What to Do With Unwanted Presents
Imagine it is your birthday or a holiday or your baby shower or wedding. You have received all sorts of beautifully wrapped gifts—large and small. You reach out and grab one of particular interest. As you unwrap your gift, you excitedly imagine what it might be. Clothes? Jewelry? The item you were dreaming about someone getting you on your registry?
It isn't any of those. In fact, it's something that wasn't even on your radar. It's something you wouldn't even give as a gift. What the heck was this person thinking? Don't they know you at all?
Despite your disappointment, you force a smile, utter a gracious smile, and set the present aside—hoping your other gifts will be less disappointing.
Yeah, we've all been there. And we've all had those frustrating moments after the party is over when we look at our unwanted presents and ask, "Now what the heck am I going to do with this?"
I know I had several of these moments when going through my wedding presents and baby shower gifts last year—and there's no doubt in my mind I'll have many more of those moments in the future. So I've decided to put together this list of ways to handle unwanted gifts, how to talk to people when they ask you about them, and ways you can avoid being that awkward gifter.
This is my favorite idea—donate your gifts! Just because you are unhappy or don't want or need something doesn't mean that someone else wouldn't be thrilled to have it. You'll feel good for doing something nice for others, and you'll have a nicer excuse when asked where your gift went. (Plus, you may be eligible for a tax break.)
Here are some places where you can donate your gifts:
- Stuffed Animals For Emergencies (SAFE): Donate new or like-new stuffed animals, toys, baby blankets, and children's books to comfort kids in emergency situations.
- The Salvation Army: clothing, furniture, and housing items are all greatly appreciated. All other items, I believe, are sold in their stores.
- Give Books, Give Smiles: Donate children's picture books to kids in India.
Sometimes gift-givers are courteous enough to include a gift receipt. I think everyone should do this, personally, even if you are certain that the gift will not be returned. It's just a lot less stressful.
In this case, the answer is clear—return the gift, and either trade it for something you like or get some cash!
If you don't have the receipt for you gift or you've opened the box or have cut off the tags, try selling it online or at a thrift shop or something along those lines.
In addition to eBay, Amazon, and Craigslist, there are other ways to sell, like Listia, which lets you sell things for credits that you can then use instead of money to buy other things on the site.
Regift or Swap
Save some money and save your unwanted present for someone you know will appreciate it (keyword, appreciate). Some people think this option is the worst, but not me. Times are hard! The least you could do though is package it in a new gift bag or wrapping paper. Put some thought into it... Regiftable has some more ideas on ways to regift the right way!
If swapping seems like a better idea to you, you can swap gifts in person, the old fashion way, or you can try one of these online services:
If there are aspects of the gift that you like, but you just don't have a use for it, or it doesn't fit or any number of reasons—try and do something different with it.
This could be a fun project if you're the crafty type. Think of how you can use the item for something different. Some ideas that came to my mind were; using scarves as table runners, turning stuffed animals into cute bags, or if it's something flat and beautiful—frame it (you could also do this with baby clothes, cards, and even some blankets). If you like the item but maybe not the particular style you can adjust it; maybe spray paint it a different color, or if it's clothing tailor it to a style you like more. Be creative and innovative!
When I was younger, I received a millennium edition monopoly game in a tin. I wasn't a big fan of monopoly, but as I was collecting Beanie Babies at the time, I decided to store it away and see if it would increase in value over the years. Fast forward to the present day and... it hasn't increased in monetary value much. However, with one son, another on the way, and a board game enthusiast for a husband, it has increased in value for me. I still have yet to retrieve the game from my mom's house, but I'm glad to know it's there, perfectly packaged and ready to be used. I'm also happy I won't have to deal with the board game overhaul monopoly went through recently that now requires batteries. Ugh.
Saving things with the hope that one day they might be valuable is a real gamble. Some things, like limited edition designer bags, clothing, or certain collector's items, can increase in value the moment they sell out. But most things will not be worth much until after you've long since passed, and maybe not even until your children have grown and passed to. My point is; saving things to get more money isn't really a 50/50 bet... it's more like 90/10—not in your favor.
Still, there may be a chance that the unwanted present you received may be of use to you sometime in the future. For example, another story from my own life, I was nervous about which baby carrier I wanted to use for my son so I put two different styles on my registry—figuring I'd use whichever one I received. I ended up getting FOUR different baby carriers! One I deemed unsafe and uncomfortable and repurposed. But I used all three of the others—each one had it's advantages and disadvantages depending on what I was doing while carrying him, how big he currently was, how quick I needed to put it on, or if it was my husband that was wearing it. Keeping all of the harnesses ended up working in my favor.
Another example of the benefits of saving an item is if it's a multiple. Say you received two Kitchenaid Mixers for your housewarming. Instead of getting rid of one, hold on to it. It will be great to have a replacement—or even spare parts—if the other one breaks. Especially, if it's something you use a lot (I know my husband wished we had another Crock Pot after our dog smashed the lid of ours!).
Of course, saving is only a reasonable option if you have someplace to store it away. Depending on your space and the size of the item this may end up being more of a burden than a good idea! Be mindful of your decisions. Think of any and all reasons you might need this item in the future. If you really can't think of any, just try one of the other options.
How to Handle the Inevitable "Where's My Gift?" Conversation
Let me just start by saying... there really is no easy way to have this conversation. No matter what you say or do, there's no promise that someone isn't going to feel awful afterward. Despite that, here are some things that have worked for me in the past.
- First, don't mention it if they don't. Thank them for the gift after you get it and then never bring it up again. If you're lucky they'll never ask about it and you don't have to ever talk about it.
- Second, don't go around complaining about your gifts to other people. Not only is that rude, but it will also make people question how you feel about their gifts, and there's no promise that the gift giver won't hear about it from those you talk to. Feelings could get really hurt, and your reputation marred. If you don't like a gift, keep it to yourself. There's no reason the whole world needs to know.
- I really don't recommend lying. Lies have a way of resurfacing in the worst way. However, if you MUST lie, keep it simple. If the present was an object and the giver asks where it is, say you've misplaced it, or haven't taken it out yet, or you're keeping it somewhere safe. If it's a piece of clothing, wear it at least once for them to see, then do what you want with it or tell them it didn't fit so you returned it/gave it away to someone who looked better in it. Keep things short and sweet.
- It's better to be honest, though this is more difficult. Treat this delicately. Letting the giver know you were concerned it would stay in the box because you had no use for it, or you had no occasion to wear it for, or whatever the reason it's unwanted is okay. How you go about is what is most important. Let them know you are grateful for the gift (as you should be for any gift you're given). Don't be mean or rude. That just isn't necessary. Think of how you would want someone to tell you they didn't want your gift. It's difficult to imagine, right?
I once made a gift for someone who was working with my family since we were moving and wouldn't be seeing each other anymore. The last time we met, she told me she wasn't allowed to take gifts from people she worked with, but she did work with another family who had a little boy that loved the toy I made. So, instead of returning it, she gave it to him. When she told me this, I was a little sad that she no longer had the gift, but I was happy it was now with someone who really appreciated it. If you're planning to donate your gift, it might be nice to tell the giver what good cause your gift is going to. Who knows, maybe they will unload some unwanted gifts of their own as a result.
How to Avoid Giving Bad Gifts
- Nowadays, the simplest way to avoid giving a bad gift is just to buy gift cards. You can buy a Visa gift card that can be used everywhere or buy one for a store, club, or restaurant you know the person you're buying it for will enjoy—or even gas cards for frequent drivers.
- If you think that just giving a gift card isn't a great gift, include a gift card or certificate in a gift basket with a couple of other small things that you can't really go wrong with like toiletries, or gag gifts, or stuffed animals. Little things that may make the person laugh or they could put on their desk at work or something like that. Things that neither of you will be too torn up over if they don't like it.
- Gift baskets, in general, can be great gifts to give, especially if you fill them with many different things. Try to include things you know they like, and if you don't know them very well, include general things that every person needs.
- Other general gifts that would be good for most people are bedding, candies, flowers, plants (if you think they're someone who could take care of one, otherwise it might be more of a burden), electronics or electronic accessories (like iPhone cases, extra headphones, etc.), and gag gifts (joke presents that are generally funny, or reference an inside joke, or are a bit flirty—be careful with that though if you aren't actually together.).
More specified gift bags would be pet products for those with pets (food, shampoo, brushes, toys), food baskets for foodies (my grandma would send these to me when I was in college and I was never disappointed), baby products for expecting parents (diapers, wipes, bath toys, washcloths, books, etc. I loved getting gifts like these), and fan merchandise (either for sports, or a favorite cartoon, or movie, or anything the person is particularly fond of).
- While general gifts are a pretty safe gift, some people may be turned off by it. General gifts are good for co-workers, distant relatives, or new friends you don't know very well. However, people you are really close to might be offended by it. From my own life experience, when I was going through my wedding gifts, the ones I wasn't so thrilled about were ones that didn't really seem to have any thought. Not to sound ungrateful, but I distinctly remember thinking, "well if they weren't going to think about what they were giving me they might as well have given me the money they spent on this!"
When it comes to close friends and loved ones, you really just can't get away with any old thing. Put thought into your present, and if you don't think they'll understand why you gave it to them, write about it in a card. Let them know this isn't some generic gift to you; it's something you believe they can appreciate.
- If you're crafty, your job may be a bit easier—depending on the personality of the person you're giving a gift to. Some people are pretty materialistic and scuff at handmade gifts. Other people, like me, would much rather have unique handmade gifts over anything store-bought. Utilize your talents! Or... at least look into local shops that sell unique items. Things that are handmade are more likely to be cherished and saved over the years because they have a real human connection and cannot be easily replaced. "Made with love" is not just a saying, it's a truth! I know I feel just a bit warmer and more comforted under a handmade blanket than a machine-made one.
- Skip the gifts altogether and make some memories! If it's your partner or potential love interest take them out on a special date; take them to a nice restaurant (not necessarily expensive, but someplace you wouldn't go all the time), go see a show (movie, play, ballet concert, game, etc.), take lots of pictures, and just have fun! If it's your sibling or friend go to an amusement park, or karaoke, or a club, or one of those shops where you can make personalized gifts or crafts. Other options are one-day workshops at the Culinary Institute, or art workshops, or dance workshops, or hiking, biking, camping. Make sure it's something you know they'll enjoy—even better if it's something are both really into!
- When all else fails, just ask the person what they want! Sure that eliminates that element of surprise, but at least they're happy, and you're not stressed! Plus, you can still make it a bit of a surprise if they give you general answers like clothes, shoes, art supplies, or something along those lines.
No matter what you decide to do with your gifts, try to have fun with it! You may be a little disappointed by your haul, but at least you know that there are people who love and care about you—and that is something to always be thankful for.