The 5 Gift Rule for Christmas: Find Peace in the Holidays

Christmas is a fantastic time of year. It’s also the time of year that so many people spend so much money. The 5 gift rule for Chrismas is a great way to spend less, stress less, and celebrate more.

I’m sure you have heard of the 4 gift rule for Christmas, but we just felt that was a tad bit too limited. This is an idea that I discovered, and our family adopted it.

holiday printables

It’s worked well, and we’ve not only used it for our boys growing up but for our niece and nephew and now our granddaughter, who just turned one this year.

I love this idea for children specifically. We live in a culture of stuff. So much stuff that we don’t use, don’t want, and don’t need. Why not create new traditions with your family that focus on more than just things?


Here is the 4 gift rule for Christmas:

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

As said above, 4 gifts for Christmas ideas were a great starting point, but it needed a little tweaking.

There’s a fifth BONUS option that I had heard of – Someplace to be. You can either swap it out or call it, “The 5 Gift Rule for Christmas”.

What is the five gift Christmas rule?

It looks like this:

  1. Something they want.
  2. Something they need.
  3. something to wear.
  4. Something to read.
  5. Someplace to be.

Why would you adopt the five presents tradition for Christmas?

There are a number of reasons to start incorporating less into Christmas. Whether you believe in the traditional biblical meaning of Christmas or have adopted the modern contemporary form of the holiday, adding limits to what you can and cannot do will make for a better experience for everyone.

Overwhelmed by presents

I remember when my boys were little and all of the gifts. It would take so long to open every one of them that by the time they got done unwrapping, it wasn’t fun anymore.

When all they wanted to do was open one or two toys and then play, release them from all the pressure and let them play.

The cost of Christmas

Christmas is expensive. The statistics say that the average person spent $942 in 2019. That’s almost $1,000.

So, I’m estimating a family would spend $2,500 a year to buy all the gifts for each other, their children, and extended family.

The 5 gifts for Christmas rule would save money.

The stress of Christmas

You see it all the time on social media and you might also be posting it, feeling it, or living it; the stress of the holidays.

The feeling between Thanksgiving and Christmas (maybe even between Haloween and Christmas) where you’re trying to do it all; decorating, baking, shopping, cards, wrapping, movies, Christmas tree. Its all too much.

Having an excellent Christmas planner to help you have it all done by December first will help.

But what if you reassess what you’re buying and for whom? Could you pick names? Buy just for children and adults simply enjoy the time together?

Think of the time spent Christmas shopping and the other Christmas traditions waiting for you.

Could you buy less, enjoy more?


How to incorporate the 5 Gift Rule for Christmas

I am a HUGE lover of the holiday. And I am a giver – I love to give. But I’m also frugal. I like to find gifts for people that they can love and appreciate – things that mean something to them.

We as parents have never been one to give too much to the kids at Christmas.

It comes from a time when parents were always going overboard and then having to come up with too much money for layaway pick up or open another credit card just for gifts.

We decided that was not the experience we wanted for our boys.

So our gift-giving was scaled way back from what our past experiences were. It wasn’t until Grandparents showed up with two LARGE construction black bags FILLED with stuff for my littles that we knew there needed to be a different plan.

Something you want.

Something you want is pretty straight forward. Has your child wanted an American Girl doll for a year? Or an Xbox gaming system headset?

Also, there must be a budget attached to this. Whatever you decide because as children get older, the price tag on their wants get bigger. Gifts for older kids have bigger dollar signs.

Something you need.

Something you need could be new winter boots or underwear. It could be a new comforter for their bed or a new backpack.

If there isn’t anything that they need, it could be a new fishing pole or a book light. It’s always nice to feed their hobbies, and I always look for a way to give children something else to do besides looking at a screen.

Something to wear.

My boys always seem to need pajamas or warm clothes for winter, the joys of living in Upstate, NY. But this doesn’t have to be clothing. It can be a watch, headphones, slippers, a nice pair of earrings, or a wallet. Dress up clothes are another option, too.

Something to read.

How fantastic is this? It might be my favorite gift to buy everyone.

Picture books, early readers, chapter books, novels, and nonfiction and finally, as tastes change and people have very specific reading interests, gift cards to the book store.

Someplace to be.

This is where the five gift rule differs from the more well known four gift rule. This is all about the experiences.

Movie passes, membership to the science museums, a season pass to an amusement park, or tickets to a Yankees game are all great experiences.

However, depending on your budget, they might be as sweet as lunch out with your favorite parent, or pedicure are all a very good idea.


How to limit Christmas gifts.

I was able to convince the extended family to scale back. Honestly, nobody needed that much. My parents didn’t need to spend copious amounts of money on so much.

And my boys did not need so much. If you read my article about small house living, you know that we just don’t have room for so much.

Request the 5 gift rule for Christmas, birthdays, and any other holiday to your extended family with compassion and understanding, hoping that the family member understands the reason why.

How does Santa fit in with this rule?

This depends on you. Do you want to give one big gift from Santa or several gifts? Or incorporate the 4 gift rule or 5 gift rule from Santa separately?

And are you a family who does Santa or would rather celebrate the reason for the Christmas season instead?

We did 5 gifts from Santa. And Santa gifts were never wrapped.

How does this 5 gift rule apply to stockings?

We don’t apply this rule for stocking stuffers and here’s why. Most of the items in stockings are needed. Things like new toothbrushes and toothpaste, hair ties, socks all go into stockings.

We also put snacks like gum, pop tarts, and fluff (unique things with too much sugar that we don’t usually buy but are favorites) into stockings. Little items like key chains or leggo people may go in there as well.


How to handle entitlement at Christmas

If you’ve wanted to adopt this Christmas gift-giving idea but your children are used to getting much more, it can still be done.

But there needs to be a conversation with your children. Sitting down and talking about why you celebrate is very important.

Whether you lean into the religious reasons or the family traditions of the holiday season, understanding that its a time to celebrate with the ones you love does not have to revolve around who gets the most toys.

Focusing on what’s most important for your family is what matters the most.

And opening the conversation up to this option earlier than Christmas Eve will avoid awkward moments of surprise and disappointments from your kids on Christmas morning.

holiday printables

Final thoughts on the 5 gift rule for Christmas.

We have had success with the 5 gift rule for Christmas without our boys, then with our niece and nephew. Now, we are putting that into action with our brand new baby granddaughter.

It’s an excellent idea with so many fantastic opportunities to teach lessons of giving and gratitude.