5 Gift Rule: Everything You Need To Know About A Want, Need, Wear, Read List

The 5 gift rule continues to gain popularity as a way to beat consumerism, reign in spending (and actually stick to your Christmas budget), all while providing gifts that are actually meaningful and useful. The five gift rule is primarily for kids creating a “want, need, wear, read” list at Christmas, but adults can get in on it and it can be applied to other times of the year like birthdays, Easter, and more. Discover what the 5 gift rule is, variations, and ideas for gifts!

What is the 5 gift rule?

The 5 gift rule basically suggests giving 5 gifts for Christmas or birthdays:

  1. Something they need
  2. Something they want
  3. Something to wear
  4. Something to read
  5. Something to do/experience

The idea is to ensure gift giving remains meaningful and purposeful.

Benefits of the 5 gift rule:

The five gift rule makes it easier to spend less and enjoy more. Research shows that kids play longer and deeper with fewer choices; and our bank accounts also benefits. But the benefits of the five gift rule are pretty extensive:

  • Reduce spending/ stick to a budget
  • Overcome consumerism
  • Can lessen clutter and waste
  • Improve executive functioning (if kids plan their gifts)
  • Encourage deeper, more meaningful play/experiences

5 Gift Rule Ideas For Kids


One of my favorite books to give are the personalized books from Wonderbly (shop here). They have selections for newborns until about 8 years old and are a huge hit.

You can also opt for seasonal books like these Christmas books for kids.


When it comes to “wear” pajamas from Kyte baby are always a good choice, super durable and soft.

We also love H&M, Rylee & Cru, Target, LC Little Co, and Little Planet (swipe for some top picks of the season):


This is your child's big “I WANT, I WANT!” item.

For my daughter, it's usually baby dolls, little toy cars like toy cranes or toy excavators, etc. For my son, he's obsessed with airplanes so we've gotten him this and this.


We always look at “need” as a slow burn item that's not clothes or a book. This usually works some “needed” skill they'll get a ton of use out of; and isn't an excuse to double up on underwear or socks.

For instance with toddlers a climbing toy, toddler learning tower, scooter, or bike all make great picks. These are generally things working gross motor skills or fostering independence they need.

I know for some people, those items may seem like “wants” but the to us, they are “needs” in childhood. When they're older it may be a computer or headphones or something which will double for work and fun.

Other ideas would be things like letter work, kinetic sand, play-doh, etc. (swipe for more):


Under the “do” category you can opt for a family experience like a trip to Disney World or Disneyland, the zoo, or art museum.

You could also opt for another slow burn type of item like an art easel, create a story cards, or sensory items like play-doh, sand, art supplies etc. Anything that really has them “doing” to create something.

5 gift rule variations:

While the 5 gift rule is the most popular gift giving philosophy there are a few tweaks you can make to best match your situation or budget:

  • 3 Gift Rule
  • 4 Gift rule
  • 7 Gift Rule

What is the 3 Gift Rule?

The 3 gift rule is based on Jesus receiving three gifts from the Wise Men. You simply opt for 3 gifts they don't necessarily need to fit the categories above; though you can use those for ideas.

What is the 4 Gift Rule?

The 4 gift rule includes something they want, need, to wear, and to read. It's similar to the 5 gift rule, minus the experience.

What is the 7 Gift Rule?

The 7 gift rule gives the following fits:

  • something they want
  • something they need
  • something to wear
  • something to read
  • something to do/experience
  • something for “me”
  • something for the family

It's similar to the 5 gift rule, with two additional gifts – one “want” you could say and one shared.

This is probably most similar to what we ultimately do in our family. Though we do quite a number of shared gifts.

When to use the 5 gift rule?

The 5 gift rule (and it's variations) are most popular with Christmas as a way to curb overspending and clutter. However you can use these gift giving rules for birthdays, when constructing Easter Baskets or Boo Baskets, or any time you do gifts.

Who is the 5 gift rule for?

The 5 gift rule is primarily for kids or children during Christmas, however you can apply it to adults too.

Some couples even choose to follow the rule in their own gift giving.

Additionally, many people attribute it, or also call it, the minimalist 5 gift Christmas rule – and while it does keep christmas gifts minimal, it's not just for minimalists. It's a great way to reign in spending and help kids develop their executive functioning around self-control, planning, flexible thinking, and working memory (this one comes into play the morning of Christmas or receiving the gifts).

5 Gift Rule Ideas: Printable Christmas Lists and Tags

You can even get specific 5 gift rule tags or lists. Personally, I love involving kids in the categorization of their list as it helps develop their executive functioning and sets expectations for everyone.

Want Need Wear Read Christmas List Printable:

Some families even print “Want Need Wear Read” Christmas lists for their kids to fill in like these (swipe to view them all):

Want Need Wear read Tags:

You can also print your own gift tags for “want need wear” like these (swipe to see them all):

Final thoughts on the five gift rule

Personally I think the 5 gift rule is excellent for cutting down the chaos of Christmas, birthdays, and other holidays. It streamlines gifts so you can focus on more of what matters.