10 Christmas Gifts You're Better Off Returning


We can't all have the gift giving foresight of Kris Kringle. Luckily, most retailers have a return policy to keep us from actually having to wear that itchy wool sweater from Aunt Sue. Last year, the average person returned four holiday gifts, according to The National Retail Federation's Holiday Returns Survey. And while it's common sense to return the gifts we hate, there are several less-obvious reasons why we might consider bringing a present back to the store.

Read on for our list of the top gifts you should return this holiday season, and why.

1. Smartphones

They're sleek and they're handy — and they're the gift that keeps on costing. In the lead-up to Christmas, wireless carriers often slash the prices on the hottest mobile phone models, making them great bang-for-your-buck gifts for Christmas present shoppers. Target, for example, was hawking the Samsung Galaxy 5s on Thanksgiving weekend for a penny. That's all well and good for the gift-giver, but it does nothing to help out the recipient, who will be stuck paying the service bill for that shiny new device. The phone itself may have cost a penny, but the service bill won't. In fact, monthly service charges can add up to more than $3,000 over two years, which is the typical amount of time that the smartphone recipient would be locked in to a new wireless service contract.

2. Clothes That Don't Fit Your Taste or Shape

Apparel is the number one most returned Christmas gift, and here's why: When we don't like what we wear, it tends to hog our focus, stealing away our energy from other things in our lives, such as career, family, and relationships, that are more important. And with so many variations in style, color, and size, it's nearly impossible to buy clothing for another person. Be it a sweater or a pair of socks, follow this rule of thumb: If you don't like it, bring it back.

3. The Snuggie

Once people started to realize that the Snuggie is merely an unattractive throw with sleeves, the wearable blanket trend went out the window — and that was years ago. If you get a Snuggie this Christmas, do us all a favor and return it. There are plenty of ways to keep warm without invoking a hospital gown.

4. Home Goods That Aren't Quite Right

The thing about gifting someone a blender or a lampshade or an area rug is that most people have a very specific idea about what kind of kitchen tools and lighting accessories and carpeting they want to outfit their home with. So if you gift them the Vitamix 300 instead of the 500 model they actually wanted, chances are they'll return it. In fact, 11% of gift recipients plan on returning home goods this Christmas. That's why you shouldn't hesitate to step right up to the returns counter if a home good you received isn't quite right.

5. Perfume and Cologne

There's about $1.50 worth of ingredients in the average bottle of perfume, yet the typical price tag is $150 — less than 1% of the retail cost. Think about that the next time you receive a bottle you're less than thrilled about.

6. Skis, Skates, and Snowshoes

If you're a newbie to a winter sport, getting the gear to match is probably a poor investment. There's no reason to own a set of skis, for example, until you've figured out whether it's an activity you actually enjoy. And it doesn't do anybody good to have barely used winter sporting equipment laying around in the attic for years to come. So unless you know you're going to make use of those speed skates, take them back to the store and stick to rentals.

7. Self-Help Books

Self-help books tend to state the obvious, oversimplify, and contain more fluff than helpful, meaty nuggets. "Their recommendations are often out of touch with what works in the real world," says Marty Nemko, a career and personal coach who claims to have scanned, skimmed, or read thousands of them. So if you're looking to make gains in your personal or career life, it's probably best to ditch the manuals and ask real-life experts or experienced professionals for guidance instead.

8. Makeup

It's difficult to know what makeup will compliment your style and skin tone until you try it. So it stands to reason that it's doubly hard to buy lipstick or blush for somebody else. Luckily, most cosmetics counters accept timely returns. "You shouldn't ever feel guilty about a return," New York City makeup artist Raychel Wade, who got her start working behind makeup counters, tells Woman's Day. "It's hard to know how your skin will react or if you'll still like a color when you get home."

9. Candles, Soaps, and Lotions

It's true that just about everyone likes, or at least uses, candles, soaps, and lotions. It's also likely true that you already have enough of them. So long as they're unopened, you should be able to return them — and that's a much better option than giving them space in your bathroom junk drawer.

10. Exercise Equipment

In January and February, when everyone's trying to keep their fitness resolutions, retailers tend to mark down treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, and the like. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, however, these items are typically priced at their highest. You can cash in on this pricing trend by returning exercise equipment purchased in December and repurchasing it again a few weeks later when the prices come down. You'll still get that brand new elliptical — plus a little extra cash in your pocket.

What gifts have you returned?

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