The simple Christmas shopping trick that will save you time - and money.

There’s a meme going around Facebook at the moment about Christmas gifts. Have you seen it?

It’s about limiting your kid’s presents to just one from each of four categories. There are several versions of it but they all have the same premise. Restraint and moderation.

The “four gift rule” – it’s a very admirable idea. It encourages children to just ask for four things this Christmas. Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.

A toy, a pencil case for starting school, a pair of brightly coloured swimmers and a picture book about fairies.

Who wouldn’t want that kind of simplicity?


The thought being that our children are spoilt rotten and that by teaching them to stop asking for the entire contents of K-Mart aisle five we will teach them to be better human beings.

Research tells us that the average Australian home contains over 100 toys and that the average parent spends $310 on toys per child at Christmas.

Listen: The Mamamia Out Loud team debate whether the office Christmas party needs to go. Post continues after audio. 

We are a nation of consumers and thought of as a generation of parents who over-indulge our kids so an idea like “want, need, wear, read” is something we should encourage.


And if you do manage to stick to it then I bow down to you. The skill required to not just tell your kids that’s all they are getting but follow through it is truly top of the class parenting.

If you can avoid this then I bow down to you. Image via iStock

I would love to do this, truly. But for me it takes away one of the joys I get out of Christmas – giving. Unlike the popular stereotype of overindulgence, I, like most parents I know, spent the entire year telling my kids no.

No you can’t have an iPod.

No you can’t have a remote control car.

No you can’t have alien slime.

No you can’t have Minecraft Lego.

No. No. No. No. No.

The few times I dare to venture to a shopping centre with them it’s a constant dialogue of can-I-have? No. Can-I-have? No, wait for Christmas. It’s tiresome.



average christmas present spend
How much do I look forward to saying yes? Image via iStock

But we know it’s the way we are meant to parent. We know there are no benefits for our kids in giving them presents just because they asked for them. We know we have to say no – and frankly couldn’t afford to do otherwise.

But oh, how much do we look forward to saying yes.

Each year my children’s Christmas list is full of wonder.

A purple sparkly fairy wand that will make me fly.

A pet unicorn.


A dinosaur/robot that walks, talks and shoots bullets.

My oldest son asked Santa one year for a "stegosaurus egg that would hatch on Christmas morning". My daughter asked last year for "Elsa’s ice-blue gloves" so she could turn things into ice. It's wondrous and magical and not the least bit practical in the world.

It's Christmas.

On Christmas morning they are so overawed with the fact the reindeer ate the carrots and the sight of their stocking bulged with tiny delights like chocolate coins and silver slinkies that their wishes for the impossible seem complete.

(Though there was one year when I had to tell a confused and teary three-year-old that Santa must have miss-read the list when he didn’t bring the live baby giraffe so deeply desired. A stuffed giraffe hadn't quite cut it.)

I try not to buy too much but I happily stuff a stocking with funny toys and tiny treats on top of what they “want”. Image via Facebook

I admit a lot of it is about me.

I love the ritual of filling their stockings with gifts I know will make their jaws drop. I love the excitement I feel at anticipating their shining eyes on Christmas Eve giddy with what awaits them.

I try not to buy too much but I happily stuff a stocking with funny toys and tiny treats on top of what they “want”.

What it comes down to is that all families are different. There is no right or wrong. If the “want, need, wear, read” way of gifting appeals to you, then give it a go.

If it doesn’t work out you can always use the Santa didn't read his list correctly excuse – works a treat every time.

Are you doing the "want, need, wear, read" method this Christmas?