Unwanted Gifts: The Presents We Wish We Could Return

Ah, the holiday season. A time for family, friends, and of course, gifts. But what happens when you receive a gift that you don’t want or need? You know the feeling – you unwrap the present, put on your best fake smile, and try to hide your disappointment.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Unwanted gifts are a common problem, but luckily there are some solutions.

First, let’s define what we mean by “unwanted gifts”. These are gifts that you don’t have a use for, don’t like, or already have. It’s not that you’re ungrateful or don’t appreciate the gesture, it’s just that the gift doesn’t fit your needs or tastes.

So what can you do about it? Well, there are a few options that can help you deal with unwanted gifts without hurting anyone’s feelings.

QUICK READ: Understand why the psychology and dynamics of gift giving makes you feel like a gift giving failure.

The art of disposing unwanted gifts

So, you’ve received another unwanted gift. It’s a little disappointing, but don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to a 2020 poll, 62% of Americans said they lied about how much they liked a gift. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to dispose of your unwanted gifts in a respectful manner. Here are some ideas:

Closeup of hand tossing an unwanted gift into a trash can.
What to do with unwanted gifts?

Sell your misfortunes

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. If you received an unwanted gift that still has its tags on, is unopened, or is in otherwise perfect condition, consider selling it. You can use online marketplaces like eBay or Poshmark to sell your unwanted gifts. Who knows, you might even make some money out of it!

Trade them like hot potatoes

If you have a friend or family member who’s also received an unwanted gift, you can consider trading gifts with them. This way, you both get something you actually want, and you don’t have to spend any money. It’s a win-win situation.

Charitable eject button

Donating your unwanted gifts to charity is a great way to make sure they don’t go to waste. You can donate your gifts to a local charity or a thrift store. Not only will you be doing a good deed, but you’ll also be decluttering your home.

I take great comfort in knowing that someone gets to pick it out because they really like it. It’s also pretty cool knowing that the person shopping at the thrift store might not have a lot of money, and this way can afford something new.

Don’t forget that you can take a tax deduction when donating clothing to charity.

Woman donating unwanted gifts to charity.
Donating unwanted gifts lets someone else benefit from them.

Special occasions, unspecial surprises

Gift-giving is an integral part of special occasions, but sometimes the gifts we receive don’t quite hit the mark. Whether it’s a Christmas present from a distant relative, a wedding gift from a co-worker, or a birthday gift from a well-meaning friend, unwanted gifts can be an awkward and frustrating experience.

Christmas surprises that missed the sleigh

Ah, Christmas – the most wonderful time of the year. But what happens when you receive a gift that’s not so wonderful? Maybe it’s a sweater that’s two sizes too small, or a book you’ve already read. Whatever the case may be, unwanted Christmas gifts can be a real downer.

If you find yourself with unwanted Christmas gifts, don’t fret. You have a few options. You could try regifting the item to someone who might appreciate it more, or you could donate it to a local charity. If all else fails, you could always try returning the item for store credit.

Couple exchanging Christmas gifts, the woman is happy about her gift, the man receives an unwanted gift.
Unwanted Christmas gifts – the bane of the holiday season.

Wedding gifts that didn’t make the cut

Weddings are a time of celebration and love, but they can also be a time of stress and anxiety. From finding the perfect dress to choosing the right venue, there’s a lot that goes into planning a wedding. But what happens when you receive a wedding gift that doesn’t quite fit the bill?

If you find yourself with an unwanted wedding gift, you have a few options. You could try returning the item for store credit, or you could regift it to someone else. Just be sure to keep track of who gave you the gift in the first place – you don’t want to accidentally regift it back to the original giver!

If it’s a great gift, but you have duplicate gifts, never fear. You can regift with a clear conscience. If you thought the gift was a little weird to start with, don’t regift it. The weirdness needs to end here.

Newly weds unwrapping wedding gifts.
It’s bound to happen, receiving unwanted wedding gifts.

Birthday gifts that didn’t bring joy

Birthdays are a time to celebrate another year of life, but they can also be a time of disappointment if you receive an unwanted gift. Maybe it’s a gift card to a store you never shop at, or a piece of clothing that’s not your style. Whatever the case may be, unwanted birthday gifts can be a real bummer.

If you find yourself with an unwanted birthday gift, don’t despair. You could try returning the item for store credit, or you could regift it to someone else. Alternatively, you could try selling the item online to make some extra cash. Just be sure to do it discreetly – you don’t want to hurt the feelings of the person who gave you the gift.

Remember, receiving an unwanted gift doesn’t have to be the end of the world. With a little creativity and a positive attitude, you can turn an unwanted gift into something useful or even enjoyable.

Older woman graciously accepting a gift.
Smile and act gracious when you receive an unwanted gift.

Family ties & awkward goodbyes

Ah, family. You love them, but sometimes they have a knack for giving you the most awkward gifts. Whether it’s your in-laws’ oddities or your grandparents’ “heirlooms,” unwanted gifts from family members can be a tricky situation to navigate.

In-Laws’ oddities

You never know what to expect from your in-laws. Maybe it’s a set of decorative plates that don’t match your style or a collection of porcelain dolls that give you the creeps. Whatever it is, it’s important to remember that they mean well. They just have a different idea of what makes a good gift.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s best to be gracious. Thank them for the gift and find a way to incorporate it into your home decor or donate it to a charity. If all else fails, you can always regift it to someone who might appreciate it more.

An uncomfortable daughter-in-law in the kitchen with her in-laws.
Gifts are unwanted from your in-laws when they don’t know your tastes very well.

Grandparents’ “heirlooms”

Your grandparents mean well, but sometimes their idea of passing down family heirlooms can be a bit misguided. Maybe it’s a collection of old VHS tapes or a set of mismatched silverware. While these gifts may not be your cup of tea, they hold sentimental value to your grandparents.

In this situation, it’s important to be respectful. Thank them for the gift and find a way to incorporate it into your home or display it in a prominent place. If it’s something that you really don’t have any use for, consider passing it down to your own children or other family members who may appreciate it more.

Remember, family is family. While unwanted gifts can be awkward, it’s important to appreciate the sentiment behind them and find a way to make them work for you.

A multi-generational Asian family embracing.
Grandparents mean well when giving gifts and handing down heirlooms, but not all are wanted by their kids and grandchildren.

The baby boondoggle

Ah, the joys of parenthood! You’re now the proud owner of a tiny human being and have received a plethora of baby gifts from friends and family. While some of these gifts are useful, others are downright useless, and you’re left wondering what to do with them.

Let’s face it; no one wants to be stuck with unwanted baby gifts cluttering up their home. But fear not, dear parent, for we’re here to help you navigate the tricky waters of unwanted baby gifts.

First things first, don’t be afraid to speak up. If someone gives you a gift that you don’t want or need, it’s okay to politely decline or ask for a gift receipt. Remember, it’s your baby, and you know best what they need.

Baby shower gifts.
Baby gifts are readily abundant; it’s easy to get duplicates or gifts that don’t fit your style.

If you do end up with unwanted baby gifts, there are a few things you can do. One option is to regift them. Yes, we know, regifting has a bad reputation, but if done correctly, it can be a practical solution. Just make sure to follow ethical re-gifting practices, such as not regifting to the original giver.

Young parents know other young parents, and they can openly pass the unwanted gift to another brother or sister with kids, neighbor, college or work buddy.

Another option is to donate unwanted baby gifts to charity. Many charities accept baby items, such as clothes, toys, and blankets. Not only will you be helping someone in need, but you’ll also be decluttering your home.

And finally, if all else fails, you can always sell unwanted baby gifts. Online marketplaces, such as eBay or Facebook Marketplace, are great places to sell baby items that are still in good condition. Just make sure to price them fairly and be honest about their condition.

In conclusion, unwanted baby gifts can be a bit of a boondoggle, but with a little bit of creativity and resourcefulness, you can turn them into something useful. So don’t despair, dear parent, and remember, it’s the thought that counts.

Closet clutter & wardrobe woes

You open your closet, and it looks like a war zone. Clothes are piled up, shoes are scattered, and accessories are tangled. You can’t find anything to wear, and you have no idea where to start. Sound familiar?

One of the biggest contributors to closet clutter is unwanted clothes. Whether they’re gifts from well-meaning friends and family or impulse buys that didn’t quite work out, these items can quickly pile up and take over your closet. But fear not, there are ways to declutter unwanted gifts and make room for the things you actually want to wear.

A new sweater folded up in a box from the store.
Clothing gifts: some are winners and some are losers.

First things first, take a deep breath and assess the situation. Look at each item and ask yourself if you truly love it and wear it regularly. If the answer is no, it’s time to let it go. Consider donating the item to a local charity or selling it online. Not only will you free up space in your closet, but you’ll also be doing something good for others.

Side note: the charity that I work for doesn’t take clothing items for clients. We couldn’t possibly keep every size on hand. However, we have a great program where we give vouchers out to our clients that they can spend at the local thrift store. In addition, that same thrift store gives out generous grants to nonprofits every year (like the one I work for!).

I share that story, and tell donors that when they give their unwanted items to the thrift store, it benefits nonproifts in huge ways. Not every city will have that arrangement, you might want to ask – it’s like your donation goes twice as far!

Young woman buying clothes in a thrift store.
Thrift stores are a prime place to donate unwanted clothing gifts.

Lastly, try to be mindful of what you bring into your closet in the first place. Before making a purchase, ask yourself if you truly need the item and if it will add value to your wardrobe. By being intentional with your purchases, you can avoid clutter and build a wardrobe that truly reflects your personal style.

In conclusion, decluttering unwanted gifts and creating a functional wardrobe takes time and effort, but it’s worth it in the end. By taking a step back and assessing your closet, you can create a space that is both functional and enjoyable to use.

Cash in on those vouchers

So you got a gift card or voucher for a store that you never shop at or a restaurant that you don’t like. Don’t let it go to waste! You can actually turn those unwanted gift cards into cold hard cash.

There are several online marketplaces where you can sell your unwanted gift cards. These marketplaces offer a platform for buyers and sellers to connect and exchange gift cards.

One popular marketplace is CardCash. They allow you to sell cards that are partially used, so you don’t have to wait until you have a full balance to sell. Once your order is approved, you get paid via check, PayPal, or direct deposit within one to two business days.

A wall of restaurant gift exchange cards.
Cash in those unwanted gift cards!

Another option is GiftCardSwapping. They offer a simple process where you enter the brand name and balance of each card you want to sell, get an offer and accept it, and then cash out. Payouts from popular brands range from 70% for Old Navy cards to 90% for Costco cards. Card values can range from $25 to $2,000.

If you prefer to exchange your unwanted gift cards for different ones that you’ll actually use, then Raise is the marketplace for you. They offer a wide selection of gift cards from various brands, and you can even set alerts for when your favorite brands become available.

So don’t let those unwanted gift cards gather dust in your wallet. Cash them in and treat yourself to something you really want!

The digital marketplace

Got a gift you don’t want? Don’t fret, there are plenty of online marketplaces where you can sell or trade your unwanted gifts. I had no idea that selling unused gifts “was a thing.

When posting your items, list them as “unwanted gifts.” Why is this a powerful selling strategy? Because bargain shoppers are getting brand new, unused gifts. The clever shoppers already “u use the search term “unwanted gifts” on ebay and other online platforms.

Go ahead, give it a try. Just a quick spin on ebay and I see a lot of what looks like Christmas presents that people didn’t want – jewelry especially.

Smart shoppers know that they are going to get a new item for a steal.

Woman shopping online sites to intentionally buy unwanted gifts.
This could be you! Find great bargains when shopping at online websites where people are re-selling their unwanted gifts.

The Amazon Jungle of unwanted gifts

Amazon is the go-to place for most people to buy anything and everything. But did you know that you can also sell your unwanted gifts on Amazon? Yes, you read that right. Amazon has a marketplace where you can sell your unwanted gifts.

Just create an account, list your item, and wait for a buyer. However, keep in mind that Amazon takes a cut of the sale, so you might not get the full value of your gift.

eBay – the auction block of despair

eBay is the place to go when you want to sell anything, including your unwanted gifts. You can list your item for auction or set a fixed price. eBay changes thinks up occassionally. I just made a “Make an Offer” listing and I was able to leave it up for a month.

Quite honestly, it’s getting to the point that it’s hardly worth my time to sell anything under $50. By the time you take pictures, make the listing, babysit the auction, package up and mail it out, it adds up to a lot of busy work. Then I just donate it.

Note: never deal with another eBayer that has low feedback. I joined eBay when it started, even taking an eBay class. Many people jump right into eBay, not knowing all the ins and outs.

A watch displayed in a gift box uncovered.
Be creative in what you do with unwanted gifts!

When someone has done thousands of transactions, they don’t want their business reputation marred, and they will make any dissatisfaction right. BEWARE of anyone with super low feedback. It’s true, everybody has to start somewhere on eBay. You can build up your feedback points by buying things, because sellers leave feedback as well.

I’m probably more comfortable with sellers that have a 100% feedback rating and hovering around 50 feedbacks, give or take. If the feedback is mediocre, walk away. Another tip: if you’re planning to sell the item on eBay, keep it away from pet hair and cigarette smoke!

Buyers will rate you with poor feedback if they open up a stinky, hairy package!

TradeMe – the local treasure trove

If you’re in New Zealand, TradeMe is the place to go to sell your unwanted gifts. It’s like the Kiwi version of eBay. You can list your item for auction or set a fixed price. But the best part about TradeMe is that it’s a local marketplace. That means you can sell your unwanted gifts to people in your area. No need to worry about shipping or dealing with buyers from other countries.

Even though I am U.S. based, TradeMe kept popping up as a popular platform to sell unwanted gifts. I just had to check them out.

Close up of hands wrapping up an unwanted gift to be returned.
Returning unwanted gifts by mailing them back is one option.


Poshmark is more well-known as a platform for re-selling clothing and shoes, although there can be other things. I’ve just placed my first listing, a “re-posh” of a prom dress I bought for my daughter on the platform a few years earlier.

It couldn’t have been easier. My understanding is that Poshmark will send me a bag to mail out to the person who buys the dress. It appears that I can leave the listing up for all eternity if I wanted to, which is nice compared to eBay. Poshmark does still take a portion of the proceeds, just like other selling platforms.

Sell online for free

Facebook Marketplace is the king for buying, trading, and selling. When places like ebay charge fees, Facebook Marketplace does not. Also, there are Facebook Pages to buy, sell, or trade right in your own region.

For example, someone might have created a Your Town Garage Sale page. I know someone who had to clean out her mom’s estate. She said it couldn’t have been easier. She just took some pictures everyday and posted it on her town’s garage sale page.

People dropped in and picked up what she had. Just a word, this was a small town and she felt safe to do this. Always take in account your safety when selling things to be picked up from your home.

These are just some platforms to sell your used items, but not all of them. Don’t forget places like Craigslist, Nextdoor, OfferUp are other platforms that you can reach out to your neighbors.

Man disappointed with receiving a gift of socks.
Socks and underwear, not gifts to look forward to.

In conclusion, the digital marketplace is a great place to sell or trade your unwanted gifts. Whether you choose Amazon, eBay, or TradeMe, there’s a marketplace out there for you. Just be prepared to deal with the occasional crazy buyer or bidding war. But hey, at least you’ll be able to turn your unwanted gift into cash.

Gift exchange etiquette

Let’s face it, not all gifts are winners. You may receive a gift that is not your style or something you already have. So, what should you do with that unwanted gift? Here are some gift exchange etiquette tips to help you navigate this tricky situation.

Be gracious

First and foremost, always be gracious when receiving a gift. Even if you don’t like the gift, show appreciation for the thought and effort that went into it. Smile, say thank you, and express your gratitude. Remember, it’s the thought that counts.

It’s not necessary to explicitly mention that you don’t like the gift. Instead, focus on acknowledging their thoughtfulness and the kindness behind the gesture. For example, you could say, “Thank you so much for thinking of me and for the lovely gift. I really appreciate your kindness.” If appropriate, you can also mention something positive about the gift, such as its color or design.

Don’t regift without caution

Regifting can be a great way to give a gift a second life, but it can also be a recipe for disaster. Make sure you’re not regifting to the person who gave you the gift in the first place. Check the gift for any personalized messages or monograms that might give away the original recipient. And, of course, make sure the gift is something the new recipient will actually like.

Exchange unwanted gifts

If you receive a gift that you can’t use or don’t like, consider exchanging it. Many stores have generous return policies, and you may be able to exchange the gift for something you actually want. Just make sure you have the gift receipt or are prepared to explain why you want to exchange the gift.

If you can’t return or exchange the gift, consider donating it to charity. Many charities accept new, unused items as donations and will put them to good use. Plus, you’ll feel good knowing that your unwanted gift is going to a good cause.

Remember, gift-giving is about showing love and appreciation for the people in your life. While unwanted gifts can be a disappointment, they don’t have to ruin your holiday spirit. With a little bit of gift exchange etiquette, you can turn an unwanted gift into a positive experience for everyone involved.

Woman taking a piece of clothing out of a gift box at Christmas time, disappointed with it.
Woman receiving a disappointing Christmas gift.

Hiding gift disappointment

We’ve all seen sitcoms or movies about someone who received a gift that they didn’t like, and then covering it up. It’s hard to pretend that we like a disappointing Christmas gift when really don’t.

As stated before, it’s not necessary to express your unhappiness about the gift. However, what if it’s complicated? Maybe the person who gave you the gift is looking for evidence that you like it?

This could mean wearing a gift piece of clothing enough to satisfy them. Of leaving the kitchen gadget on display when they come to your house.

I’ve been in these uncomfortable situations before. This is what I do: I put the item away and never speak of it again. In most cases, the person will never ask about the gift again.

Ugh! I’ve held on to things for years because there is that slight chance that the person will ask me about it. In the case of moving into another house, I’ve had to say, “Sure! We still have that, it’s around here somewhere!”

Now that I am older, I probably can muster some go-to phrases to get me out of this pickle. Case in point: someone gave me one of those beautiful, laser-engraved cutting boards of the state of New Mexico.

This person visited New Mexico and wanted to give his kids souvenirs. Living in the midwest, I have no need for cool facts about New Mexico engraved on a cutting board.

What did I do? I went with my good old backup: I tucked the gift away in a closet. This sweet person just wanted to share their special trip with me. No way was I going to hurt their feelings!

The gift wrap up

Unwanted gifts are not mean or malicious, just a gift that didn’t work out. Not everyone is an awesome gift giver, in fact, most people struggle with gift giving. Hey – it’s how this website came to be.

Yours in gift giving, -Renee

Man holding unwanted gift.
OK – what are your options when you don’t want a gift given to you? We brainstorm how to react to unwanted gifts and what to do with them.
Renee Cavvy
Renee Cavvy

Renee brings over 30 years of gift giving experience to holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, workplace and faith events. Every life moment is cause for celebration or those times in life when we need the "the gift of support". Her mission: Let's all be better in appreciating one another, put an end to meaningless gifts that clutter our lives, and give from a place of love and kindness. This midwest mom (and grandma) offers novel and creative ideas to do gift giving better!