Want Need Wear Read: What is the 4 Gift Rule?

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The holiday season is always a challenge for those of us intent on simplifying our lives.

If you are a minimalist parent, or just don’t like the excess that surrounds this time of year, here is a simple concept that could make your holiday season a whole lot easier.

Pair of hand holding a gift with Christmas ornaments around it

Want Need Wear Read: How does it work?

These four words are the simplified version of the 4 gift rule for Christmas which goes like this:

Something they want,
Something they need,
Something to wear,
Something to read.

The basic premise is that you give your children just four gifts

Something they want: this could be a toy or game that they’ve asked for. It might be a high-quality item and could even cost a bit of money.

The idea is you’re only buying them one main gift in the ‘something they want’ category so you can spend a little more for something they’ll truly treasure.

I love this concept because it helps my kids understand that they can’t have everything they want but they can have a few special things.

It also means they have to decide to eliminate some items they’d like in favor of the one special gift they’d love. That’s a pretty good intro to living intentionally, I reckon.

Something they need: oh gosh I love this one. This is where I buy them a new lunchbox, backpack, or water bottle, maybe an electric toothbrush or another item that needs replacing.

The speed at which my 6-year-old is going through school shoes, that’ll be his ‘need’ gift this year. 

In my house, if the kids need anything from mid-November onwards, we make do until they get it under the tree on Christmas day.

(My mum thinks I’m a total scrooge for doing this but my kids get more joy out of ripping open wrapping paper than they do from what’s inside it).

Something to wear: A practical but fun item of clothing like rainboots, sunhats, or anything else they’ll like and use.

Something to read: Again, this can be a treasured gift especially if we’re trying to raise children who love to read.

My eldest has just discovered the joy of chapter books so he’ll probably get a set of readers and my youngest will be over the moon with a dinosaur book. 

But what about the grandparents?

My parents have slowly come to understand how we choose to live and now respect that decision. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to spoil their grandkids. 

My rule is this: if they want to give my kids big gifts, they will remain at their house to be played with when the kids visit.

Since my parents don’t like living in clutter any more than I do, this has helped guide them towards more compact gifts (lego, toy cars, dinosaurs, art supplies) or consumable gifts (sweets being the main one).

I recommend talking with family before the holiday season begins.

Suggest gifts that you would like them to give to your children, or suggest a voucher or gift card for an experience. Maybe day passes for the local zoo or theme park. 

Talking it through and explaining your reasoning should help your family understand your viewpoint.

And if it doesn’t, just tell them to keep the toys at their house. It works for me!


Christmas gifts on snow_Want Need Wear Read What is the 4 Gift Rule

About Emma Healey

Emma is a recognised family finance and budgeting expert and founder of Mum's Money. Her advice has been featured in Stuff, NZHerald, Readers Digest, Yahoo Finance, Lifehacker, The Simple Dollar, MSN Money and more.