Our Thoughtful Five Gift Rule For Christmas

I love Christmas! The music, movies, decorations, and traditions are among my favorite parts of the season. A few years back, I shared one of our favorite traditions to kick off the season, Grinch Family Night. This, among our other activities, makes the whole season feel bright. Gift-giving is of course part of it, but we try to keep the faith-based and fun traditions as the main event.

We came up with the five gift rule about three years ago. I remember looking around the living room after all the presents had been opened and I realized it was just a hodgepodge of stuff. Even on a tight budget, we had not put much thought into what we were actually purchasing. Some items were just plain not interesting to our oldest.

I started reading through articles on minimal gift-giving and I came across four categories: want, wear, read, and need. We added a fifth category: activity. The categories make for a more thoughtful gift-giving process and it can be adapted for any budget.

Truthfully, the only challenging part is exercising my restraint when it comes to the five gift rule. So I try to keep in mind that they also receive Christmas presents from grandparents and godparents as well.

5 gift rule for Christmas giving

Our Thoughtful Five Gift Rule For Christmas


In truth, they receive two items from their want category, because Santa brings one and fills the stockings. For my children, it’s a toy. Last year my oldest received an outfit for her doll. It may seem like a small request, but she had been talking about it for months. She was never more thrilled to receive a gift!


I usually try to get something unique–not your typical shirt and leggings outfit. A few years back we purchased batgirl pajamas from Costco, complete with a cape. Those pajamas wound up being her favorite, and she wore them everywhere! One year was a My Little Pony jacket from Amazon, complete with wings and a mane. Last year I purchased unicorn jackets with sequin sleeves, and it was love at first sight!


This category is the hardest for me NOT to go overboard. We keep it at 2-3 books apiece. Basically whatever I can fit into a small box. Once Upon A Child is great for gentle used children’s books! The Book Rack in Davenport is another great spot. Costco has been a favorite for children’s books lately, and Barnes and Noble’s usually has some good promotions around the holidays.


When my girls were babies, this category usually meant sleep sacks and shampoos. Now it’s socks and underwear. I make it fun with character underwear and funky socks. Last year it was emojis, and this year it’s unicorns.


I added a fifth category to suit my daughters need for activity. This can be craft kits, puzzles, or game boards. Last year my oldest received the game Operation and my youngest got Mr. Bucket. We are a huge board game family, so these were the perfect gifts!

After almost four years of doing the five gift rule, I have learned a few things. My girls are not deprived. Christmas morning is always exciting and they have so much fun opening their presents. The categories make it easy to be intentional when selecting gifts. Not one item goes unused. They are grateful for every gift, because it was purchased with thoughtfulness, and it shows.

Do you have rules for presents? Have you tried minimalist gift-giving? What was your experience?


Nikki is new to the area. She graduated from the Western Illinois University-Quad Cities Campus in 2009 with a Bachelor's of Science in Elementary Education. She married her husband the same year. Nikki loved the creativity of teaching and continues to bring that same creativity as a stay at home mom. During the day you can find her chasing after her precocious toddler. By night she is a Pinterest junkie! She enjoys getting out and spending time with her family!


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