The Present Poem: Controlling Gift Spending

Lorelai on her birthday

The Birthday Girl in her new clothes

We have three girls, with birthdays in November, December & January—that’s a lot of presents amidst the holiday chaos! The budget can get out of control. Not to mention the toy room chaos. Several years ago, I stumbled on a Victorian adage that sounded like the perfect solution.

For birthday & Christmas, each girl now receives:

Something you want,
Something you need,
Something to wear,
And, something to read.


Limiting our gifts to the categories on the list reduces our holiday spending and ensures the items they do receive are well thought out. There is no more buying toys just to have presents. Everyone gets 4 gifts, and the girls have fun guessing which line of the poem they’re opening next.

Sometimes, I get a little creative—they might get a magazine subscription instead of a book or jewelry instead of clothes. (Except on their birthday. The first present of the morning is always an outfit to wear that day.)

Today is Lorelai’s birthday, and it was a real struggle to find gifts she would enjoy. We don’t have cable so there are no commercials to add to her want list. She entertains herself fairly creatively with nothing at all. There just isn’t anything she specifically gravitates towards—weird, right?

The poem helped guide me a bit, and we have manged to select some birthday gifts I think she’ll love. Most importantly (to me), each item has long term potential. These won’t be discarded at the bottom of the toybox by the end of the week.

I hope.

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Article by justheather

Heather Sokol is the married mother of 4 amazing, active children. They have created in her a Sports Mom, Scout Mom, Allergy Mom & avid coupon clipper. Is that miscellaneous enough for you? She shares her deals & tips at Inexpensively.com and reports progress on learning to be a grownup at JustHeather.com. justheather tagged this post with: , Read 92 articles by
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  1. [...] to learn that if I wanted to control our gift budget and declutter the house, I should start with cutting down on the number of [...]

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