The '4 Gift Rule': Teaching life lessons

This rule could be answer to holiday excess

By Tony Statz - Producer

Over the past few weeks, Help Me Hank has been highlighting some ways families can cope with the crazy holiday season.

While chatting with some professional bargain hunting bloggers, we ran into an idea that struck a chord with our thrifty local moms.

"I did not invent it. It's just sort of a think out in the online world, " said Lauren Weber, the writer behind the blog Mrs. Weber's Neighborhood.

On her blog, she shares parenting tips and she knows many families struggle with overspending during the holiday season.

Fellow bargain hunters agree.

"I used to buy my kids 15 to 20 presents and then Christmas morning they're overwhelmed because they got so many presents to play with, and then they'll go to those one or two and everything is left there and I'm just like why, why did I do this?" said Tatanisha Worthey, of the website A Mitten Full Of Savings. "We all fall victim when we're in the store and our child wants something, we buy it!"

When she discovered the "4 Gift Rule," it made her think about a different way of giving gifts.

"We want to teach our children to be deliberate in what they're purchasing and also that they're very lucky for getting anything at all," she said.

What is the "4 Gift Rule?"

The "4 Gift Rule" is very simple. Each child received just four gifts; Something They Want; Something They Need; Something to Wear; and Something to Read. You still have latitude to spend more or less in each category based on what works for your family budget, but breaking the gifts into these categories can help teach children the holidays are not about an avalanche of gifts.

While they can still receive the toy or gadget of their dreams (Something They Want), the other gifts would come with a message about being deliberate, thoughtful, and even educational (Something They Read).

Reaction to the rule

Help Me Hank asked several other people about the "4 Gift Rule". Most were in favor of the idea. One woman even said she might follow the premise as a grandmother some day, hoping it would teach some good life lessons. Others might tinker with the implementation, but they do support the philosophy.

"It doesn't necessarily have to be 4 gifts to me, but i like the balanced approach," said Kim Keaton Williams of West Bloomfield.

"Even though I never heard of the "4 Gift Rule"  I think I pretty much do the same thing anyway," said David Oh, of Rochester Hills.

There was one dissenting vote.

"When I was younger I wanted all fun stuff. I really hated getting clothes," said Jerome Moore, of Southfield.

Here are some more details on how the philosophy works:

Something They Want: This item could be the hottest toy or new gadget of the season.

Something They Need: This could be anything from bed sheets, towels, or something for their bedroom.

"So, if you talk to my kids, they always get some things that they need. They might even find a toothbrush in their stocking stuffer," said Kim Keaton Williams.

Something They Wear: "Kids always need clothes. Whether they want them or not is a different story," said Shruti Mathur Nandakumar, a mother of two in West Bloomfield.

Something To Read: "I am an avid reader and my kids are all avid readers. So, I love the idea of a book. It's learning and it's lifelong," said Nan Wilberding of Troy, who raised six children, who are now all adults.

Once parents heard about this more structured approach to giving gifts, they added some of their own ideas to the mix.

"Another great idea is to give experiences. What about a zoo membership? Or to the science center? We have so many great places," said Weber.

"I would probably add ... maybe identify something that they can donate to someone else," suggested Keaton Williams.

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