Eight Things to Do with Unwanted Christmas Presents

Last year, people across the UK received £2.2 billion-worth of unwanted Christmas gifts. Now that January is over, it might be time to decide what to do with those that you don’t want or can’t use. Whether it’s a book you’ve read already, some socks that are not your style, a gift card for a shop you don’t use, or a shirt you couldn’t possibly wear outside of the house, there are a number of options for getting rid of those unwanted presents to ensure that they fulfil their purpose and don’t go to waste. After all someone else may enjoy them even if you don’t.

1. Return or Exchange

Returning or exchanging the gift is possibly the first thing we would think of. If the receipt was included with your present you should be able to take it back to the store. Without the receipt, all is not lost. You may be able to ask the person who gave you the present for the receipt instead, but if this isn’t possible, many shops will let you exchange undamaged goods for alternative items. If the present was purchased online, things are little more complicated, as there is a limited period to return and exchange items.

2. Regift It

Although this used to be an utter no-no, re-gifting is acceptable if some thought is put into it. It’s not about just getting rid of something that doesn’t suit you, but giving it to someone who’ll genuinely appreciate it. And this doesn’t have to be done immediately; keep a box of surplus presents and you’ll always have a gift on hand when you need one. You will also need an excuse if the person you re-gift it to asks for the receipt to exchange it.

3. Charity Shops

Donate items to a charity shop has the double win that someone else will end up appreciating the item and money goes towards an important cause. Most Charity shops, however, will not accept certain items for safety, hygiene or legal reasons. These include:

  • Prescription glasses
  • Children’s clothes with drawstring hoods
  • Microwaves and electric fires 
  • Medication
  • Objects that can be used as weapons
  • Bicycles
  • Oil heaters, petrol or diesel fuelled items
  • Computer hard drives

Most items are ok, but check with the shop that you wish to donate to. Keep in mind that the shop might be closed because of a period of lockdown. Also, when charity shops have been open, many have been overwhelmed by donations, so check this first too. There is always the option to sell the items yourself and donate the money directly to the charity, although this, of course, is more work.

4. Donate to A Refuge/The Homeless/The NHS

There are many schemes to donate to the Women’s Aid and Refuge charities, and to specific refuges although donations must usually be sent to a general PO box address. You can also donate clothes and blankets to homeless, who may be more in need of the socks, hats, scarfs, jumpers and blankets you might have received at Christmas.

Toys can also be donated to children’s hospital’s or children’s wards in the NHS. Great Ormond Street advises that the older children love board games, computer games, Lego, arts and crafts. Babies wards would love to receive mobiles and other developmental toys. Keep in mind that donated toys must be new, but this makes unwanted Christmas presents perfect.

5. Sell it

Not every gift – that giant bottle of shampoo for instance – can be sold on, but most can. Sites like eBay and Gumtree offer a quick and easy way to help sell items, but it’s important to be wary of the fees. Alternative sites such as Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and Preloved, however, may allow you to advertise items you want to sell, along with images and descriptions, for free. Just be sure the person who gave the present isn’t following the auction.

For unwanted games, CDs and electronics, you can use websites such as MusicMagpie to post your items for an agreed amount of cash.

6. Swap it

You can always swap a gift with a family member on Christmas Day? If that thought has come too late, then talk to friends. Perhaps they have an unwanted gift you’d love, whilst a present you hate is just their cup of tea?  That way you both end up happy.

7. Keep It at The Back of a Cupboard

If it just doesn’t feel right to sell or donate something thoughtfully chosen for you by a friend or family member, do what many people have always done. Pack it away in a cupboard. Maybe one of these days you, or somebody else, might need it.

8. Recycle It

If all else fails, don’t just consign the unwanted present to the bin and landfill. Companies including H&M, John Lewis & Partners, M&S and Nike have schemes in which they will buy back your unwanted clothes and trainers, or offer you a voucher. The organisation Recycling For Good Causes works with over 5000 charities and good causes to raise funds by recycling unwanted, donated items.

The basic answer to the problem of unwanted gifts is to think a little more when buying presents and ask if the recipient genuinely needs the gift, or whether it is the fact that it’s a novelty gift, or on sale, that is making it more attractive?  You can also try checking if the prospective present is on the list of the 10 of the most returned Christmas gifts, we might not buy as many unwanted presents and it would follow that we would also receive less.

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