The Four Present Challenge – Why My Kids Only Get Four Presents For Christmas

First off, I cannot take credit for this brilliant plan. I found it on social media many years ago, and to the person who came up with this – I tip my hat and thank you graciously for rescuing my holiday spending. Having worked many years at Elite Storage in Lafayette, CO, I’ve begun to wonder how much of folks’ stored stuff was from an excess in gift-giving. Also, before I go on, my love language and self-indulgence when I am down is gift giving (and receiving), so this shift was a tremendous challenge for me. 

The experiment 

After seeing a blog post saying that the woman gave only four gifts for the holidays – something you need, something you want, something to wear, and something to read, I was intrigued. I started by sitting down and thinking about the past several Christmases and trying to recall what I had both given and received. I discovered that my memories of the holiday season were more tied to the significant gifts, rather than the fillers. Not a huge surprise there. I took this a bit further and asked my spouse and children to do the same.  

To my dismay, no one could recall much at all. I decided then that I would adopt this technique and fight against the rampant commercialism and supposed cultural norm, “if you love someone, you need to shop for them every time you hit the store.” Do you ever feel that way? 

The reaction 

It wasn’t five seconds into the conversation with my children that there began to be moaning and groaning. They weren’t having it. My kids at the time were teens, so they didn’t have the bonus of Santa gifts. (I’ll explain how that one went when our caboose child came and how we worked with Santa.) One of my more enterprising children came up with the very popular idea of receiving a gift for each year of life you’d spent on the planet, until they realized that this meant a complete flip in the present economy when Mom and Dad would be getting much more, and that they were expected to be the givers in this scenario, so it died in committee. 

The result 

I struggled with the idea of only buying four gifts. I felt guilty for not loving my family more as I faced the scads of do-dads that they really “needed,” and it was really uncomfortable. On the other hand, this system gave me a real framework besides a budget item in which to focus my gift giving. I was far more deliberate in the gift selection, and it showed when the kids opened everything up.  

The good 

After five years of this, I have found that this plan fits even better within my budget and I am able to spend less on holiday gift giving and, by extension, I spend less time shopping and am able to be present, rather than shop for presents. We’ve been able to strengthen meaningful traditions and spend more time as a family during the holidays than fragmented, stressed, and spending. 

The bad 

OK, the kids hated this idea, at first. They have since realized that this makes everything around the holiday better and they are more focused on family traditions. I don’t know if they’ll do this when they have families or not, so we’ll see. 

The ugly 

If the kids were unhappy with this, the grandparents were more so. They kept trying to sneak more gifts into the lineup by insisting that this or that were either “no big deal” or “accessories to something.” I had frequent discussions with my mother on this one that weren’t all fun and games. 

What about Santa? 

Great question. Santa sent a message to my youngest, telling him that because of Santa’s age, the aging reindeer, and a general toy shortage from the elves, that he was asking all children to put fewer items on their lists. He thanked him for being so caring and promised something extra special. 

Are you going to try this out? If so, please let us know how it goes. And if you need a place to store your excess, come take a look at our available units, including temperature controlled storage in Lafayette at Elite Storage. 

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