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What to Do With Unwanted Presents

Sam is the mother of two young boys, Juju and Blaze. Her family enjoys going on trips, crafting, learning, and exploring.

Baby Shower gifts from one of three baby showers I had for my first son.

Baby Shower gifts from one of three baby showers I had for my first son.

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?

You freeze.

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.

When you donate to the ASPCA you give animals a second chance at living happy, healthy lives, in a loving home.

When you donate to the ASPCA you give animals a second chance at living happy, healthy lives, in a loving home.

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:


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:

Here's a My Little Pony knockoff I received as a gift and turned into a custom OOKMLP

Here's a My Little Pony knockoff I received as a gift and turned into a custom OOKMLP


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!

Can't wait until my kids are old enough to play monopoly with me now!

Can't wait until my kids are old enough to play monopoly with me now!


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.

Always be grateful for the gifts you receive, whether its an awesome onesie like this or one of ten baby picture frames you still haven't used.

Always be grateful for the gifts you receive, whether its an awesome onesie like this or one of ten baby picture frames you still haven't used.

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, 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 gifts, 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 on 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, karaoke, 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, art workshops, dance workshops, or hiking, biking, and camping. Make sure it's something you know they'll enjoy—even better if it's something you 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.

Happy Gifting!

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.


Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on April 18, 2014:

I so enjoyed your hub, especially the monopoly part. You are a creative with your hands person and that was and still is so me. Glad to connect.

JAnuKalai on December 28, 2012:

A good aricle that will helps lots

Thelma Alberts from Germany on December 26, 2012:

Congratulations on having the HOTD award! You deserved it. This is an awesome advice on what to do with unwanted gifts. I have done some of your advice and will try to apply the rest in the future. Thanks for sharing. Have a happy New Year 2013.

Levertis Steele from Southern Clime on December 26, 2012:

I know someone who saves unwanted gifts and gives them to others occasionally.

I know another who takes them back in return for a refund when possible.

I know yet another who gave someone an unwanted gift and said, "If you like it, you can have it. I don't remember who gave me that mess." The person she gave the unwanted gift to was the one who gave it to her! That person was hurt and told me about it.

I have known people who have hinted to a giver that they were not satisfied with cheap gifts.

I did not know what to give someone for an occasion once, so I chose to give money instead. I thought that would always be appreciated. The person told me that I did not think enough of her to shop for a gift but got the easy way out and gave her money. She did not consider that caring enough.

After years of seeing and hearing different reasons and versions of dissatisfaction, even when the best of gifts were given, I decided to stop guessing gifts for anyone. If I am not given a suggestion like a registry or see a wishing well at a wedding, I give a gift card or money. I do not give nearly as many gifts as I once did because I got tired of wasting my money. I really get invitations too often. Over twenty in May for graduations, five or six weddings in June, parties and other events throughout the year, including Christmas gifts for too many close relatives. It is impossible for me to buy so many gifts each year. I do not try any more. There are shortcuts: family getting together for dinner at Thanksgiving and pulling names for Christmas gifts instead of trying to buy for everyone. Also, give a gift to a bride and groom from the family instead of each person in the house trying to buy a gift. There is nothing at all wrong with "From all of us to you on your special day!”

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on December 26, 2012:

I've done all of the above. Swapped, regifted, sold and donated. Plus more I'm sure. Excellent tips and gifts ideas! Congrats on your HOTD.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on December 26, 2012:

Congratulations on Hub of the Day! Well done!

You are quite correct--we've all "been there." I remember once at a wedding shower, the young bride-to-be was just a bit lacking in manners when she opened a shower gift whose purpose she did not recognize, and neither did anyone else in attendance. The gift-giver was not present, so, after it had passed around the room, and no one could figure out what it was, she announced loudly, "I know what it is! It's the gift you give again!" I often wondered if this may have gotten back to the giver after the fact....

Sometimes the best gifts, if you are poor, is the gift of your time or a talent. When I was with my ex, (who came from a very musical family), his sister, in college and struggling for money, gave us the gift of a private concert just for us. She played several beautiful pieces accompanied on the piano by a friend of hers. It was a very nice evening.

In my family, we have a habit of making out 'wish lists,' and exchanging them...only within the family, though. Since the lists tend to be quite long, we never know which item might be picked for gifting, and which item might trigger the thought of something similar or related, so the element of surprise is not really lost. My current hubby thinks this is tacky, but we've always done it within the family.

Great article with some excellent ideas.. Voted up, useful and interesting.

Naomi's Banner from United States on December 26, 2012:

Wonderful Hub. I found your ideas inspiring to say the least. Thanks for taking the time to write this well thought out hub.

Agnes on December 26, 2012:

Voted Up and Interesting! Congrats on The Hub of The Day!

RTalloni on December 26, 2012:

Congrats for a Hub of the Day award on a good stuff post. :)

Paradise7 from Upstate New York on December 26, 2012:

You covered all the bases. I tend to re-gift unwanted gifts, but that can backfire, especially if you don't remember the giver and end up gifting the unwanted item back to the original giver! (It took YEARS to live that one down at the office. It was a secret Santa gift, and the next year I ended up with EGG ALL OVER MY FACE!)

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 26, 2012:

Very useful suggestions regarding the giving and receiving of gifts and what to do with those unexpected "treasures." Ha! Congrats on getting the HOTD. I like your idea of donating best of all. Voted useful, up and will share.

Samantha Harris (author) from New York on December 26, 2012:

Thank you!

Samantha Harris (author) from New York on December 26, 2012:

Mostly I end up just giving things away to people I know could use them too. It's just the easiest thing to do, plus it's nice to know for certain that someone is going to appreciate it.

Joseph Renne from Milton on December 26, 2012:

Great Hub. I love personal hand-made gifts. Those always mean the most

Samantha Harris (author) from New York on December 26, 2012:

Thank you!

Samantha Harris (author) from New York on December 26, 2012:

That sounds like the perfect way to celebrate to me. :)

Samantha Harris (author) from New York on December 26, 2012:

Yeah I used to feel like people would think I was taking the easy way out by making a gift, but then I received so many comments about how amazing others thought my work was. I would only give handmade gifts to people who I know would appreciate them, otherwise it's just a waste of time and effort--which I think is worth a lot more than money.

Samantha Harris (author) from New York on December 26, 2012:

Wow thank you! My hubby will be happy to hear this!

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on December 26, 2012:

I found this useful, as I have received a few of those things in the past. I thought I would let you know that you can buy lids at almost any Wal-mart or K-mart. Measure the space for size first. My daughter dropped the lid to my crock-pot is how I found out. Mine was the extra large size and quite a bit more expensive than the average. I didn't just want to throw it away. Also, in many thrift shops, they have odd lids. Just match up your measurements so it fits tight.

Night Magic from Canada on December 26, 2012:

Congrats on the HOTD. Absolutely great hub. I think enclosing a gift receipt is an excellent choice. So is donating the gifts. My friends & I have quit giving gifts at Christmas --- too frustrating & expensive. We all get together just before Christmas & go out for supper.

Chace from Charlotte, NC on December 26, 2012:

I had to read this because I never know what to do with "bad" gifts. It's gotta be REALLY bad for me not to like it...I'm donating a few things to Goodwill! Congratulations on HotD :)

iguidenetwork from Austin, TX on December 26, 2012:

A very good hub... Mostly I would re-sell and re-gift those unwanted presents, as long as I keep them in top condition. Or give them to my parents, siblings and cousins, or whoever those other people who need those gifts more than I do! Congratulations on the HOTD award. Voted up and interesting and useful.

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on December 26, 2012:

Hi Sam,

Congrats on HOTD!!! So well deserved. Awesome well thought out hub full of fantastic ideas on unwanted pressies. Huge amount of work done here. Love your pics especially your gorgeous baby and doggie. Well done my friend, delighted to see you got HOTD. Voted Up, Useful, Awesome, Interesting Shared!!!

Lynsey Hart from Lanarkshire on December 26, 2012:

Lots of effort put into this hub, well done! While I already knew most of this, it was great to be reassured that other people thought this way! I love making handmade items, but some people think its the cheap option! If only they went into a craft store!! Lol well done on hub of the day!

Kejanny from Papua New Guinea on December 26, 2012:

Thank you for for creating this hub and the ideas shared. Just received some Christmas gifts and some of them, I already have enough of my own. I think I will donate it to Kids Haven, a local charity looking after orphans.

kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on December 12, 2012:

Thank you for all your ideas and suggestions!

I like your idea to donate a gifts with which one you are unhappy. At least someone else will enjoy it!

I love to create gifts myself (embroidery) but a few members of my family can't appreciate hand made gifts... so I don't do them anymore for them! It saves me time... and my feelings as well!

I love to bake... and I know that those things are always welcome :-) So that makes a nice gift as well.

I totally agree with you about creating memories...those are the best gifts!

Voted up, useful and interesting!