Why My Kids Only Get 3 Gifts For Christmas…

I absolutely LOVE Christmas time. Yes, I am one of those crazy Christmas decorators who have their decorations up before Thanksgiving (gasp … another elf apparently bites the dust). I love everything that the holiday season brings to my family and having decorations around just makes me HAPPY! Shoot, I’d have that beautiful lit tree up all year long if I wasn’t such a clutter freak. Celebrating Christmas with all the wonderful components of it (baking, decorating, gift giving, spending time with family, going to church, etc) is the highlight of my year.


My cut back on my children’s gifts from “Santa” all began about 7 years ago. Back then, I had a 3 and a 1 year old. Christmas morning of 2007, I was smacked in the face with a reality check. My 3 year old had been opening gifts for over an hour. Like really an hour … and that was fast opening too. Why was it taking so long? What in the world did I buy that kid? How many presents did he receive from Santa? Did Santa actually sneak in my house and ADD to the presents I had already bought?? Surely he must have. It was SO.MANY.GIFTS for one tiny human. After approximately 73 minutes, my three year old turned around, looked at me with a very nervous smile, and said “Momma, can I stop opening my presents so I can play?” Oh dear … that just happened.

photo 1Time stood still in that moment. My mind was swirling with all the shopping trips that began in August. The stockpiling of gifts in every nook and cranny in my house, hiding from my kids AND my husband. The times I wondered, “Does he have enough presents? Oh, what’s one more!” as I wandered aimlessly around Target or Toys-R-Us. Oh my GRACIOUS. I was breaking the bank on all of the toys that I bought knowing he’d love every last one of them. I was raising my child to come to know that Christmas was a time of PRESENTS!!! AND LOTS OF THEM!!! Well, yeah, I wanted him to understand that Santa brings good boys and girls presents for Christmas, but I also wanted him to know the deeper, much deeper meaning of Christmas. It became apparent to me that Christmas morning, as I sat in my robe sipping cold hot chocolate, that I was failing my kids by the over abundance of presents. Something had to change.

As the next Christmas season approached, I was vigilant about finding a way to keep the CHRIST in Christmas, as we are a Christian family who attends church regularly. I read a blog I found one Saturday morning that pointed me in a new direction. I would give each child of mine 3 gifts for Christmas. Jesus was born on Christmas and received gifts from the three wise men. 3 gifts … on Jesus’ birthday … perfection in my mind, as cliché as some might think. So I set out finding the three most perfect gifts that holiday season for my two boys … 1. something that they wanted, 2. something that they needed, and 3. something that would surprise the heck out of them. It wasn’t about how much money I spent on these items, it was about the quality and thought put into finding that gift that I KNEW my children would cherish and love for months to come.

photo 4That Christmas morning was everything I had hoped it to be and more. The boys absolutely loved their gifts, we got to spend so much more time together, and my clean freak momma bonus … a much smaller mess to clean up. Score!!! Our family has chosen this method of Christmas gift giving since then and my boys know no other way. Gone are the days of endless purchasing of nonsense, filler, cheap toys to make the tree look fuller. Gone are the days of hiding all of my Saturday splurges. Gone are the days of the million mile pileup of toys in my living room from 2 hours of opening gifts. Our Christmas days now consist of more snuggling, more reading Christmas books, more cooking and baking, more one on one time with each child, more gratefulness, and more time to spend with each other. And in the end, isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Not presents that never end or spending $500 dollars on each child so they can have “enough” that chilly December morning.

Is this the right way for every family out there? I doubt it. I have gotten the stink eye a few times when I have told someone our gift giving tradition. I’ve been called a Scrooge. But every family is different and we all choose our battles. Keeping Christmas Holy was my battle, and I’d say that I finally have this battle won!

Do you go all out with Christmas gifts or limit them? Why or why not?

Katie, a self proclaimed "momma bear", enjoys living her busy, country life with her husband of 10 years and 3 sons just outside of Baton Rouge in Tangipahoa Parish. Katie attended Southeastern Louisiana University where she obtained a degree in Elementary and Special Education. Little did she know how her love of children with special needs would grow shortly after she graduated college. Her middle son, Connor, was born with a rare brain disorder called Schizencephaly-he is wheelchair bound, nonverbal, blind, battles retractable epilepsy, and is fed through a feeding tube. Katie and Connor endure the many trials they are put through with a smile and joy in their heart. Along with being an active member in her church and working for an online public school, Katie regularly advocates for those who experience developmental disabilities at the Louisiana State Capitol. She is the Region 9 leader for Louisiana Citizens for Action Now (LaCAN) and is a member at large for the Governor’s Advisory Council on Disability Affairs. When life's challenges seems too much to bear, Katie remembers this quote to keep forging ahead and being the voice for those who have none, “God often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad of our greatest calling.” -unknown


  1. The way I heard the saying was: something they want, something they need, something to read and something to wear, which means 4 total, same concept, less is more.

  2. I started this last year. Christas has become so expensive that I had to do something since my family keeps on growing with grandchildre and in laws. It made it so much easier on me. I sed to find myself trying to spend the same mont on each one,,,,now it’s just something they really want within reason.

  3. I think this is a wonderful idea!!!!!! The real meaning of “Christ”mas has been put into such material things that the Love that Christ showed is not what society in general teaches or shows our children. Train up a child in the way he shall go and when he is old he won’t depart from it:) Giving is a good thing, but in abundance only spoils them and from that grows an unappreciated heart. Thank You for sharing this… such a wonderful idea, not to mention putting Christ totally back into Christmas<
    God Bless<

  4. love this article. i was a single mom and when my son was 4 i couldnt afford much. “Santa” brought him many gifts but i didnt get him anything. After he cane back frim his dads he asked me why i hadnt gotten him a present. Instead, i changed the rules to. santa brings one special gift and fills stockings. And I give him 3 gifts. I love the idea of the 3 wise men gifts. We don’t celebrate Christ as we feel its a pagan holiday and celebrate it as fun family time but i love the idea and eould have used it!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing! This is just what I needed as I have been struggling with the same feelings of giving too much and my kids never play with the things they get! I have been trying to to decide what to do about this year and I think you just helped me decide ? THANK YOU! Awesome read!

  6. Great post! I have always limited my gift giving. I come from a family of bigtime gift givers. They shop year round and dole out a lot of presents for Christmas, birthdays, the works. I could never keep up with that and I don’t try. I love the 3 present rules. I also limited the presents for my crew at Christmas time. I felt like I could get them one really nice quality item that I wouldn’t normally buy them otherwise, so it feels special and still doesn’t break the bank.

    Thanks for sharing. I also boycott shopping on Thanksgiving Day. I don’t care how much you “save”, if you are not spending time with family and instead going on a shopping frenzy, you are missing the point of the all of the Holidays.

  7. For those of you that use the 4, Something you need, something to wear, something to read, something they want.. While we are not rich, my children have all that they need, and mostly stuff they wear. I did that last year. This year I am going for, Something you want, something to share and something to read, something to wear. This way, I wasn’t limited to only 1 want, if they could share it. I may limit it further this year, something you want, something to share and giving to a family because you care, and you have everything you need and to wear. It will be hard because I so love buying for my kids, but they don’t need anything, including toys. The things from Santa, usually must fit into the stocking. I’ve heard of a Facebook share that talks about Santa bringing the best toys, what about the children who don’t have much to give, and Santa doesn’t bring them anything or only a small item or candy.

  8. I’m not religious but we do celebrate Christmas. This seems like a great idea, kids get way to many toys they don’t even need or use after the initial sentiment wears off.

  9. I’m sure many of you already know this, but Samaritan’s Purse does a shoebox gift give-a-way at Christmas in the poor areas of the world, or areas hit by devastation. (They did Japan after the tsunami hit, which is by no means a poor country…) For many of the kids receiving the shoebox, it’s the first time they have EVER received a gift, or anything new, for that matter. I’m just sharing this because it might be a way to change the paradigm from “Do my kids have enough?” to “Do those kids have anything?”

  10. Samaritan’s Purse is an excellent idea. Instead of adult family members exchanging gifts, we donate toward a project sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse. I also suggest you look into the needs of orphanages or shelters for abused women and children. Their needs are also great. Perhaps those of you whose children receive an abundance of gifts could make a practice of giving some to children who have so little.


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