The Five Gift Rule| Learning to Minimize Excessive Holiday Spending


My husband and I were in a hard place financially last year around Christmas time. The bills exceeded our income. I had been home for a year caring for our one-year-old daughter who suffered from a chronic skin condition. My husband was working, but it was not enough to supplement all of our expenses. We did not have much money and I felt a lot of shame around not being able to give our daughter a BIG first Christmas. But then I heard about the Five Gift Rule on the radio and it changed my whole perspective on gift giving. It also helped our family create a new Christmas tradition that doesn’t involve spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on gifts for our child.

I was driving down a street lined with trees and sidewalks covered in white fluffy snow when I first heard of the Five Gift Rule. A lady on the radio was speaking about it; I turned the radio up to hear her more clearly. She described how it helped her minimize excessive spending during the holiday season. Every Christmas her children would receive 5 gifts- something to read, wear, share, need, and want. I thought to myself, “This woman is a genius.” I told my husband about it when I got home and asked if he’d be interested in making this part of our family Christmas tradition. He agreed.

Last Christmas, we ended up spending less than $60.00 on Grace. To be honest, she had everything she needed and now that I look back, I am glad we didn’t spend a substantial amount of money and send ourselves into further debt. I am glad we didn’t take the money for our light bill to buy gifts or rob Peter to pay Paul. Grace seemed to love the paper and boxes that the gifts were in, more than any of the gifts she received (with the exception of the puffs).

We live in a culture that is trying to constantly persuade us to shop and spend money excessively. Everytime I open my inbox to check emails, it is flooded with deals and advertisements. It is very tempting to spend money we do not have, but in the end it will only create more financial burdens for us. If you are a parent and you feel a lot of shame around not being able to buy your children a ton of gifts, or you’re a parent who’s trying to get out of the habit of spending excessivly during the holiday season, I invite you to participate in the Five Gift Rule tradition. Explain to your child(ren)what the tradition is and invite them to make a list based on the five categories.

The moment we start giving our children BIG Christmases, they will expect it every year. Don’t buy into the premise that Christmas is all about gifts. It is not! It is about creating memorable moments. Our kids will not remember the gifts. They will remember fun family traditions, love, music, gatherings, and food. They will remember the stories you tell. Tell your children about Jesus and the true meaning behind why we celebrate Christmas. Create moments that they will never forget, not by surrounding the Christmas tree with gifts, but by being present and exemplifying love and gratitude. And do yourself a favor and save MONEY!

Here is a recap of Christmas last year using the Five Gift Rule tradition:

  1. Something To Read– We purchased one pop-up book for Grace. She loves it! In fact, we read it last night and she was still just as intrigued by it as she was a year ago. This is a great opportunity to invest in an educational gift for your child to encourage him/her to read.
  2. Something To Wear- We bought Grace three new winter outfits. This second “Rule” is a great opportunity to buy pajamas, coats, socks, undergarments, hats, gloves, etc. Our children need these items anyway, so why not include them as a Christmas gift?
  3. Something To Share- We bought Grace a toy to share with friends when they visit for a play date. You can use this opportunity to buy a family game,  or a favorite movie, craft or toy that can be shared with others.
  4. Something Needed- We bought Grace new colorful bowls, toddler silverware, and a sippy cup. She was learning to eat on her own and we had a very limited amount of toddler friendly kitchen utensils. We still use the bowls and silverware today.
  5. Something Wanted- Last year Grace loved Sweet Potato Puffs. Her diet was very limited because of chronic eczema. Puffs were a delight and probably the sweetest snack she could eat. We bought her two containers of puffs and she loved them! What is one thing your child has been asking for this past month or year? Think about it and add it to the list. It can be an art set, video game, music, food, etc. If you have a child who can not articulate what they want, look out for the item they gravitate to the most and make a decision for them.

The Five Gift Rule makes it very easy to shop and save. This Christmas we are following this tradition again. I hope you’ll join in! Please let me know how it goes! Merry Christmas and happy holidays from the Jones family to you!

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