Simplified Christmas gift system

Our family's Christmas Gift System {Heather's Handmade Life}

Back in 2010, when our son was only six months old, I bought a package of wooden door-hangers and painted special Christmas gift tags.

Check out that 2010 camera quality, lol. Everything shines!

I also adopted the idea that we’d do a Christmas gift system:

  • Something you want
  • Something you need
  • Something to play with
  • Something to read
  • And a new pair of jammies for Christmas Eve
Two sets, for our two kids

I liked the idea that there was a consistency to gift-giving — that our son (and later, our daughter) would always know exactly how many gifs they would get from us, and what categories those gifts would fall under.

The kids love being able to easily spot specific gifts under the tree, and deciding which categories to open first or last.

And, well, we’re still going strong. This will be our 12th Christmas using these gift tags (and this gift method).


The “Something you Want” is always a gift they’ve asked for specifically, and it’s usually their “big” present from us.

(I’d tell you what I bought them this year, but sometimes they Google my name and read these posts, haha, so I can no longer do that.)


The “Something you need” isn’t ever anything super boring, like underwear (although maybe when they’re older, they’ll actually want underwear). It’s something they need, but it may tie into the “Something you want” gift — a game for a console, for example.

Our daughter has no idea what her “Something you need” gift is this year, but I know she’s going to LOVE IT and use it all the time.


I loved the idea of the “Something to play with” category, especially when I thought ahead to when my kids would be teenagers. (Now they’re tweens, gahhhh, so we’re practically there.)

I thought of how most teenagers will want clothes, shoes, electronics, etc. and the Christmases might be lacking in “fun,” without any toys. So this category saves that. (I also like to get tiny toys for their stockings.)


When the kids were little, I almost always picked out a new Berenstain Bear book for our collection in order to fit the “Something to read” category. But now they get big-kid books, which aren’t as fun for me. Sometimes it’s a single book, sometimes it’s a couple of books — depends!



They always get to open this gift on Christmas Eve, of course, and it’s fun to see how excited they are — even though they know it’s just a pair of PJs inside the box.*

*The box is often a recycled cereal box, because that’s how I roll. The cardboard recycling bin basically stays empty all through November and early December, as I steal every good box to stick a gift inside.


Ah, the “Santa” question, of course. In our house, Santa brings one present.

Oh, and it’s never anything too fancy or expensive, because, ahem, Santa has millions of children on his list. And I have personally hated that “Santa” might bring one kid a PS4 while giving another kid a pair of mittens, and that kid will wonder if they’re bad, etc. and AUGHHHH I can’t even talk about it or my heart will shatter, seriously.

Santa brings one modest gift — usually a toy.

End of story.

So the kids open their jammies on Christmas Eve, and their four gifts from us in the morning, along with their Santa present (and gifts from family members).

D’s gifts, Christmas of 2014


Yes, we do!

The wonderful thing about this system (at least for me, as a parent) is that I don’t go overboard buying for the kids because THERE IS A SET LIMIT.

Every October, I organize my Christmas gift spreadsheet and start thinking about which items to fit into each category. Once I start talking to the kids about what they’d like that year, it all comes together very quickly. Then once the categories are filled, they’re filled — it’s done!

Without this Christmas gift system, I really feel like it would be difficult to know where to stop. I’d probably keep picking things up because they were cute, or fun, or a good price, etc. until I had way too much, and I don’t like that idea.

Our Christmas budget also changes from year to year, but this gift system keeps it consistent in a different way. Some years their “Want” gift is $$$, and the other three gifts are small. Some years, all four gifts are similarly priced. It really depends on what they want, and what we want to spend.


Last but not least, I love that when our kids are adults, we can still keep up this fun little system — where the “Something you need” might be a toaster, and “Something to play with” might be a puzzle. (Okay, wow, both of those ideas sound super boring, but there will probably be fun futuristic gadgets by that point. I’ll workshop it.)


Like this gift system? Be sure to Pin it so you can refer back to it next year!

Christmas gift system {Heather's Handmade Life}
Christmas gift system {Heather’s Handmade Life}

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