How to Return, or Reuse, Unwanted Christmas Gifts


Whether it’s a hideous jumper, a bizarre book, or fluorescent socks from Aunty Mabel – we’ve all had unwanted Christmas gifts. But don’t just shove these redundant presents in a cupboard – have a look at how to return (or reuse) those unwanted pressies…

Research by Which? found that almost 10 million Brits have tried returning gifts in the last two years – but seven million have had problems getting a refund or an exchange (mostly due to not having a receipt).

Almost 10 million Brits have tried returning gifts

Many stores have made it easier to exchange gifts brought from them, provided they are in good condition. John Lewis and kitchenware store Lakeland offer no time limits on refunds, providing the item is ‘as new’ and you have the receipt. Stores like M&S offer gift vouchers during Christmas time when you return an item.

Thankfully, we compiled the ultimate Christmas gift guide for 2015 and even researched the worst presents ever received to ensure you don’t make any mistakes this year.

If you have a pile of unwanted Christmas gifts in the corner at home, here’s how to change them for something you do want.

1. Ask for a receipt!

We all know that grandma bought you that ill-advised hat with the best of intentions. So don’t feel ashamed to ask for a receipt. If they don’t have the receipt, then you can still return goods using any proof of purchase, like a credit card bill or bank statement.

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However, when using a credit card or bank statement to claim a refund, the money is normally transferred directly back onto the buyer’s card – which isn’t much use, as it means the money goes to the present-buyer, not to you!

If you need a cash-in-hand refund from the unwanted gift, then you definitely need a receipt.

2. Exchange or refund?

Shops are not obliged to offer a refund (or even store credit) for unwanted presents unless they are damaged or faulty. However, many of them do anyway.

If the gift has been purchased with a debit or credit card, then you won’t get any money back with a refund as the credit is normally put back on the buyer’s card.  So it’s probably better to opt for an exchange instead.

3. Be polite

You don’t have an automatic right to expect a return, a refund or an exchange just because you change your mind – but many stores do it as a ‘goodwill gesture’. So be polite to the shop assistant and you never know.  Clothes are generally easy to return and exchange without receipts if the store is confident that the item has been purchased from them and all the labels are attached.

4. Gift items that cannot be returned

  • DVDs, music and computer software if the packaging has been tampered with
  • Perishable items
  • Personalised or made to order items

5. Returning online purchased goods

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If the online shop hasn’t made clear who pays for the delivery charges, then they pay.
Also, the cost of delivery charges must be ‘reasonable’. So if you find that the cost of returning the gift costs as much as the gift itself then you can expect the retailer to cover the cost.

See our article 10 facts everyone should know about their consumer rights for more info.

6. Keep the original packaging

Don’t underestimate the importance of keeping hold of the packaging – right down to the red ribbons. They come in handy when persuading the shop that the item has been unused and is good condition.  This is especially important if you are trying to return an electric item like a kettle or a bread-maker. For example, John Lewis reduces its refund price for electrical goods when the original packaging has been tampered with or its bits of it are missing.

7. Sell it!

  • Sell almost anything… on Amazon or eBay. (You can make decent money doing this – but note that both Amazon and eBay take a cut of anything you sell)
  • Sell unwanted books… if you sell unwanted books on Amazon, you can get paid immediately in Amazon vouchers
  • Sell anything for FREE… on second-hand websites. In many cases, it’s completely free to place an ad – and unlike Amazon or eBay, there are no selling fees (so you’ve got nothing to lose by putting on ad on there!)

Flog that scary leather overcoat on eBay and it might just take someone’s fancy. Or sell unwanted books, CDs, DVDs or clothes on Amazon and Preloved and make money out of unwanted gifts.

For more ideas, see our article 7 things you can recycle for cash.

8. Swap it

9. Re-gift it

If you have just received a spanking new Call of Duty game but would rather watch Sex and the City, gift it to someone who would be more interested. Regiftable has great ideas

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on how to make it work. Just remember not to gift it back to the same person you received the item from!

In fact, it makes sense to follow these 3 re-gifting rules:

  • Make sure the gift is ‘as new’ and unopened if you’re passing it on (no-one wants to receive a present that’s obviously been opened or used)
  • Only pass on a present if you know the person you are giving it to will genuinely like it (don’t just re-gift something to get rid of it…)
  • Be careful re-gifting if the person who originally gave you the present moves in the same social circles as the person you’re re-gifting it to – could be embarrassing if they get chatting about presents!

10. Donate it

Keeping in with the spirit of Christmas, if you don’t like the hat and gloves that Aunt Enid gave you, or the CD from Uncle Steve just isn’t your thing,  you could donate them to a charity shop. That way, you stop a present going to waste and help a charity at the same time.

If a gift is unopened, the charity shop can sell it for more.

What has topped your list of unwanted Christmas gifts this year? Comment below to share the despair.

Also, don’t forget to check out our list of the WORST presents ever! Thankfully you can download our Christmas Guide 2015 to ensure you find the best gifts for all the family!

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