free photo of a gift

What to do with unwanted gifts

We all have them.  However many hints you drop, or wish lists you provide, there’s always an unwanted gift or two amongst a households Christmas presents.  Unless of course, you’re the type of person who’s grateful for a miles too small crocheted mini dress, character night dresses or the bath toiletries when you’ve preferred showers since the age of 11*

Of course, we receive lovely and thoughtful presents, but there’s no point cluttering up a house, when homes could be found for these unwanted gifts as well as the bonus of the emotional happiness of making someone’s day who wouldn’t receive that gift normally, exchanging it for something more appropriate, or getting a bit of cash back.

free photo of a gift
Credit: by Naypong

What unwanted gifts crop up? 

1.       Duplicates.  This year N received 2 duplicates of items he already owns.  Always dangerous with children, especially when you’re buying things of a certain age range that are from popular ranges.  Personally, I think my best friend and N’s godmother got it right when she sent a book token.  She and I love books, so to get a book we don’t already own would have been hard.  Boring, vouchers may be, but they do the job (especially when the child is young enough not to bother about not having a toy to open.  The other duplicate was a puzzle sent direct from Amazon for him. Instead I wrapped a different puzzle I’d bought as an additional item from the original sender, and I will sell on the other puzzle.

2.       Incorrect size.  Especially for women, clothing is a hard one, and buying in sales is worse still as after Christmas there’s often none of the same item left to swap it for.  For children, it’s less of a problem if you buy a size up as they’ll just grow into them.

3.       Generally unsuitable gifts.  Everyone has these.  Gift sets that aren’t that person’s cup of tea, clothes that are the wrong colour (my OH never says he doesn’t like an item of clothing, so years down the line I find them in his wardrobe still with labels on and unable to return them to the stores in question – argghh!)

4.       Gadgets that don’t work or don’t last.  Not a lot you can do about these apart from enjoy them while you can, or return them under a warranty.  Often this is made hard because you don’t have a receipt, or if it’s unbranded, you have no idea where the gift came from.

What to do with unwanted gifts?

1.       Upcycle them into something else.  Embellish plain outfits, re-use stationery, use toiletry bottles for other items or any other creative projects.

2.       Exchange them.  The obvious one.  Mostly easiest with branded items like clothes.  Books, CDs etc are a bit of a nightmare without proof of where you bought them from.  Plus if there’s no receipt you might end up with a sale value item instead of the original item.

3.       Donate to charity, friends, family (or keep them in a present box to pass on to other people.  Just make a note who gave it you in the first place).  Charities are always looking for items, but my advice is always to ask them for a gift aid form when you take items in.  They don’t often ask if you have a card or if you live and work in the UK.  If you do, charities can claim back additional money for anything that’s sold, meaning more money goes to the charity.  You can also freecycle.  Depending on your area, there’ll be plenty of people looking for items for free.

4.       Sell them.  So Ebay’s the obvious one – you just need to watch out for listing fees (there’s regularly free listing weekends, or you can list so many items for under 99p each month for free), and then obviously postage rates, as many items cost a bit to post.  I also try Gumtree (although I’ve never found any success buying or selling on there), local facebook selling sites (often people want things dirt cheap, but there’s no postage as usually people will collect).

How to solve the issue of unwanted gifts?

Martin Lewis from Money Saving Expert would say, just don’t give presents.  And when you think about who often gives you those unwanted presents (random aunts, uncles, grans etc), that would make sense, as they’re unlikely to actually know what you like.  Or do a family secret santa (so you might only end up with one unwanted present instead of lots!)

wish list picture

My OH’s family are big into lists.  Even for the adults, as generally they prefer practical presents rather than fun ones that are what you’d like but would never buy for yourself.  So generally from them, you never get a dud present.  But it’s really hard thinking of presents as you get older, as mostly I just buy what I want, or save up throughout the year.  Lists are definitely a possibility – only watch out that you don’t give the same list to everyone or you’ll end up with duplicates.  Even online wishlists aren’t infallible if people buy offline rather than through the link so the idea is removed for others to view.

And of course, not everyone likes buying off a list.  I remember back to our wedding list, where we ended up with crystal wine glasses – never used, still probably in the under the stairs cupboard – unlike the glasses that were actually on our list!  Oh and the 2 vases and random hideous floral cake plate and knife – again, never used and I’m not sure where they are.

My one tip would be ensure you set the ground beforehand.  Don’t get all excited and feign adoration for a present that isn’t suitable, otherwise you’ll get more like it the next year.  Tell the person you’re on a diet (I used to always get given chocolates – and not even chocolates I like, but ones I don’t year after year) or can’t eat a certain item.  But do it in a way you’ll not hurt their feelings.

What do you do with unwanted gifts?  Or are you an ideal recipient who loves everything given to you?

*delete as appropriate or include your own dodgy gift
** Disclaimer – these may or may not have be gifts received in our household over the years
***Am I just really miserable, or have I just had one too many awful gifts over the years where the person should just have saved their money and not bothered

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  1. I’m terrible with presents, I’d rather people didn’t buy anything at all than get me something I don’t want. Fortunately with children, we only buy for children and they’re the only ones who receive gifts from others. We didn’t do too badly this year, I think there are only a few things that I will sneak out for charity or to sell. I feel bad about doing it, but we have so much stuff that it’s impossible to keep everything. Kits for making things that will end up thrown in the bin (no room to keep all the craft output!) seem better to pass on to someone who might actually want it 😉

    1. We’re the same. Generally it’s only the children that get bought things…bit of a shame as I like to open gifts too, and give them to my friends, plus N gets so much anyway. But definitely think there’s lots of people who do need or want things more than some of us, so at least people do benefit.

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