How Much Christmas Do You Buy?


The congestion has moved to my chest. I feel good for a little while, but get winded after any exertion. I have to pace myself.

I’m chomping at the bit because my wood floors are half sanded here and there. I can’t decorate until the floors are sanded/refinished. And I can’t finish the floors until I feel better. So I wait…with my undecorated house and half sanded floors.

I could put the floors off until January and cover the floors with rugs for now, but it feels like a failure on my part. I so wanted a perfect house for the holidays.

At least my shopping is done. The other day while I was coughing up a lung, I read an article that said you should buy four gifts for each person. One practical, one wearable, one wished for, and one book.

I come from a large family. During lean times, my parents bought us a board game or a community toy. In various years, I remember a metal top that you cranked to spin, ball and jacks, and a Spirograph.

It was no big deal to share a community gift. We were used to it. Later, when times were better each of us would get one gift each.

The idea of giving four gifts per person boggles my mind. Maybe that’s a sign of better financial circumstances, but when you read that the majority of Americans are not saving enough for retirement, I question the validity of the four gift guideline.

Even when I became an adult, I would never give more than one gift each. Today, I make an exception for my mother because, well, she’s my mother.

When Greg and I used to exchange gifts we had a spending cap. It didn’t matter how many gifts you gave as long as it was under the dollar amount we set aside. Trust me, it was a very low ceiling. 😀

I’m curious though. How do you feel about this etiquette rule of four gifts each? Do you have a preset limit on how much you’ll spend on each person? How much more shopping do you have left?

PS  Can you believe tomorrow is December already?!

Don’t forget that I plan to host an author day tomorrow. It’s the Gift Guide for Readers. If you have a book you’d like to promote you have a few hours left to get in. (There is no cost to authors. It’s my Christmas shout out for you.)

If you’d like to see some of the other gift guides, check these out.

Gift Guide for the Animal Lover
Gift Guide for Gardeners
Gift Guide Just for You
Gift Guide for the Creative Soul
Gift Guide for Silver Seniors




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  1. We have a small circle to give to (immediate family) so we do a few for each other, son and my mother (we live with her), but the only other person we give is to Husband’s parents and it’s just one. We don’t buy for his sister & brother or their kids. We don’t see them enough and even if we did, they’re grown now. We stop when they turn 18. We like to spend money on food and charity. So far we’ve given about $50 to various charities around town and it’ll probably be another $100 more by the end of the season.

  2. Darke: I stop giving gifts after kids turn 18 too. Time for them to learn about the real world. 🙂

    Sometimes when I read these articles, I wonder from where the author is basing his criteria. I know a few people who give multiple gifts, but not many.

  3. I loved Spirograph! My husband and I actually gave one to my niece and nephew last year. We always give them books and maybe one or two other things and usually something to share or to play together, like a game.

    There’s no such thing as a “perfect house” so please take care of yourself. That’s way more important. 🙂

    • re: Spirograph
      Wasn’t that fun! It made me feel like an artist long before I was one.

      re: perfect house
      You’re right. Greg and I discussed it yesterday. We’ll put off the floors until January 3rd when things are back to normal.

  4. Four gifts per person! On what planet? Honestly, these article are written by people who need the paycheck and know they don’t really need to put anything true or helpful out there. Most of us already have too much stuff – I’d go crazy if everyone on my list gave ME four gifts each! Can you imagine?

    Okay, I’ll calm down. Promise. With the appearance in our lives, of 11 grandchildren, two nephews, and now one great-grandchild, we begged for mercy a few years ago. Christmas, we decided, would be devoted to the under-20 crowd. And we have a dollar amount per person, so number of gifts is irrelevant. (We’ve sort let the under-20 thing slide a bit, as we’re still giving gifts to the older grandchildren and nephews. They are all over 21 now, but still in college or – gasp! – supporting families. A little Christmas money helps them out.)

    But our kids only get a family calendar that I make on Shutterfly, and the odd food gift that I might put together, like a bag of my homemade pancake mix or homemade popcorn seasoning. That kind of thing. Sisters and other relatives also get a calendar, but that’s it.

    The other side of this is that no one has much room in their homes. I try to be careful about adding piles of toys and useless things into already tight spaces. For one daughter, who lives in a tiny apartment with husband and two kids, we buy a year’s membership to one or two museums. We do that for some of the others too – amusement parks, zoos, museums, aquariums, observatories… great places to take kids and they can go all year.

    I hope you feel better soon enough to enjoy the holiday. Glad you decided not to stress over the floors. A perfect house is overrated, right?

    • Marlene: I’m beginning to think you’re right. The author was just writing for a paycheck. Still, it makes me angry that someone might read this and take it to heart.

      re: room
      You’re right on this too. My mom lives with a sister, so she really doesn’t have any house to herself other than her room. Most of the gifts I give her are consumables. Gift cards for massages, food, or entertainment. At her age too, better to give her things she’ll enjoy in the moment.

  5. “I could put the floors off until January and cover the floors with rugs for now, but it feels like a failure on my part. I so wanted a perfect house for the holidays.” It’s more important that you’re ‘perfect’ for Christmas, not the house, Maria.

    And a ‘four gift’ Christmas is just a marketing gimmick – like having more than one Christmas tree (smiley emoticon to make it less of a rant) 🙂

    • Mike: It plays into the heart of consumerism. Better a well thought out gift than a pile of things that will end up in someone’s garage sale–which is where I usually pick them up. 🙂

      re: Christmas trees
      Sometimes. I’ve known people to decorate small trees for elderly relatives living with them who suffer from dementia. It’s specially decorated with memories from their youth.

      If you have the room, there’s no harm in a second tree. At least most of the time they’re decorated with keepsakes. It’s the one time of year you can display your memories with abandon.

  6. Glad you’re feeling better 🙂

    The stores here are stuffed with stuff – and increasingly, with people. Ack. I’m not really a crowds sort of person. I think the shops are putting some of their AFTER Christmas sales on BEFORE Christmas!

  7. I heard (read?) somewhere that giving 3 gifts to your kids could represent the 3 wise men that came to visit the Baby Jesus, one gift per wise men. I have to admit when the kids were younger, they got more than the 4 recommended gifts 🙂 Hubby and me when we were buying gifts for each other would do about 3 gifts for each other. Otherwise, those like sisters, brothers, parents, etc., were 1 gift each, except of course my mom I did give more than 1 gift, often 5 gifts, but they were small things. Can you imagine a big family buying 4 gifts for each member?


    • Betty: Greg came from a small family and it was normal for him to receive multiple gifts.

      My family unit was far too big for that, but like I said, it wasn’t a big deal. We had grown up with less and never expected more.

  8. Well, I always overdo it on gifts for the kids. My problem is I want each one to have the same number of things to open just to keep it even (we’re usually opening gifts all together). But I also want to spend the same on each one. So if one kid has a more expensive item on their list and another has a bunch of inexpensive things, I go crazy trying to even things out both ways.

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