Ah, Christmas! The season of giving! The season of joy! The season of sugar plums (and scooters, video game systems, cell phones, and lifesize Barbie Jeeps) dancing in children’s heads!

There’s so much magic in the holiday season and as parents we love keeping that magic alive for our children. We remember what it was like when we were young, and with the year these children have had, we want to make this season extra special. That doesn’t mean we can break the bank for gifts though and we’d also like to avoid a season of gimme, gimme, gimme!

So what can we do to find balance and keep your children’s gift expectations in check? Try the five gift rule to keep the holiday season holly, jolly, and reasonable.


What is the five gift rule?

The five gift rule has become popular among families who are trying to manage holiday gift overload. The rule goes like this, each child gets five gifts total, one from each of the following five categories: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read, and something homemade.

“Want” is probably the winner in terms of favorite gift of the year, but you can make the “need,” “wear,” “read,” and “homemade” gifts really fun too! “Need” could be a bathrobe with a fun cartoon character on it and “wear” might be a sweatshirt with their favorite baseball team. “Read” could be a book celebrating their latest obsession with dinosaurs and “homemade” might be a special ornament for the Christmas tree or a box of homemade candy. 

There are various ways to put the five gift rule into practice too. The five gifts could be just for the children from parents and then siblings then each buy one additional gift for one another. Or, siblings could each pick one of the five categories of gifts to give each other. You may even want to implement this rule for you and your partner and your children can help out with the shopping. 


Why the five gift rule works

The five gift rule has several benefits.

1. With clear gifting categories, shopping gets a lot less complicated. It’s like a holiday shopping paint by number!

2. Children go into Christmas excited about a gift they really want without expecting there to be hundreds of presents under the tree. Clear expectations go a long way.

3. You can save a lot of money on presents if you stick to five gifts and that money can be saved for other expenses. If you have a set Christmas budget, make sure your family knows about it too. That can be a big help with expectation setting and avoiding disappointment.

4. With just five gifts each you don’t spend all day opening presents! Enjoy Christmas day as a family celebrating your time together and really enjoying the gifts you received. 


What about Santa?

Santa might have magic but even the big guy in red doesn’t have unlimited funds. To get Santa in on the five gift rule, encourage children to ask Santa for the “something you want” from their list. Or, maybe Santa isn’t included in the five gift count. Of course, that’s up to you!

However, encourage your children to ask for just one gift from Santa instead of sending a color coded itemized list. This puts the gimmes in check, and reminds little ones that there are millions of children around the world who might also like a toy for Christmas. Santa only has so much room in the sleigh and it’s the season of giving after all. Thinking about others is the name of the game!

Happy holidays to you and your family from us at Sawyer!