Want, Need, Wear, Read – Simplifying Christmas Gift Giving!

Oh man, the crazy, happy swirl of Christmas can really start to make things spiral out of control when it comes to gifting….and for us, that was especially the case when it came to our kiddos a few years ago.  I mean, we love them and WANT them to be so excited and feel cherished, but the spending and piles of STUFF had to slow down.  Plus, I felt like we were kind of missing an opportunity to teach them more about the GIVING rather than the gifts.

Here are two gifting strategies we’ve used over the last few years that have really refocused the purpose behind the gifts, and these ideas have cut down on overspending around the holidays.  I hope one or both are helpful to you this Christmas season!


A few years ago when our first babies were very young, we decided to try out the “want need wear read” system of narrowing down gifts, and we even used it for gifting each other, too!  We’d choose one item the person would super duper WANT to have (that’s maybe a bit unnecessary but would make them smile), one gift they actually NEED in their life (insert practical but fun purchases here like yummy soaps or a new lunch box), another gift option in the category of WEAR (could be practical like new jeans, or it could be funky and snazzy like a new purse or cute scarf), and then one item to READ (I love giving and receiving books of many kinds, like cook books, coffee table books or kiddo books depending on who is receiving!).

Below are a few ideas for gift giving if you have a kiddo around the same age as our four little girls (3-8ish), and while I gathered what I know (girly gifts, ha!), many gifts listed below could work for boys, too.  Or take this as a template and adapt it to the people on your own Christmas shopping list!  Paring it down makes it easier to enjoy the season and not stress over a stretched wallet.  😉

(*click on each affiliate linked photo below to see item details!)







More recently (and now that our girls are a bit older and can make their own choices with guidance), we have started taking them Christmas shopping….for their sisters.  😉  We schedule individual dates with each of our four daughters, and they spend time on the toy or clothing aisle shopping…but not for themselves.  Not only does this teach them in a SUPER tangible way to think of others instead of themselves (because how hard is THAT when you’re four years old and on a toy aisle surrounded by ALL.THE.THINGS?!?), but it also gives us a slow-paced, one-on-one date with one daughter at a time.

Sometimes I’ll take a daughter while hubby stays home with the rest; sometimes we’ll schedule a sitter and both go with our individual girls on their gift shopping dates.  It’s a special time to actually SEE each daughter amidst the swirl of a big family’s daily life, and I love watching them really struggle and finally succeed in CHOOSING to think of what their sisters would want instead of themselves….with all those shiny toys just staring them in the eyes. 😉  They have big hearts that are ready and willing to give; my husband and I are just finding a way to funnel that kindness in a tangible way at Christmas.

There you go, friends!
Christmas gift giving made a little more simple with two ideas we use in our own family!  Be sure to check out my Instagram to see more of our fam’s adventures [HERE]!!
Happy holiday shopping!

  1. Jessie

    December 12th, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    This was super helpful, and a thoughtful idea. My husband and i don’t have children yet but this may even work four our family members

  2. Jenny Fitzgerald

    December 12th, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    Such amazing ideas!!! I can’t wait to use these!

  3. Barb

    December 12th, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    My children are now grown, but we always took them to shop for their siblings. It’s one of the first experiences they have that teaches them to love others and be a giver as well as a receiver. And just so you know, you’re doing a spectacular job at this “mommin’” thing, Erin! 💕💕

  4. Erin

    December 12th, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    We’ve been doing this too! I have noticed that it actually makes the whole season more enjoyable. I feel like it makes everyone a little more mindful of others who may not get as much or more practical items based on need.

  5. Beth

    December 12th, 2018 at 5:30 pm

    Beautiful post…our family has a similar tradition, although not labelled. Always a surprise, a need, of course new clothes (family of five children who didn’t get clothes spontaneously) and a read (teacher in me!).
    I would like to make one suggestion, as a parent I always discouraged the use of the word ‘want’ in exchange for ‘would like.’ Want always had a spoiled ring to if for me. My children recognized the power of words and easily adjusted their phrasing – like has a softer and gentler…appreciative tone. Nonetheless your flow still works….like, need, wear, read.

  6. Lindsey

    December 12th, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    So, we give $5 to each of our three kiddos (since our youngest was 2 and is now 6 😳😭) then we all go to the “Everything is a Dollar” Store….each kid has a dollar to spend on each family member plus pick out a roll of wrapping paper. This gives them all the opportunity to OWN their shopping, selecting of items, as well as wrapping their gifts. Since the store is small, we’re able to allow them some privacy. It’s a joyful night! And, OH. how the suspense kills them! They’re not supposed to tell…but they cant help but be chatty.

  7. Courtney

    December 12th, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    I love this idea!! Can I ask how you handle the “Santa” lists! Because for my girls some of those “wants” change frequently !

  8. Erin

    December 12th, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    ❤️❤️❤️ I love the want/need/wear/read gifts! Our kids get three gifts from Santa (because Santa loves Jesus and Jesus got 3 gifts when he was born 😉) and they get a new book from us on Christmas Eve.

  9. K'Lann

    December 12th, 2018 at 7:40 pm

    Love these ideas! Especially taking each kid on their own shopping date to shop for their siblings! Brilliant!
    And I’m am PSYCHED that there is such thing as a helper stool that FOLDS! 🙌🏻❤🙌🏻 Ahh! That seriously just made my day because I’ve been wanting one but our house is tiny! So folding is a game changer!!!

  10. Resa Workman

    December 12th, 2018 at 8:12 pm

    This is such a great idea! I love that you’re teaching your daughters to have a heart for others. I definitely went way overboard again this year…which thankfully I budgeted for, but now I’m tired just thinking about wrapping it all!! Lol.

  11. Stephanie

    December 12th, 2018 at 10:15 pm

    Great idea! We will be going out of country next Christmas, and I plan to try this out, since it will make things much more simpler!

    Thanks for being an inspiration, and that family is the most important thing in our life!

  12. Melinda

    December 12th, 2018 at 10:43 pm

    Love this idea…. I use it for my gandkids ❤️❤️❤️

  13. Dawn

    December 13th, 2018 at 1:11 am

    We incorporated this idea this year and had let everyone know….and I feel really good about it! It was a natural progression from the last 2 years of our big family Christmas get together (our parents, me and my siblings, our kids) and where we started name drawing Santa’s and a family white elephant. We draw names at thanksgiving when we’re all together…the name you draw is who you buy a gift for with a limit of $50. Then we also do a white elephant which results in more belly laughing fun than you can almost handle. Another new tradition we added was the seran wrap gift ball. All the kids have a blast trying to get that big ‘ole ball unwrapped. It’s so much fun that the adults have started to crash the game. And lastly we added the dice game Left, Center, Right. We play with $1 bills and even the great grandchildren as young as 3yrs old are able to play and have fun! The winner gets the big pot at the end of the game…who doesn’t like that?!! We’ve all decided this new revamping of our Christmas traditions has made the meaning of Christmas hit home so much more than the gift over indulgences of christmas’ past! So am thinking the Want, Need, Wear, Read revamp we’re starting with our own kids will fit in just fine!! Merry Christmas Erin & everyone!

  14. Hilary Wilson

    December 13th, 2018 at 6:15 am

    I really love this!! My oldest is 3 so it is definitely something we can incorporate going forward in the next couple of years (at least the gifting to others part, although we try with the oldest). Just curious if you have a strategy for grandparent gifting? My husband’s parents are divorced so my kids have three sets of grandparents and between coming up with gift ideas for them and then all they purchase for the kids, I feel this could get lost on them.

  15. Marms

    December 13th, 2018 at 8:21 am

    I Want My Hat Back – one of my fav books!!!!

  16. Talitha

    December 13th, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Is the sibling gift in addition to the want/need/wear/read gifts? Not fulfilling one of the categories? I really look forward to doing this as my little get older! Thanks so much!

  17. Melanie

    December 13th, 2018 at 10:31 am

    Love this !! We adopted similar traditions this year as well for our four boys(9,8,5,2)! Im finished shopping and feel like I can enjoy the season! While fitting gifts into categories was a little more difficult it kept me from buying unnecessary items while browsing the stores. So many years we were donating unused toys a couple months after Christmas. Our family of six also drew names and split up at target so that the boys could experience the gift of giving. After we went to Starbucks and drove around looking at Christmas lights. My husband and I both have noticed and appreciated the ease and joy this change has brought to our holiday season!

  18. Mairin Wehrbein

    December 13th, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    I love your idea of taking your girls shopping! When my sister and I were younger and starting to earn our own money doing a paper route, my mom would take us to K Mart! We would have a blast shopping for each other while also trying to hide from each other! It was so much fun, and such great memories were made! 🙂

  19. Chelsey

    December 13th, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    Love this so much. My hubby and I buy our girls one thing, they get one thing from Santa and then they each buy for each other. This year we have a foster son and both our girls were so excited to pick something for him. Sometimes in the hussle and Bussle I feel like the mean mom bc we limit the stuff. This makes me happy that others are doing similar things.

  20. Mara

    December 13th, 2018 at 4:02 pm

    This is a great idea. I would love to implement this strategy this Christmas with my kids. My only question is what about Santa? Does he bring the another gift?

  21. Linda

    December 14th, 2018 at 5:31 am

    Yeah, this gifting strategy has been going on all over the internet, I’ve noticed. First time I saw it on Youtube was interesting. Turns out the blogger posting it was doing it in response to another blogger, shaming her for extravagant purchases for her 1 and 2 year old daughters. It’s great if one can stick to it, especially when you have 4 little ladies to make happy on Christmas morning.

  22. Dena Breitmeyer

    December 14th, 2018 at 6:56 am

    This is such an awesome idea! My kiddos are a bit older and we love to gift them experiences for Christmas! They don’t want or need any “things” so we like to give tickets to a Broadway or local theater show, concert tickets or even an annual ski pass or a weekend family trip to the museum or aquarium! They love it and we love spending time with them enjoying their “gift”!!!

  23. Sarah

    December 14th, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    When I became a single mother with my son, I wanted to make Christmas special but still within a now lower budget. I started to do Something you Want, Something you Need, Something you Wear and Something you Read. It was a rhyme and made it fun for him to make a list. Turns out that by doing this I have my son now looking at purchases in that manner. I recommend that all parents take this approach as it does truly teach our children the meaning of the season and not focused on receiving gifts. Oh, and he gets pajamas for the Eve!

  24. Megan

    December 19th, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    You and your girls are so cute.

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