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What is the 4 Gift Rule? (And Should You Try It?)

Gone are the days where parents buy their kids a million presents to sit under the Christmas tree. With kids wanting more expensive items, plus the fact that some abandon (or outgrow) their gifts after just a few short weeks or months, it’s becoming more and more valuable to take a minimalist approach when gifting. And that’s where the 4 gift rule comes in!

Related: 3 Good Reasons Not to Give Kids Too Many Presents

What is the 4 Gift Rule? (And Should You Try It?)

So what is the 4 gift rule, is it worth it, and is it worth trying out with your family? Let’s take a look and you decide!

4 gift ruleSaves Money

How does the 4 gift rule save you money?

It follows a simple plan, and you only have to remember the quick rhyme:

  • one thing they want,
  • one thing they need,
  • something to wear,
  • and one thing to read.

By only buying these four items, you are getting everything on your list without spending money on a bunch of random gifts.

So even if your kid wants a new game, needs school supplies, gets a coat, and has the new edition of Harry Potter, you’re likely to spend less than what you would if you bought from a 12 item wishlist.

Related: 8 Ways to Stay Out of Debt This Christmas

Decreases Stress Through Simplifying

Because everyone gets the same thing for Christmas (besides their want gift), you aren’t having to have a huge list of items that you need to buy.With this simplified approach to Christmas gifts, you aren’t stressing on making sure you’ve bought everything on your list. You’re also not stressing about how you can afford it all.

Great For Large Families

If you have more than two kids, it may get harder throughout the years to buy gifts for every single one without making the others feel left out. For example, while one child may get a few more smaller gifts than another because that child got a larger gift, one is bound to feel left out, even if it all works out to be the same amount of money spent.

With the 4 gift rule, everyone gets the same amount of items, and gets the one thing they want most on their Christmas wish list. No one has to feel left out, you don’t have to make sure it all adds up, and everyone is happy.

This also helps control clutter, keeps gift wrapping to a minimum, and helps the process of opening gifts just a bit faster. That way, you can spend MORE time with your family and LESS time making sure everyone has opened every single gift.

Gives A Variety of Items

If you think the 4 gift rule means you are limited to four specific items, you’re wrong. In the want and need categories, every person will be different. I may want a new phone, but my husband will probably want the new game console. And my daughter may want a new doll. This shows that you can still have variety every year, without going overboard.

The 4 gift rule is simple, but it isn’t lacking in the variety department. Everyone is different, so your gifting will look different based on your family and their wants/needs.

Related: 5 Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas 

Helps Encourage Gratification

When children (or even adults) are only receiving what is truly important, they are more than likely to take better care of it. Instead of getting bored of the many toys they receive every year, kids will dote on the one toy they got, because it’s what they really wanted.

You could also use this rule as a lesson. You could show your kids that there are kids out there that receive very little (if any) gifts for Christmas. Even though they may only be receiving four gifts, they are getting the most important ones, and they are receiving them out of love. If that doesn’t encourage gratification, I don’t know what would.

So why should you try the 4 gift rule? Well, if the points above don’t convince you, how about the really simple point of Christmas is about love and family, not gifts? The 4 gift rule is a great way to add more time to your family, less worry, more savings, and more gratitude. Christmas isn’t about the gifts, it’s about your family, and the 4 gift rule allows you to focus on that.

What do you think? Will you be trying the 4 gift rule this Christmas?

Money Save Money

AUTHOR Derek Sall

Derek has a Bachelor's degree in Finance and a Master's in Business. As a finance manager in the corporate world, he regularly identified and solved problems at the C-suite level. Today, Derek isn't interested in helping big companies. Instead, he's helping individuals win financially--one email, one article, one person at a time.


  1. I do this, but sometimes I changed something to wear to something to do.
    Also, one of these gifts was a small stocking gift, so there were only three gifts under the tree!

    • I love the idea! When our kids are a little older, I think we’ll institute it for them for sure.

  2. I like this idea, but I don’t know that I could carry it out….there seems to be something that always gets added to the list…for example…I didn’t get a “list” from my daughter this year until I had already purchased (online) stuff for her…then still wanted to get her stuff from her list..and being disabled, I have to purchase online…and returning is not easy either…
    I love the idea for those it works for…

    • Hey, do what works for you! This is just one idea of many! Thanks for the comment, Ann!

  3. Oh Derek, what a GREAT article and now is the time to make Holiday gift giving decisions. I make purchases thru the year whenever I find a good sale, put it in the gift closet to avoid the last minute stress and spending. I didn’t apply this rule in my home. But I would looking back. We FILLED the Den with gifts for our only daughter. Big time. My Grandmother, born in 1900 always said we are happier when we are wanting for something. Was she ever right! And I should’ve taken her wise advice 🙂 FOUR Derek , FOUR LOL

    • Lol. Love it. Thanks for the comment, Jennifer!

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