The 4 Gift Christmas Challenge: Something They Want, Need, Wear, & Read

Here are 3 unexpected lessons I learned after taking the four gift Christmas challenge

This Christmas, we decided to try the four gift Christmas challenge: Something they want, something they need, something they wear, something they read. It was really fun and helped me dial in on what I’m doing with the hard-earned money we saved for Christmas. Somehow it always seems to flitter away.

Photo Credit: donnierayjones via Compfight cc

This year, however, it went differently.


What are the four gifts?

As I mentioned, the four gifts come from this saying:

Something they want,

Something they need,

Something they wear,

Something they read.

After searching around for the origin, I came up short, but I did discover that I’m not the only blogger taking a crack at this challenge.

Chrystie from Money Saving Sisters took the challenge in 2011 after showering her children with presents and discovering they couldn’t even remember what they got.

Christian speaker and author, Jen Hatmaker, said this after implementing the four gift rule in her own home:

“Friends and countrymen, we simply need to spend less on ourselves. There are plenty of practical reasons, like debt and financial strain and untold energy and stress.

Let’s give the gifts of time and experiences and our creative talents and words this year. They will last long after the electric griddle has been forgotten.”


Variations of the “4 Gift” Challenge:

There are as many Christmas traditions as there are families. You can give as many or few gifts to your kids as you want. The season of giving truly is what you make it. If this challenge interests you, then here are three variations to the four gifts that you can try, too:

  1. Gift #5 – Something to Share – Buy the children a gift they can share amongst themselves, like a board game or an activity set.
  2. Gift #5 – Something to Give – Shop with your children, helping them pick out a gift that they will give away to charity.
  3. Gift #5 – Something from Santa – Many families hold to the tradition of giving gifts “from Santa,” so this would allow you to participate in the challenge and still honor that tradition.


A Few Unexpected Lessons I Learned from the 4 Gift Challenge:

Now that I’ve gone through the challenge, myself, I’m pretty hooked. We didn’t do it as a way to shame ourselves or anyone else, but just as a way to make what money we have for presents go the farthest it can. Turns out I learned a few surprising things in the process:

1. It was hard to figure out what my children “wanted” 

It seemed like a given, but the most difficult gift for me to buy was “something they want.” That could be because my children are two and one, so they don’t fully understand what Christmas gifts are all about. I realized midway through this challenge that I didn’t do the best job at simply listening to my children.

Once I did that, I realized how much my daughter loved snipping tissue paper at craft time at the library. She spoke day and night about the little, purple scissors she used to make her crafts. I decided to buy her a pair of small scissors (you know, the kind at school that came pre-dulled?) and a special container where they’ll live safely. Turns out, this was the least expensive gift of the four!

2. The most expensive gift was homemade

I made a no-sew fleece blanket for my daughter last year and decided to make one for my son this time. I used this tutorial to make it (easy peasy!).

After buying all the materials, though, it ended up being the most expensive gift of his four. Go figure. It’s alright because I know this is something he’ll have for a long time and it was made with better quality fabric.

3. It made me wish I did this for myself occasionally

I believe these Christmas gifts will be more meaningful because of how intentional we were in selecting them. In fact, I felt a little jealous. It made me think twice about what I buy for myself with my budgeted fun money. I often put myself last when it comes to new clothing or books or fun, but to never cut loose and splurge isn’t right. I would never want my family to live that way, and I’m sure they don’t want that for me, either. Lesson learned.


Join the Discussion: There is a Mt. Everest sized heap of ways to celebrate the season of giving. What is one of your favorite Christmas traditions?


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