Minimizing Christmas Gifts while Maximizing our Memories

Once my kids were born all I wanted to do was give them magical holidays, which is probably why we ended up with a lack of structure around Christmas presents.

Looking back, I wish I’d reigned it in a bit and gotten them fewer gifts, focusing instead on what they truly would enjoy.

When my husband and I blended our families a few years ago, we quickly realized that Christmas gift-giving for all of our kids could not be a free-for-all. We knew we needed to be able to afford the holiday while also making it fair for all of the children.

I had heard of a concept of the four gifts: something they want, something they need, something they’ll wear and something to read. We decided that we’d implement that idea going forward to create consistency, to be practical and also to pinpoint a toy or gift that a child truly desired.

It’s been a way for the kids to clear up their lists, as well as to be more specific when they visit Santa. We can then budget accordingly and get better ideas of what to shop for too.

Minimizing Christmas while Maximizing our Memories

Something they Want

These are typically the easiest Christmas gifts to buy because it’s typically something at the top of their wish list. It doesn’t have to be expensive, nor does it have to be a physical item. We’ve had the kids ask to do something specific (trampoline park, dinner at a favorite restaurant, movie night, etc.) that is also an opportunity for a gift in this category.

Something they Need

This is where a big package of socks, underwear, a hat or hair accessories they’re lacking comes into play. One of my kids keeps losing her gloves so she’s likely to get a very large package of gloves from Amazon just for her to use. Another chews on her toothbrush, so she might be getting a package of fun toothbrushes just for her this year.

Something they’ll Wear

We started out getting each child a new outfit. The next year they all got robes. Now that they’re all in school, they’re quite picky about what clothing they wear! We could give them money to go shopping; however, we prefer to be imaginative when it comes to this gift selection. Some of them have their ears pierced so earrings are an option now, along with other jewelry or accessories they might have requested. Last year they all received new slippers and this year it might happen again since they’re all growing so quickly!

Something to Read

This gift has varied. For example, we’ve gotten the books where you can record your voice while reading it and this has been a treasured gift. One year we found children’s books where the main character had the same name as each child, which went over wonderfully! Amazon has been great for specialty items, but we also have seen great finds at stores like Burlington, Marshall’s or Gordman’s for the recordable books.

Minimizing Christmas while Maximizing our Memories

A Gift from Mom/Dad

We still wanted to have the opportunity to give each child a special gift just from us individually, respecting the blended dynamic we have. A very special Christmas gift that we added was a photo album. We select one for each child and print out hundreds of photos from the year that highlights that individual, and then slide each picture in the plastic pages. I give albums to my daughters and my husband gives albums to my stepdaughters. The kids seem to love this gift most of all because it is about them. They love to flip through them so much that they forget to open their other gifts. Throughout the year they beg us to sit with them to look through their albums so we can talk about the memories attached to the different photos.


We also put some small token items in their stockings; a couple of trinkets and candy are traditional.


Some kids get multiple Christmas gifts from Santa while others have all of their gifts come from him. We also recognize that some children receive nothing due to circumstances out of their control. Different families have different traditions or situations and we can’t compare ourselves to them. So to keep it simple, each child in our house gets one gift from Santa every year. It’s typically been a toy and generally one that they were able to tell Santa about and we just might happen to be in earshot each year for that moment.

By implementing this minimization plan, we felt it helped to keep the clutter (and cost) down, and the kids seem to enjoy being able to focus on and appreciate what they receive.

It might not work for everyone, but it has definitely worked for us! Happy Holidays!

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