?


Even though we’re just a few days away from Christmas, we still haven’t decided what we’re doing yet. (Thankfully there’s Amazon two-day shipping, amiright?

Also, If you like shopping on Amazon or other stores, make sure to use shopping portals like Ibotta or Swagbucks to get cash back (up to 10 percent in some categories) plus a free $10 just to start.)

It’s easy for us to have a small and frugal Christmas because our children are very young, and they won’t remember anything. They can’t even rip presents open, although they are extremely adept at trying to eat any kind of paper they can get their hands on.

One thing we have decided: we’re wrapping a few gifts they’ve received from friends and family. They were recently baptized and some people sent them gifts for that, so we’ll put those under the tree.

But as far as using the four gift rule ourselves, we’re still deciding if we should follow the rule or put the money in our children’s investment accounts instead. 

Bottom line


I’m starting to notice that kids get more expensive as they get older. However, you’ll also notice that outside of these four categories, there’s really not much else you would get your children.

The four gift rule not only covers all the bases, it also limits you from going over the top. The best part is that the 4 gift rule for Christmas still allows for some nice splurges, except they are focused on one or two items.

If you’re like me and love to shop on Amazon, or do the bulk of your shopping on Amazon, check out our guide on ways to save money on Amazon this Christmas to save even more money.

Please remember the above suggestions are merely options. You can customize the 4 gift rule to meet your budgetary needs and particular situation.



Would the 4 gift rule work for your family? Would your children revolt if you instituted the four gift rule this Christmas? Do you have a method you follow to stay within budget on your holiday spending?


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