Today I’m sharing with you a gift-giving tradition that Zach and I have for Christmas.

As a new wife, I knew Zach, but deciding on gifts for him was a challenge for every gift-giving event. (Which is quite honestly, why I probably started the, “What do you think about buying something together for our anniversary instead of buying separate gifts?” conversation in the first place).

I like to give and get surprises as gifts but I also know what I want and I want to know what Zach really wants. My first Christmas with Zach was spent trying to find out what he wanted and trying to figure out a surprise and trying to budget getting the big thing he wanted (a guitar he has never touched) and an equally valuable (maybe not monetarily but in thought at least) surprise.

It was difficult and I didn’t exactly enjoy the whole “deciding on a Christmas present for Zach thing.” It could have been that we were very newly wed. It could have also been that we were a tad bit poorer than we are now. Whatever it was, it nagged at me because I normally LOVE giving gifts.

Then my friend, Aleisha, told me about a tradition in their family where each person gets a gift of love, a gift of want, and a gift of need. I loved this idea. Not only does it help narrow down your gift giving list to three categories, but it can be adjusted to any budget, which really appealed to me as we do plan on having a family.

I also liked the idea because when kids come into the picture, it keeps them from getting too caught up in the “want” phase and especially keeps them from getting too many gifts, in my opinion. I thought this was something we could definitely adopt and make part of our tradition.

Then I read Glennon’s post over at Momastery where she mentioned that her kids get three gifts for Christmas. Jesus got three gifts so her kids get three gifts. She doesn’t want them to lose the meaning of Christmas. I fully understand and support that. That gave me another reason to love this idea. It also made me laugh when Glennon said that her kids have never complained but when they do her argument will be “Three gifts for Jesus, three for you. Do you think you’re better than Jesus?”

The gift-giving categories and pretty self explanatory. I’ll give some suggestions for each:

The gift of love is my favorite category. This is pretty much only decided upon by the gift giver not the gift receiver–this is where that special element of thoughtfulness and surprise comes in. The first year we did it, I made Zach a photo album that stands like a frame that he could take to work. It has cute/silly pictures of us with little memories interspersed. I made it because he had said he wanted a picture to put on his new desk at work when he started. He started a week before Thanksgiving, so that’s what I did. The following year I made a calendar for him on Shutterfly. Every month had a funny e-card or some nerdy thing from the internet with a funny inside joke caption.

I know people who have done gifts of love and made collages, quilts, rice bags for head or feet, etc. The gift of love is something thoughtful that comes from the heart. In my case, it requires more time and effort than the others. In Zach’s case, it just requires more thoughtfulness. He has yet to make me a gift of love and that’s totally fine. He looks at it through a “thoughtful” scope and that works for me.

The gift of want is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a gift they want the most. Perhaps kids could give several suggestions to choose from or maybe just one. In the past my gift of want has always been gift cards somewhere so I can shop for clothes and things. Zach’s wants have been a little different…sometimes clothes…sometimes nerdy stuff, sometimes gun stuff. This year we are actually forfeiting this category I will explain why in a later post, but there will still be something wrapped to open. (Are you dying to hear more?)

The gift of need is things that you really need. For kids this would probably be where their clothes would come in. Zach and I usually do underwear or socks or both for this category. I don’t need clothes, I want them, but I usually do need socks. As in, I scour Zach’s drawer most mornings for socks. That’s usually on my list. If we need something for work or school in the past, that has been something we’ve done, too. So for students in college, it could be grocery money, a book, supplies, etc.

My friend, Aleisha, told me that there are “wrapping rules” for how you wrap each gift, but I’ve yet to find those rules. Instead, we wrap them as normal. However, I’ve been writing my own rules and I will be happy to share them once I’m done.

I do want to be honest, Zach and I do still do one big Santa gift for one another and stocking stuffers…I’m a sucker for Believing and I love the magic of Christmas and Santa and he still comes to our house and he will when we have kids, too. We try to keep it modest and budget-friendly.

I love these categories because they work for anyone. They allow for creativity/thoughtfulness/surprises/needs/wants.

It makes for a very heartfelt holiday season.