The not-so-great holiday gift

By Mir
December 29, 2008
Category Quick Tips

True, there’s not much you can do when great-aunt Helga knits you a tunic sweater in chartreuse chenille other than grit your teeth and say thank-you, but most less-than-ideal holiday gifts do present you with several options:

Put it in your gift closet. Regifting isn’t tacky, it’s resourceful. (Just so long as you don’t regift to the person who gave it to you in the first place. That would be tacky.) Sometimes things just aren’t your style or something you need, but someone else might really enjoy it. There’s no harm in recycling a gift. Just make sure you remove any tags or other evidence of your resourcefulness!

Donate it. There’s always someone in need who may benefit from your cast-offs. If you’re like me, handing brand-new items to someplace like Goodwill may feel strange, or maybe even wasteful, but charity is a good thing and this way your unwanted items can help someone else. And then you can tell yourself that the giver simply wanted to give you a bit of good karma this year.

Exchange it. Yes, it helps if you have a receipt, but don’t assume that if you don’t have one you can’t return it. If you can identify the store where it was purchased (often easy to do via the brand, sales tags, or with a bit of research online) you can almost certainly make an exchange. The down side to this, of course, is that you may not get the full price paid—the store will give you the latest sale value—but lots of other stuff is on sale now, too, so it may work out. I brought a gift set back to Bath and Body Works because I wasn’t wild about the scent, and although they only exchanged it for me at half-price, their body lotions were 70% off—so I got a ton of stuff for that amount, anyway.

Don’t be a martyr; decide what to do with those not-quite-right gifts and then move on.


  1. Good advice, Mir. We are trying to teach this to our kids too. Occasionally they will receive a gift that they already have…mostly because they have WAY too much stuff, but anyway. We are trying to teach them to say “Thank You” instead of “Yuck, I already have one of these!” or worse “I hate teenage mutant ninja turtles!” Of course, they also have to learn not to tear into the packaging if they want to return it. I think my 10 year old gets how fun it is to take a PSP game to Target and exchange it for one that he doesn’t have, but I’m not sure my 6 year old gets it. btw, not-quite-right kids gifts are great for regifting. My kids couldn’t care less about TMNT, but most other 6 year old boys would love to get them…or my son’s 1st grade teacher would love to have those in her “treasure chest” for good behavior kids.

  2. Or, you can use them as prizes for blog giveaways or door prizes at wedding showers. (I’m planning to do the former later this week!)

  3. Watch out with returns this year. Target has started a new policy that you can only return 2 items per year without a receipt. They keep track with your drivers license. After you reach you max, they will do more, but with charge you a fee. A few years back, I had no idea they kept track, and reached my limit of returns without a receipt. I was blacklisted from all major stores from returning anything!

  4. Yeah, my local Target told me that another limitation is that those two items must be less than $20 each. Real Simple did a survey of best return policy, and their readers listed Target as the number one store. What??!!

  5. Elizabeth: I think the change in Target policy is very recent; it’s entirely possible the Real Simple survey predates the change.

  6. Don’t most stores have this policy? WalMart has a limit of return transactions that you can have during the year (or possibly every 6months.) I reached my limit without knowing a few years ago and had to wait to return anything without the receipt. Now I keep my receipts for everything I buy that I may want to return. For those gifts that need returning, I make sure that we do everything in ONE transaction for the big events like birthdays and Christmas.

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