Release yourself from the stress of the Holidays by using the 4-Gift Rule. If you are tired of overspending for Christmas and tired of the stress and burden that comes with it; you’ll appreciate this rule and the helpful tips that help lead to financial freedom and less stress. To learn more, continue to read to get the specifications of the rules, as well as learn the six advantages to incorporating this rule into your Christmas family tradition.
Over-Commercialization of Holidays
During the Holiday Season of my parents usually visit us from Louisiana. I always try to make sure our time together during the holidays is memorable and special. Particularly during Christmas, I try to ensure that my children and my nieces and nephew understand the true importance of Christmas. It’s not the toys and gifts –the commercialization of it all — but the acknowledgement of the actual season and our relationships.
It completely chaps my hide when I walk into a store at the end of August/September and there is an inflatable witch or grim reaper standing toe to toe with Santa Clause; which is what I encountered last year, while I was shopping for school supplies for my daughter.
In my opinion, all the holidays have just become too commercialized. We cannot allow ourselves to be so easily sucked into this. Though this year (like last year) I do actually understand the need for the normalcy and familiarity that the holidays bring.
Tis not the season
Usually, however, I prefer to celebrate and acknowledge the season in that season. Not before…not after. I always tell my daughter, I don’t want to hear a jingle or a bell until after Thanksgiving. She has a tendency to just break out into song with some Christmas jingle in the middle of July. It always sends some kind of shock through me.
I think it’s because there is a certain level of anxiousness associated with the holiday season. And as much as you try to avoid it, sometimes it seems to be unavoidable. So I have tried to take active and intentional measures to help myself, my family, and others avoid the unnecessary stressors that come with Christmas.
The 4-Gift Rule
To release myself from the stress of the holidays, one of the practices that I have taken on, I actually found on Pinterest last Christmas. It’s called the 4-Gift Rule.
The concept of the 4-GIft Rule is…ONLY 4 gifts can be bought…period. This includes gifts from family members (to include grandparents). If other family members are planning to give to your children at Christmas, make them aware of your rule and ask them to contribute to one of the four gifts. Or, they can put the money they would have spent on a gift towards your child’s savings account.
There is not necessarily a price limit suggested; but the hope is the number of gifts received will take away from the frivolous spending so many families experience during the holidays, as well as the sense of entitlement that some children may have associated with Christmas.
Though the rule does not give specific guidance on budgeting parameters, the limiting of gifts should positively affect your budget tremendously.
Why Consider the 4-Gift Rule?
Instill Family Values
Am I suggesting the 4-GIft Rule to say that children don’t deserve anything for Christmas? Absolutely not; but I do believe that children should learn very early on the hard work that parents put in DAILY to provide for their families…not just at Christmas. If children are to understand the value parents bring into the home, it must be modeled and taught.
However, some parents put so much hope or belief in their children about someone else providing them with gifts, children develop unrealistic goals and expectations surrounding both Christmas and money. It is my opinion that most parents work too hard to provide for their children to allow anyone else (especially imaginary) to take that much credit.
Yes, I do acknowledge the big chubby fella in the red suit as a character for Christmas; but I don’t give him sovereignty. No, he can’t get everything; so don’t try or think that you can or need to. Shift the focus away from buying and spending money, and focus on more important things like time together as a family. This will hopefully take the undue pressure and stress off parents to get children more than what they need, will play with, or actually deserve.
Eliminate Pressure and Future Problems
Don’t feel pressure to keep up with the Jones’. You don’t have to buy your child the latest phone, tablet, or game just because your overbearing friend (who makes it a point to tell you EVERYTHING they just got for their child) did. You only have to buy those things if they are an absolute need for your child. Ask yourself the questions, “Will buying this increase my child’s performance or productivity. Is my child mature enough to handle the responsibility.”
If you know or feel that purchasing a certain item(s) is only going to create problems and trouble for your child; OR, cause you anger and frustration, or a major depletion in your household funds…do yourself and your children a favor… DON’T DO IT. Let wisdom and history be your guide. Know your child…yourself…and your limits.
6 Advantages of the 4-Gift Rule
Now, I know I’ve talked a lot about how the 4-Gift Rule can help to save money during the holidays, but the main emphasis I offer is the lessening of stress. I distinguish this difference because when we first incorporated the 4-Gift Rule for my family, we did buy some high dollar items; one for each of our children.
For my son, we purchased an $800 MACBook. This, for him, was one of the best investments we could have made. That MACBook to this day is his lifeline. At the time, he was a mass communications major in college, and the MACBook allowed him better editing capabilities for his classes. Of course, MAC is a product of Apple, so he had the advantage and convenience of all his work syncing to his other devices. And now, since he has graduated, he continues to use the MACBook for his current ventures.
2. Intentional Engagement and Appreciation
My daughter wanted a Barbie Dream House. I’m not quite sure if you know, but Barbie has a whole lot more than a dream these days. Barbie has a 3-story house, with an elevator and a slide that comes from the 3rd floor… down to the 2nd floor pool. The Barbie Dream House costs a little over $300. The thought of even putting it together was overwhelming (so I had someone else do it); but, my daughter LOVED IT! Even though it’s been a couple of years, she still plays with it. Now, we just add new dolls and accessories.
We try to only get our daughter toys that she can play with alone, or that we can make into family games. In my opinion, it’s not a good idea to buy toys that children can only play with other children who don’t visit regularly, or toys that parents are not willing to occasionally play with their children. Those toys end up being the ones we grow frustrated with because they never play with them and become a waste of money. The 4-Gift Rule helps to avoid this tendency. Engagement remains active and intentional, and there seems to be a greater sense of appreciation.
3. Need Focused
The MACBook and the Barbie Dream House were my children’s one big ticket item, but they also met and focused on their individual needs. Though my son’s gift was about $500 more, he is 12 years older than his sister, and their needs are very different from each other. This should be considered as you make the decisions for your family.
The 4-Gift Rule helped to bring the focus. With only four gifts, my children didn’t become overwhelmed with what to give their attention. They were able to receive what they asked for because their request was not competing with a long list of other requests. When they weren’t exploring their special new gift, they were fully engaged with the needs of the family.
- 4. Less Stress and More Quality Time
I was relieved by the amount of stress I released during the holidays just by not having to run around town like a crazy woman, or spend all of my time online trying to surround the tree with gifts. It’s easy just to focus on the four gifts, especially because they are in categories. The 4-Gift Rule eliminates the stress of gift-getting. It also provides a level of financial freedom; because, remember, there is life after Christmas. We can’t get so consumed with spending and getting for ONE DAY that we spend the entire next year (or more) paying off the debt associated with it.
Once my family incorporated the 4-Gift Rule, there was more in the budget for other noteworthy experiences and adventures for the whole family during the holidays. Let’s be honest, most gifts will fade or be outgrown in just the next season (3 months); but experiences and memories will last a lifetime.
5. Open Communication
The children know in advance what the rules are and have full right to discuss what they would like to include in those four categories. Parents should be honest about the feasibility of getting the child their wishes on the list. Parents, if it doesn’t work for your budget, or the needs of your child, don’t agree to it. Again, though the rule does not give specific guidance on budgeting limits, the limit in the number of gifts should help to decrease spending significantly.
Set Additional Limits If Needed
And even if sometimes it does work with your budget, is it something that you feel your child needs with regard for the values you are instilling into your child and family?
For example, one year my son wanted a new gaming system that was $600. I couldn’t fathom it. He had expressed several times that he wanted it, and there was something in me that wanted to get it; but there was another part of me that was saying, “This is too expensive for a child his age.” So, I said, “No.”
However, the “Grandparents Club” was trying to come together to get their baby this $600 game. I had to explain to them…it wasn’t a matter of not affording the game…it was the principle. Bottom line, I didn’t get it, and I didn’t allow the grandparents to get it either. If they had $600 to spare, they could pay for after-school care and school lunch. What a blessing that would be.
Yes, a part of me felt bad about it. But guess what??? The next year, there was a new gaming system out. My point…we can’t continue to let every upgrade that comes out pull us and convince us into new cycles of sacrifice and debt. Set limits for your children and for yourself.
Open communication helps establish boundaries, cushions the budget, and also helps alleviate disappointments; which is addressed next.
6. Fewer Disappointments
The 4-Gift Rule actually can help cut down disappointment and attitudes surrounding gifts. It usually never fails that someone is not completely happy with what they received on Christmas Day. The 4-Gift Rule gives room to that one special gift that the child can’t live without. The other 3 gifts have flexibility and some leeway.
I will never forget when I was 5th grade, my mother had been laid off from work. The company she had worked for since I was in kindergarten had moved to Houston and she decided not to move with them. Things were tight on my dad’s once-a-month teacher/coaching salary. However, I didn’t know that. I was a child…oblivious to the burdens and/or responsibilities of providing for a family.
That Christmas, I remember having a Pee Wee Herman bike (anyone remember that?) and several other items on my Christmas list. I was sure I was going to get everything, because my mom was a very good gift-giver. However, I woke up on Christmas morning to only a bike in front of the tree. Yes, I wanted the bike, but where was all the other stuff? What had happened? Had I been naughty? Had I been forgotten?
I remember distinctly having THE WORST attitude that Christmas Day and in the days to come. My mother was already acting differently and now she had completely just downplayed Christmas.
It would be years later that I would learn what really happened. As previously mentioned, open communication could have helped with this.
Truth & Transparency Can Offer Freedom
To this day my mother and I disagree about her not just coming out and having an honest conversation with me about what our family was experiencing. Had I known that she had been laid off from her job, AND if I had known that SHE was actually responsible for providing the gifts, I could have given a measure of grace for not getting those other things I wanted. Honestly, I would have been PERFECTLY CONTENT with just that bike.
Oftentimes, we tend to follow the traditions set before us by our families or society, to dictate our practices and behaviors. We go along to get along, even if certain beliefs and systems don’t speak to what we actually believe or value. This can even be true to our beliefs and traditions surrounding Christmas.
My reason for being so honest with my children about Santa (and you can disagree with me if you’d like) is because of what happened between my mother and I on that one Christmas when I was 10-years-old. I don’t my mother realizes just how much that event affected me.
If We’re Honest
Sometimes those fictional beliefs that we instill in our children have an adverse (hidden) affect on their self-esteem; especially for the family who can’t afford it.
Consider what happens when what your child wants…doesn’t fit into your budget. BUT, the child down the street gets that very item; contrary to the child’s given behaviors. If your child has been on the “good list” but still didn’t get something they asked for, he or she could believe…maybe they just aren’t good enough. We know this is not true.
Don’t allow your child to create this narrative in their head. Just speak the truth and this can be avoided. It can save you money now…and save your child money needing to hire a therapist for this underlying trauma in the future.
I’m just trying to help you out…
By providing this simple tip of the 4-Gift Rule, I’m hoping to save others the mental stress and financial burden associated with the Holidays. If you’ve experienced this stress, I strongly recommend giving the 4-Gift Rule a try. I believe it will free your mind and attention in a way you’ve never experienced before.
Try it and let me know what you think. And if you are a grandparent…PLEASE FOLLOW THE RULES. You’ll have much more appreciative grandchildren if you do so. Ones you’ll be glad to babysit, as well as afford.
The last couple of years have been stressful enough. Let’s end this year’s narrative on our own terms, by removing the stress of the Holidays and enjoying the loved ones we’ve been blessed to survive this year with. Let’s go into the New Year fresh, stress-free, AND with some extra cash, because of the debt we avoided by not overspending during the Holidays.
Just think of it…with the money you’ll save and with the re-established values put around Christmas…maybe you’ll have a little extra money to help someone a little less fortunate than you. Don’t forget to include your children in understanding the importance of charity too. They’ll be better people because of it. You can thank me later. ~Dawn~
For more like this…
Thank you for taking the time to read and hear my thoughts and my experiences. I hope you have found this content helpful. For more helpful tips like this one, check out my 7 Steps to NOT Spend Your Entire Day Cleaning. It’s sure to bring you and/or your family some freedom to do other things.
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