7 Ways to Deal With Unwanted Gifts


Everyone has received at least one horrible or laughably useless gift. But what should you do if you receive a gift that you don't want or can't use? Here are seven ways to deal with gifts that don't meet your needs. (See also: Wise Bread Gift Guide: Gifts That Save You Money)

1. Refuse

OK, this is really more of a pre-emption, and it's a tricky option, but a valuable one. If you have the opportunity to politely turn down an unwanted gift before receiving it, then you can stave off the hassle of finding a new home for it later. If your giver is an understanding type, you can simply describe how you are trying hard not to acquire new stuff in your home. Make sure to express appreciation for the gift (or at least, the thought behind it!).

2. Return

If your giver was kind enough to provide a gift receipt, then you don’t have to do much explaining. Just take the gift back to the store and return it or exchange it for something that you want or need. You can even return or cash out most major gift cards.

3. Regift

Some gifts are useful specifically because you have the option to give it to someone else. Perhaps that skull-shaped vase isn’t really your cup of tea, but you know a person with more eclectic tastes that would love it.

Regifting can be tricky — if both the person who gave you the gift and the person you are regifting it to happen to know one another, then honesty is probably the best policy. Explain to your giver that you know someone who would be incredibly jealous of the gift and ask if it would be OK to regift it.

4. Resell

If the gift is of any monetary value and you can sell it without your gift-giver finding out, then by all means, earn some cold, hard cash on eBay or craigslist. Check out this article on where to sell common household items. You can even sell Groupon coupons.

5. Repurpose

So skinny jeans are in, but your aunt thought you’d like a pair of extremely flared jeans. If you can’t return them (and can’t bear to wear them), alter the jeans. People still wear jean shorts in the summer, don’t they?

6. Refinish

Sometimes, a gift just needs a new coat of paint to make the grade. Chairs can be recovered, furniture refinished, clothing dyed, posters reframed, and brass chandeliers spray painted a brilliant shade of pink and hung in a funky bedroom or dining room. If you’ve received a well-used (or simply ugly) gift that has good bones (and you’re feeling a bit crafty) consider finding ways to shine it up and use it before getting rid of it.

7. Recycle

Donating unwanted things to Goodwill or any charity of your choice is a win-win. Non-profit organizations are able to fund their operations, and you get a tax deduction for charitable donations. If the unwanted gift is incredibly unique, make sure to donate it to an organization where the giver won’t see it!

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Guest's picture
Southern AZ

I belong to a club that gives door prizes at each meeting. Most of the door prizes are recycled gifts donated by members. We usually have about 10 'prizes' and draw 8 tickets, so no one gets stuck with the 'least desirable' item.

Andrea Karim's picture

Not a bad idea for those gift-exchangey type of events. I remember one White Elephant party I attended where the "least desirable" gift was a 12 pack of toilet paper. I was pretty happy to get it, because, I mean, toilet paper! Everyone needs it!

Guest's picture

When we began to revamp our life into a slow one without the materialism so heavily promoted in this culture, we politely refused gifts and everyone understood except those family members who were using gifts are leverage (ugh). We were willing to piss them off since it really wasn't a gift, it was an obligation disguised as a fake gift. Being authentic to us is as important as being slow and mindfully economical in our consumption.

Guest's picture

i just like the idea about reselling, and you just got me there!nice!

Guest's picture

I don't know how practical a few of those may be, and do have a suggestion. In a lot of cultures, turning down a gift, even if you do not like it, would be taken as an insult, and sometimes you just have to take it.

One suggestion I would make is this.... Donate. =)

There are plenty of organizations that would be happy to take anything they can get. A year ago, I received about 20 various teddy bears. We were able to donate them to the local hospital for kids with cancer. They appreciated the gift very much.

Secondly, organizations that are for new immigrants. Often times, family will have no relatives here and need all the help they can get. When we immigrated to the United States back in 1991, the Jewish Family Services helped us a lot.

Andrea Karim's picture

Yes, that's why option number 7 was "recycle"!

Guest's picture

These are great options. I don't often regift because of the risk of hurting the giver's feelings, but I have donated some things I definitely can't use. I like the idea of refinishing or "crafting up" not-so-nice things. At least it won't be completely wasted.

Guest's picture

You guys have totally forgotten the option: give it away! There are thrift stores and charities everywhere!

Guest's picture

Uh, no. That's #7.

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