The 4-L Christmas Gift Challenge: The New Way to Buy Gifts

I can’t believe I’m already thinking about Christmas. And I’m not really one of those people who gets super excited, counts down the days, or decorates early. One year we got our tree on Christmas Eve. It was 50% off by that time, and it me think maybe that was the way to go every year. Though we’re usually a bit more on top of things than last minute tree buying, we’re also not a family that gets into the season well ahead of time. I’m not thinking about Christmas in an “Ohmigosh, it’s going to be here so soon…I can’t wait to do Elf on the Shelf…Christmas movies will be on…woo hoo!!!” sort of way (and no judgement if that’s you).

Instead, I’ve been thinking about Christmas because of the amount of “stuff” we already have, and how no one in our family really needs anything. As a family who is not religious, the holiday ends up being about family (which I love) and gifts (which can be fun, but easily goes overboard).

4 Gift Christmas Challenge

Last year I toyed with the idea of the 4 Gift Christmas which helps to simplify your gift-giving. You buy four gifts: Want, Need, Wear Read. In theory, I really like the idea of this 4 gift rule. In reality, I couldn’t quite get there.

Here is what I love about the idea:

  • Simple and minimal
  • Might allow for quality of gifts over quantity
  • Fun and catchy idea that others can remember too
  • Want and Read are easy to figure out for my kids

Here is what I don’t love:

  • If I get my kid 4 gifts, chances are, Wear and Read may not be super exciting (though my older guy does love books).
  • I have a hard time figuring out what would be a “Need” gift. What do our kids need? Shelter? We have a house. Clothing? That’s in the wear category. Food? Not the most exciting of Christmas gifts. See where I’m going with this?

Christmas isn’t really about need- it’s about extra, so not only could I not figure out this last category, but if I get something my kiddo needs, then it’s possible 3 of those 4 gifts are not super exciting. And I’m not trying to take all of the joy out of the holidays. So, keeping the idea of simplifying and quality over quantity in mind, I came up with a new idea that I thought others might like to try:

The 4-L Christmas Gift Challenge

This approach takes the 4 Gift Christmas Challenge in a different direction and adds in the values of Love, Laugh, Learn, and Longevity, helping to create a new Christmas gift-giving tradition.

Depending on your approach, you can either:

  • Buy one gift from each category for a total of 4 gifts, OR
  • Make sure that any gift you buy fits one of the categories

The 4 L’s of Gift-Giving:

Love: This one is easy. It’s a gift that the person will love. If your kiddo has been eyeing something all year, or has a collection they always want to add to, that’s the sort of gift that would fall into the love category. For a spouse or friend, think of what they enjoy or what would make them smile. Even if you know what someone would love but it doesn’t fit into the budget, don’t stress. There are lots of options that each person would love.

Laugh: What is something that will make this person laugh? It could be a movie, a book, a game or an experience. For adults, maybe it’s tickets to a comedy show or a funny coffee mug. Your kiddo might laugh out loud at a silly toy. As long as you think the gift-receiver will find it humorous, it will fit in the laugh category.

Learn: What would allow the gift-receiver to learn? This could be a toy aimed at learning, an experience such as the zoo, or something related to an area of interest. For kids there are games that help them learn to count, to cooperate, to spell, and more. It’s really up to you to think about what the person may want to learn more about and how they could do that through a gift you’ll give.

Longevity: What is a gift that might grow with them and will withstand the test of time (within reason)? A bike with training wheels might be an option for a younger child, or a watch for your spouse. Maybe you give your parents family photos, or the family goes on a trip and creates lasting memories together. Think about long-term here and choose a gift that the person will likely have (or keep memories of) for more than just the season.

The 4-L Christmas Gift Challenge is a way to get more focused on meaning and memories and hopefully lead to less clutter and crap that can sometimes come along with the holidays. I’m going to use this to guide me in my gift-buying this holiday and will use it as a decision-making model for each purchase. I likely will buy more than the four gifts for my kids, but am going to make sure that each purchase fits one (or more!) of the categories.

Remember that you can use this idea for all members of your family, and even friends or events that you need to buy gifts for. If you’re heading to a white elephant exchange and aren’t purchasing for anyone in particular, think about what someone might like to learn, such as mixing their own drinks, or a gift that would make most people laugh (I can always use funny glassware!).

Lastly, these ideas can be applied to any budget. You can even make gifts to fit these categories. Don’t let your budget or the length of your list deter you from giving this a try.

Happy holiday shopping!! Let us know what you end up giving!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Sara,

    What a great concept. I am just creating traditions in my home with my almost 4 year old twins. I know from my husband, his tradition is not wrapping up Santa’s Christmas presents (and that Mrs. Santa always gives you sock and undies!). I like those traditions, but this 4-L gift guide seems awesome!

    I have a hard time thinking of toys for my daughter who isn’t into dolls and dress-up. Using this guide can help me figure out some things for her!

    Thanks so much!

    • Thanks, Elna! I appreciate the feedback- this idea makes sense to me, and I struggle so much with the overflow of gifts that become “stuff”. I wanted to find a way to make sure it’s meaningful in some way and to put some boundaries on it all. I hope it works out for your family- keep me posted!

  • This is a beautiful and mindful approach to gift-giving! I bet it will cut down on regret. It’s so frustrating to feel like you spent so much money on things that aren’t even appreciated.

    • Thanks, Rebecca. That’s definitely part of my hope in all of this, so we’ll see how it works out. And, to simplify and cut down on the excess (which I know you can appreciate!!). Happy (early) holidays!

  • I love this 4L challenge, so special and leaves a lot of room for creativity in gift giving.

  • I LOVE this idea. I like the simplicity of the want, wear, need, read list too, but I struggle with the limitations. I like that your categories are a little more open-ended and “extra” as you say. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Meg- I totally agree- the original idea is simple which is great and yes- it’s the limitations that I struggled with! Glad you like this idea!! 🙂

  • This is such a great idea! I’m so tired of exchanging STUFF. This seems like a really great game plan for this year.

  • I love this! I had the same issue, with the other version, and this really fixed the problem. I did slightly change the love. And turned it into a 5 l. I made love be something that creates a bond in the family. That shows how much each child is loved. Like, I got my oldest kiddo a matching mom and daughter necklace set. I got my toddler a shirt, that says “I love my family more than pizza!” And trust me, she loves her some pizza. Haha. I added a like category. For something they’d “like” to have. For my oldest, that means an art set, she’s had her eye on. And my toddler, some play dough, cause she likes messier art. (:

    • Ohmigoodness, Jenni- thank you so much for sharing!! It seriously means the world to me that you took the time to check in and share about how you’re making this work for you. I LOVE the idea of the family bond gift- so great! That makes me think the Love L would be a good family gift too, so if someone had a large family and/or a tight budget to make that about the whole family: like a movie night or a game everyone can play together. And yes- add on an L!! I love that you can take this idea and turn it into something that works for you 🙂