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Just Three Christmas Gifts for Kids?

Christmas gifts for kids

Why some families are scaling back on Christmas gifts for kids

Until recently, the “perfect” Christmas included a beautiful tree overflowing with Christmas gifts for kids. Parents attempted to get every single item off their children’s  wish lists -- from bikes and gaming consoles to the trendiest boots and the hottest toy of the year.

And that means that in the run up to the holiday, parents spend hours -- and dollars -- in a frantic rush to get all those gifts. By Dec. 25, they are wrung out as their kids unwrap the presents and, often promptly forget about all but a few of their new toys and gear.

But, in recent years, more families are attempting a scaled-back Christmas, celebrating the season without a pile of presents. To do it, they’re instituting the three Christmas gifts for kids rule, reducing the gifts they give, but not the memories they make.

For families with small budgets -- and big financial goals that involve saving, not spending -- these approaches can be a lifesaver during the holiday season. After all, according to the American Research Group, Americans expect to spend an average of nearly $1,000 on gifts this year.

So, is a holiday with less emphasis on gift getting right for your family? Let’s take a look.

What is the three Christmas gifts for kids rule?

The three-gift Christmas gifts for kids concept started popping up in popular media and blogs around 2013 or so, though it’s been followed for much longer than that.

For families who practice the rule, here’s how it works. They give kids:

  • Something they want
  • Something they need
  • Something they can read
  • Some families have added a fourth gift, getting kids something to wear as well.

That’s it. Parents purchase only those three (or four) gifts for their kids to put under the tree.

Why do people do it?

Some take their cues from the Three Wise Men who, according to the Bible, brought baby Jesus three gifts -- gold, frankincense and myrrh. For others, there’s no religious meaning to the approach. It’s just an attempt to cut the materialism out of the season.

Glennon Doyle, the popular author of “Love Warrior,” said in an article for NBC’s Today that she was “scrambling” too much during the holidays and not truly enjoying them. That’s why she instituted the rule.

“My kids weren’t even asking for things that they wanted. It was just whatever the commercial was that told them that they should want that thing,” Doyle told Today. “All those gifts just end up in the donation pile or in the trash anyway. That gift rush in the morning is like a sugar rush. It’s awesome for five minutes and then it’s over.”

How do you do it?

Let’s be honest: This approach will be much easier to launch if your kids are very young and have few memories of past Christmases with a clutter of gifts under the tree.

If your kids are older, and already have a Christmas wish list with 127 items, it might be a bit trickier. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it -- or that their holiday will be ruined if there isn’t a bunch of presents under the tree.

Instead, talk to them about your own financial goals and how meeting them will help the entire family. Are you working, for instance, to save money to make a down payment on a home or to buy a more reliable car or to save for your retirement or their college fund or to take a dream vacation?

Those are all worthwhile aims with longer lasting benefits than the rush of seeing and opening some presents under the Christmas tree. And helping kids understand financial health might be the best Christmas gift of all.

Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit committed to empowering and inspiring consumers nationwide to make wise financial decisions and live debt free. Speak with a certified counselor for a free debt analysis today.



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