The etiquette of unwanted Christmas gifts

santa bringing Christmas gifts taking a cookie

News & Insights

MoneyPlus Features Team

13th December 2016 at 5:00pm

When Christmas is finally over one thing is as sure as leftover turkey – and that is that thousands of unwanted or unloved Christmas gifts will be disposed of as the January sales swing into action.

That Bridget Jones- inspired Xmas jumper which your aunt gave you feels so last decade – well the film was made in 2001. The bestselling book you were given by a colleague is great, but you’ve got three of them. Novelty onesies, enough said.

So what do you do with unwanted presents and how do you avoid hurting the feelings of those who took the time and trouble to buy, wrap and give you a gift they thought you’d like – or even love! After all, one person’s dancing Santa hell is another’s idea of heavenly fun.

Here are our top six tips to help you navigate the etiquette pitfalls.

Keep your plans under wrap

It’s best not to discuss unwanted presents in case you inadvertently tell the person who bought you that onesie what you thought of it. And if you do tell people what you do with unloved presents, be thoughtful or you could end up looking a bit insensitive.

Regifting works but be careful

Straightforward passing on of a gift to another person – regifting – can be a great solution. Check everything is in good order and fits the person you are regifting it to and, hey presto, job done.

Our MoneyPlus colleagues’ experiences show how easy this can go awry. One of the team gave back the same bottle of red wine his nephew had given him; and another colleague didn’t realise her 7-year-old daughter had already used an expensively fragranced bath lotion and had to hastily apologise for handing over a half empty bottle.

If you just get too many presents, consider keeping a few in the cupboard for future birthdays and even next Christmas. Just remember to label them in case you end up giving that children’s art book back to your neighbour a few months down the line.

The ‘shwap’ shop

Holding a Christmas present ‘shwapping’ party sounds like a great idea but you run the very real risk of seeing your friends’ faces fall as you all realise you’ve all brought each others’ carefully planned and exquisitely wrapped presents along to swap. One to avoid.

Take the presents back

If you know where a gift came from you’ll probably be able to take it back and swap it or get a credit voucher in its place. If you don’t, you could ask the person who bought it for the receipt if they still have it. This is likely to go down a lot better if it’s an item of clothing bought in the wrong size but if it’s simply a case of not liking it, feelings could be trampled and relationships bruised.

Sell unwanted presents on eBay

As the Marie Claire November issue highlighted, demand and prices for Apple goods, Samsung, and Lego are high on Ebay but look through the listings and there’s a market for nearly everything. You can also give a percentage of your takings to charity with eBay doing all the admin and passing the money on. There are tax advantages through Gift Aid too.

Using local Gumtree ads online saves on the postage and you can sell goods face to face, making it easier to get immediate cash too.

Give gifts to charity

Whatever your reasons for not wanting to keep Christmas presents, you can put them to good use and make a real difference to other people’s lives. Take them to your local charity shop and they’ll raise money for a good cause – and free up storage space in your home.

When it comes to keeping the Christmas goodwill going, giving those unwanted gifts away or selling them online is the better, safer option. Keeping your relationships happy and healthy is priceless.

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