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The Three Christmas Gift Rule

The three Christmas gift rule is a great idea for your family to implement this holiday season. It will save you time, stress AND money!

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I have three kids that are 7, 10, and 12.  Once I had them, I thought that Christmas would be fun and enjoyable.  We would sit around the table and play games or spend the afternoon making cookies, but it turned out to be a really stressful time.

 There was none of that because I felt I was running all over the place buying gifts.  I was fighting the crowds.  I would find something I bought at another store for a better price, so I HAD to buy that one and return the more expensive item and I just wasn’t enjoying Christmas anymore, so I made a change!

closeup of Christmas wrapping under three for 3 gift for Christmas rule article

What is the three Christmas Gift Rule

We have a three gift Christmas rule at our house now. It’s simple. Everyone gets three Christmas gifts. I know some people do a four gift rule or a five gift rule but we stick to three gifts.

Don’t worry! There’s still a pile of presents under the tree when the kids come running down the stairs Christmas morning.

All the kids get three gifts from mom and dad. Santa brings one big gift or a couple of smaller gifts. Christmas day is just as fun. Remember, many times children are getting gifts from extended family like grandparents, aunts and uncles too!

It’s easy to get carried away when buying gifts, espcially with older kids because they can tell you what they want. I can always think of a million things to get each of my kids. This makes me think of what they really want and of course, they still help me with gift ideas.

Why only 3 gifts for Christmas?

This is so simple to answer! There were three wise men and Jesus received three gifts when he was born. If three was good for Jesus, it’s good enough for my kids!!

3 christmas gifts on a blue background

Why should I do the Christmas gift rule?

Saving Money

Every year I sit down after Christmas and work on my Christmas budget for the next year.  I have a list of what I bought and how much I spent.  I adjust any amounts so I can save throughout the year.  Only buying each kid 3 gifts is a HUGE money saver.

Update: My kids are older now and into travel sports! We spend a ton of money doing things with their teams so this rule is huge because we need the money for trips throughout the year. Eating out is really expenisve!


Before I started this, about 4 or 5 years ago, I noticed my nice little boys turning greedy.  I heard him say, “Where’s the next present?” before he even looked at what he just opened.  My kids know the rule now and there is no complaining.  

They get gifts from other family members too, so it’s not like they are going without.  They have NEVER complained about the 3 gift rule.  I just tell them that Jesus got 3 gifts when he was born so Mom and Dad only buys them 3 gifts.

Space and clutter

Sometimes you just run out of space.  I felt there were toys everywhere.  Did we really need more toys?  When you have smaller kids the toys are the biggest aren’t they?  Also, both sets of grandparents live in different states, so there was no way we could cart all the gifts around.


Once I have the 3 gifts, I can mark them off the list!  It truly saves so much time because I am not searching stores or the Internet for the best prices for a bunch of gifts.  It really reduces your stress!  I don’t have a mound of presents to wrap that take all night.  Wrapping presents became much more manageable.

Enjoy the Christmas season

I think this is the most important.  Sometimes all the to-dos distract you from really enjoying Christmas and celebrating the season properly.

This had made my life so much easier since I’ve implemented this rule.  The three gift Christmas is a great tradition to start.  It’s a reminder on what Christmas is all about.

The most important thing in our family is to do things together. Now we have time together to make Christmas goodies to hand out to neighbors, teachers and friends. We have more money to attend Christmas performances and more money to do things when visiting family for the holidays. We can go ice skating, skiing, and go to the movies and not worry about being broke!

This Christmas we plan on taking a family vacation. My kids will remember this trip more than any Lego set or doll.

overhead view of brown Christmas gifts with red ribbon on a wooden table shaped in a Christmas tree with gold star on top

More great Christmas ideas!

Christmas is such a great time of year. Here are a few more things I have on the blog that are popular. Go check them out too.

Let me know if you do something similar in your house or your family Christmas traditions about gifts. I’m always open to hearing about new ideas and things to incorporate into my family.

Shelly Rother

Sunday 4th of December 2022

When my children were young I quickly became overwhelmed with the "stuff" that pulled up at Christmas ~ I learned about the 5 gift rule and it became alot of fun ~ there were still a tremendous amount of gifts but the ones from us were meaningful. "Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read!" The 5th and last is the big one (Santa gift or splurge).


Tuesday 12th of December 2017

This is quite odd to me. Three? I'm from South Africa. The trend here trend here tends to be that parents give one gift to each kid. Three is a lot! Expecting more would be considered outrageous.


Saturday 16th of November 2019

Here in the us 3 gifts feels like we’re being stingy . Most people I know tend to buy 10+ gifts for each child . I want to do 3 from parents and 1 from santa this year and I already feel guilty !


Thursday 10th of December 2015

Amen and Amen! We did the 3 gift rule for awhile too. Each gift symbolized either gold, frankincense or myrrh. Gold- something special to them, Frankincense something for their mind, and Myrrh, something for their body. The last 2 years, we have done 0 gifts, and 1 family experience, like an indoor waterpark or something. It's been so meaningful for them, and no more stuff!!! :-)


Saturday 10th of December 2022

@chellie, Excellent!!!


Thursday 10th of December 2015

I love that! I love the family experience idea and are doing that this year. Now that they are getting a little older, I think they will really like their surprise!