How You Can Use the 4 Gift Rule This Christmas

Have you heard of the 4 gift rule for Christmas? Unsure what it means? Discover how to use the 4 gift rule this Christmas with our guide. Read now.
Amabel Polglase
December 16, 2022
min read
In this article, you'll find: 

Gift buying is never particularly easy, especially when it comes to kids. The 4 gift rule is an excellent solution.

Maybe you’ve heard of the 4 gift rule, or even know a family that practices it. As we’ll explain in this article, it has many practical advantages.

As you might have guessed, it ensures that each child gets the same number of gifts. It also helps teach them that they can’t always have everything they want, and inspire them to think about what they really need. (Two lessons that will serve them well as adults.)

And it helps prevent you from overspending on Christmas gifts that your children might well forget about before long anyway.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about the 4 gift rule, and help you give more meaningfully at Christmas.

What is the 4 Gift Rule (Want, Need, Wear, Read)?

The 4 gift rule is very simple: you get each of your children something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

Depending on your kid’s age, you might ask for their input on some or all of these gifts, or you might choose them all yourself.

Now we’ll go into more detail about each of the four gifts.

1. Something They Want

Pretty self-explanatory — ask your child what they want. This will usually be the ‘big’ gift that they’ve been talking about a lot.

Ideally, ask them for multiple options, so finally opening the gift will be a bit of a surprise for them.

2. Something They Need

Again, you can ask your child what they need, or choose something you already know they need, like a new wallet, phone, or perfume.

If your child is too young to realistically decide what they need, you’re the best person to judge.

3. Something To Wear

Depending on your price range, this could be something more reasonably priced, like new socks or a jumper, or something a little more extravagant, like a new coat, trainers or swanky boots.

4. Something To Read

If you’re lucky enough, this gift might well overlap with gift 1, in which case you’ll treat them to even more books. (But we realise this is probably not a realistic scenario for most kids!)

In any case, since books generally aren’t too expensive, it would be nice to get your child more than one book, like The Hunger Games series, or multiple books by their favourite author.

This gift is especially important for younger children, to help instil in them the value of reading.

Examples of the 4 gift rule 

Now let’s cover some examples of the 4 gift rule in action, covering a young child and a teenager.

Young child

Want: Dollhouse, new bike, Lego set, remote control car

Need: Bike helmet, fun new bedding, art supplies

Wear: New coat, shoes, hat, pyjamas

Read: Picture books, Dr. Seuss books, activity or interactive books


Want: New video game system, drone, smartphone, concert tickets

Need: New headphones, hairdryer, laptop or tablet, new glasses

Wear: Sports kit, jewellery, jeans, clothing store gift card

Read: Graphic novels, fictions series, biographies, magazine subscription

Why does the 4 gift rule work so well?

As we said above, the 4 gift rules is great because it helps teach children that they can’t always have everything they want, and helps them to focus on things they actually need. 

It also teaches them about sustainability — since you’re not buying anything in excess, meaningful gift giving, and gratitude — since they’ll get gifts they’ll really appreciate. And again, also makes sure each child gets the same number of gifts, saving you the headache of deciding how many presents to get for each child this Christmas.

Is the 4 gift rule for adults as well as children?

Of course! The 4 gift rule is absolutely as meaningful for adults as it is for children. The adults in your family and friendship group could all agree to follow it.

It’s also something you can teach your teenager if they’re starting to buy and give their own gifts. In fact, if they’re starting to save money themselves, this guide should help them.

Setting a budget for Christmas

Setting a budget for Christmas is important, whether or not you plan on following the 4 gift rule. HyperJar’s Jars are a good way to way to stick to a budget because they let you divide all of your Christmas obligations and necessities into different pots, transfer the amount you want to spend on each category into them, and spend directly from them.

You could set up Jars for each category of the 4 gift rule, for instance. Your balances will adjust in real-time, making your holiday spending easy to track. To help you ensure that you have budgeted for all Christmas expenses, make sure you check out our Christmas preparation planner.

Next steps

We hope you give the 4 gift rule a shot, and that you find it as useful and rewarding as I have.

And if you fancy learning some more ways to spend wisely on Christmas, here’s a post on saving money for Christmas, and one on cheap but thoughtful Christmas gifts.

Amabel Polglase

Chief Marketing Officer

Amabel has diverse experience in business, marketing and entrepreneurship, including founding her own successful startup. She served in several senior leadership roles prior to joining HyperJar including Zilch and Curve Card where she led brand, marketing and communications. Before joining the fintech revolution, Amabel was a managing global client partner at Facebook and prior to that at McCann-Erickson, the world’s largest ad network. She volunteers at Girls Out Loud, a charity created to empower and inspire teenage girls, and is also a mentor at The Girls’ Network. She received her MA in history and international relations from the University of St Andrews.

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