How to Handle Unwanted Christmas Gifts, According to Reddit

published Dec 29, 2019
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It’s basically inevitable: Every Christmas, among gifts we’re excited to open, we also get gifts we don’t really like or can’t use for some reason or another (lifestyle, allergies, wrong size, etc). It’s not always easy to return these gifts or give them away. There’s the sentimentality and guilt factor—someone we love chose these gifts for us hoping we would like them—and there’s the waste factor—if we return them to the store or regift them, will they just end up in a landfill (yes, this can happen with returned items)?

In the subreddit r/frugal, people are having a post-Christmas discussion about exactly this issue. Yesterday, Reddit user battraman wrote a post titled, “PSA: It’s okay to return gifts you don’t want or like.” They wrote, “Like most everyone I received a few gifts that were […] ‘Eh, they meant well.’ So today I returned them for store credit. It’s definitely not frugal to keep something that will just be clutter when you can exchange the item for something you will use and enjoy.”

In the comments, other Reddit users have shared stories about their own unwanted Christmas presents, including cautionary tales about hoarder parents who never got rid of unwanted items and tips for how to tactfully answer the dreaded question, “How did you like the gift I gave you?”

Southdakotagirl wrote, “If the person who gave it to you asks, you can say that it was the wrong size or it didnt work and you had to exchange it. You can say they were out of that exact item so you had to go with something else.”

Because many of the commenters in r/frugal are minimalists, they also discuss how to handle Christmas gifting in a way that fits their lifestyle.

Captainstormy wrote, “[O]ver the years I’ve gotten most of my friends and family to actually understand my point of view. Many of them now gift me things that I use a lot that are consumable. What they are really getting me there, is the gift of free time. I’m talking about things like my favorite snacks, toiletries, stuff I go through working in the garage […] anything that I use frequently in my daily life. It’s a win win. The stuff is useful to me, and saves me time and trouble of having to go out and get it myself […] I also kind of like it because it tends to be fairly cheap for people too […] It also really lets people pick their price point.”

Useful tips for giving a new life to unwanted gifts without returning them to the store include carefully regifting. Joey-Jeremiah explained their method: “I have a regifting box where I put in all the gifts I get that aren’t quite right for me and put a post-it note on the gifts to remind me who gave me what (so I don’t accidentally give the gift back to whoever gave it to me). Whenever I have a gift to give I check there first. It’s fantastic for things like secret Santa occasions where you need something generic.”

A few commenters also remind everyone to be sensitive about unwanted gifts even if you don’t keep them. DeezNuts2631 wrote, “One thing I would like to add to this is that while it’s okay to return gifts, you should not blatantly tell the gift giver that you did not like it. I included the gift receipt for a christmas gift for a friend I don’t know very well (got him a shirt) and he went on in the group chat about how lame it was. Didn’t feel great.”

You can find the original thread, full of even more commiseration and useful tips, here.