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I absolutely love that moment when you give someone a gift you’ve spent time choosing, and you see the look of happiness on the face of the person you’ve given it to, especially if it’s a child. But, at the same time, the pressure to buy yet more and more gifts can be, well, to use a somewhat overused word, OVERWHELMING! Which is why am becoming a fan of the five-gift rule.
INTRODUCING… THE FIVE GIFT RULE
I’m guessing that if you’ve landed on this post, you are curious to know exactly what the five-gift rule is and how it works.
In short, the five-gift rule offers a simple and thoughtful approach to gift-giving on special occasions, such as birthdays and Christmas.
As far as I can tell, there’s no clear origin for the rule, no one genius minimalist who came up with the idea. But I do know that the rule has gained popularity in recent years as a sensible alternative to excessive gifting.
HOW THE FIVE GIFT RULE WORKS
The Five Gift Rule operates on the principle of quality over quantity. Rather than overwhelming someone with a tonne of gifts (or being overwhelmed frantically shopping for all those gifts), it focuses on a thoughtful selection of five specific types of gifts.
The rules for the categories aren’t set hard and fast. However, these are the five categories that I like the most and think give you the most scope to give five brilliant gifts.
1. SOMETHING THEY WANT
This is something that the recipient has been longing for or has put on top of their Christmas list. A gift at the luxury end of the spectrum or the big toy that a child has hankered after.
2. SOMETHING THEY NEED
This is a practical gift. A gift that the recipient needs and will find a use for. So, for example, it could be a household item, an item of sports kit for a sporty kid, or some DIY equipment for someone renovating. You get the idea.
3. SOMETHING TO WEAR
Ok, this one isn’t rocket science! This is a gift of clothing or footwear or even perhaps an accessory. Go practical or go fancy. It depends on your budget and on the person you are buying for.
4. SOMETHING TO READ
Again, not rocket science! I particularly love this one for gifting to kids, who it seems are losing their love of reading. You don’t have to give a book. It could be a magazine subscription or a digital subscription to a newspaper.
5. SOMETHING TO EXPERIENCE
I think this is possibly my favourite type of gift because shared experiences or giving someone the gift of an amazing experience are almost priceless.
So, think tickets to a concert (seeing the look on my daughter’s face when she received Harry Styles Love On Tour tickets for Christmas was almost as wonderful as taking her to the concert), a trip somewhere special – a city break or holiday. A trip to an amusement park or perhaps a spa break.
Here are some alternative categories that you could substitute in. You know your family and friends best, so you will know what will work.
- Something to Create: This could be art supplies, a DIY kit, a model to build, or anything that encourages creativity.
- Something for the Soul: This could be a spiritually-oriented gift, such as a journal for self-reflection, a meditation cushion, or a book of philosophical or religious significance.
- Something to Share: This category emphasises the importance of community and generosity. It could be a board game for family game nights or a batch of cookies baked for sharing with friends or neighbours.
- Something for the Planet: This gift could be an eco-friendly product or perhaps a donation to an environmental cause in the recipient’s name, encouraging a mindset of sustainability and care for our planet.
- Something Handmade: This gift highlights the thought and effort put into it, whether it’s a knitted scarf, a home-baked cake, or a hand-painted piece of artwork.
- Something Educational: This could be a science kit for children, a language learning course, a puzzle, or anything else that stimulates learning and curiosity.
THE MAIN BENEFITS OF THE FIVE GIFT RULE
Now you know how the five rule works, I am sure you can already see the benefits of employing it. But just in case, let me spell out some of the main benefits.
1. REDUCED STRESS FOR THE GIFT BUYER
Shopping for a birthday or Christmas gifts is a major undertaking. It can feel like a second job in the run-up to Christmas. By setting the parameters with the Five Gift Rule, you effectively limit the amount of gift shopping you have to do.
2. LESS IS MORE MEANINGFUL
Once you are able to focus less on quantity, you automatically give yourself more brain space to focus on quality. And by quality, I don’t mean more expensive. I mean better thought out, more meaningful gift giving.
3. PROMOTES MINDFUL GIFTING
Similar to number 2, the rule encourages mindful gift-giving. Each gift serves a distinct purpose.
It is much easier to stick to a budget when you have clear parameters to work within. I am a huge fan of setting an overall budget for Christmas gifts. I use a Google sheet gift budget tracker. Pop over to my Christmas Google sheet gift tracker post to download your free copy.
5. TEACHES APPRECIATION AND MINIMISES EXCESS
When kids are inundated with gifts, they may become less appreciative of them and in the same way that guzzling sugar just leads to cravings for more. The more gifts they receive, the more they crave. The Five Gift Rule helps curb this and instead helps to foster a less materialistic mindset.
6. BALANCES PRACTICAL AND FUN
The well-thought-out rules are essentially categories that ensure a balance between gifts that are given purely for the joy of the recipient and gifts that will be of practical use.
HOW TO INTRODUCE THE FIVE GIFT RULE TO YOUR FAMILY
By this point, you may well be thinking that you are well and truly sold on the concept, but you aren’t so sure it will go down well with your family, particularly the younger members!
So here are my thoughts on how you can introduce the Five Gift Rule without causing a pre-Christmas mutiny.
1. COMMUNICATE EARLY AND CLEARLY
Tell your family about your idea well ahead of the Christmas holiday season. Explain the concept of the Five Gift Rule and its benefits. Use examples to illustrate each category of gift.
2. HOLD A FAMILY MEETING
Gather your family and chat through the new rule. Allow everyone to share their thoughts and concerns. This collective decision-making process will help everyone feel more involved and willing to participate.
3. LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Show your family how the rule works by sticking to it yourself. If you’re introducing this to your kids, you can help them create their wishlists around the five categories, reinforcing the idea of thoughtful and balanced gift-giving.
4. HIGHLIGHT THE BENEFITS
Emphasise the positives. Now, the positives for the gift buyers (or funders) will be different to the positives for the recipients. Still, hopefully, by explaining the benefits for you as the gift buyer, your kids will empathise and understand.
5. CREATE EXCITEMENT THROUGH TRADITION
Treat the Five Gift Rule as a new family tradition. Add excitement through creative gift-wrapping, you could have a colour code for each category of gift. You could instigate a rule that everyone opens one category of gift at a time. Make it special and something to savour rather than a fun-limiting rule.
Ultimately, the goal of the Five Gift Rule is to make gift-giving more meaningful and strip away the pressures of rampant consumerism.
I am putting together a growing series of gift ideas for kids of all ages to help take the stress out of finding brilliant gifts for kids. I hope this, coupled with employing the Five Gift Rule, will help make gift buying more fun and less stressful for everyone.
Luci is the founder of Mums Make Lists (Est. 2011). Over the last decade or so, she has used her experience as a mum to create useful guides to organising family life. During that time, she has found the most joy in creating lists of ideas and inspiration to make it easier for busy parents to plan and host kids’ parties and find great gifts. Read more.