Skip to main content

What should you do with unwanted Christmas gifts?

You shouldn't have ... no seriously.
  • Author:
  • Updated:

"Gee, grandma, you shouldn't have."

No seriously, you really shouldn't have. That's the reality for anyone who goes through the rite of passage that is getting a bad Christmas gift.

Whether they be socks, novelty stocking fillers, or an appalling Christmas sweater (counterpoint: Christmas sweaters are actually awesome), we've all been in a position where we react like this to a gift:

But once Christmas is done and you want to be rid of said monstrosity asap, here are the options open to you.

Re-gift them

Ok, this one's risky. You might either offend the person who gave it to you if they find out, or you forget they gave it to you in the first place and end up gifting it back to them.

Once you've avoided that pitfall, try to ensure the person you're re-gifting it to would actually enjoy it, rather than making them the next of many stops on the crap gift's journey through your acquaintances.

Return them

Now this is a tip if you're giving more than if you're receiving – hang on to the gift receipt.

Give the recipient the option of returning the gift if it's not to their taste. Try not to be offended if that's the case – it's better than the item gathering dust on a shelf.

Turn it into a game

I like this idea from The Tiny House blog: turn unwanted gifts into a "white elephant" party game.

You might have played it before with friends, but using unopened Christmas gifts rather than unwanted ones.

Everyone brings a gift and places it in a pile, then guests choose gifts one-by-one. The person who goes after you can choose to "steal" your gift if they prefer it, and if they do, you get to pick again.

Swap them

There are a whole host of bartering and swapping websites, which are abuzz after Christmas as everyone takes to offloading their unwanted items.

You can find a comprehensive list of swap sites here.

Sell them

I don't need to tell you about sites like eBay and Craigslist, but if you can't return the gift and want to make some money, those are the place to go.

If you don't want your gift to end up in a landfill, you can list them on Freecycle, and give it away for free to anyone interested in coming to pick it up.

If you're looking for tax savings (and also want to give to a good cause) take the gifts to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army or other thrift store and see if they'll accept them.

Yard sale

Has your home turned into a hoarder's heaven since Christmas? Then get into action by organizing a yard sale for when the landscape turns green again.

Moneycrashers has a great guide for ensuring your yard sale is a runaway success.

Speak to your relatives ahead of next year

Since becoming a homeowner and a parent I've gone through a perspective change, and now my primary aim as a consumer is trying to keep my home as clutter-free as possible.

Once as a child, the mountain of gifts under the Christmas tree was a source of frenzied excitement, now it's likely to induce panic attacks as I worry where to store it all.

That's why if you're not enamored by the prospect of gifts you'll barely use, speak with your relatives well before next Christmas.

Tell them you would prefer experience gifts, ask for money/gift cards, or tell them specifically what you need rather than have them guessing what you want.

This goes double for coordinating with grandparents about gifts for your own child – communication is key.

Sure you might take a little bit of the Christmas shine off of the proceedings, but it will also alleviate a lot of pressure for the gift-buyers. Just be sure to remain grateful throughout any conversations you have with them.

The Tip Jar is consumer writer Adam Uren's advice column on how to spend, save, and live with confidence. Read past columns here.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-08-17 at 8.31.42 PM

Flash flooding as torrential rain hammers Cambridge

Flooding and damage from a non-severe storm Wednesday evening.

Screen Shot 2022-08-17 at 4.02.18 PM

Minneapolis nonprofit celebrates anonymous donor's $1.5M gift

Appetite For Change is building sustainable, local food systems in North Minneapolis.

police lights

On the lam since 2007, suspect in MN murder case arrested in Florida

The suspect is one of three men connected to a fatal drive-by shooting on St. Paul's West Side.

Deer on road

Motorcyclist in collision with deer dies from injuries

The 55-year-old from Princeton died at a hospital a day after the crash.


Burnsville approves measure that will make its landfill much taller

The expansion will increase the landfill's allowable height by an additional 268 feet.

michael carbo

Northern MN man found guilty in 1980s cold case murder

Nancy Daugherty was found dead in the afternoon hours of July 16, 1986.

Red Ox Cafe

Breakfast spot in Ham Lake closes after decades in business

The business posted an announcement on its front door.

Screen Shot 2022-08-17 at 1.43.04 PM

St. Paul man killed partner, himself while their 5 kids were home

St. Paul confirmed the double shooting on Tuesday evening was murder-suicide.

Kids competing in USA Mullet Championships

Minnesota, Wisconsin kids competing in USA Mullet Championships

The contest is divided into kids and teens divisions.


One killed after being trapped under UTV near Alexandria

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office says the victim died at the scene.


What's in the Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Biden?

How the nation's biggest climate law will reduce emissions.

Patrick Henry High School

Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis will get new name

A school board meeting was held this week, discussing what's next going forward.


I'm turning 30 ... what should my money priorities be?

Now is the time to assure your financial future.

The Tip Jar: Should you accept Equifax's free credit lock offer?

A credit freeze or a fraud alert looks like a better bet.

6 ways to save money on your Christmas decorating

It's the time of year when everyone is decking their halls.

Where to score the best deals once Christmas is over

Prices in certain categories are slashed once the holiday is over.

The Tip Jar: Ways to make extra cash with very little effort

Marketers will pay you to take surveys, watch TV, or go to a bar.