What to do with dud your Christmas presents


Published on

What to do with a dud present

While some people get it terribly, terribly wrong at Christmas, the fact that you've received a gift at all has to at least count for something.

A lot of people go without at Christmas, so you should thank your lucky stars you're getting anything at all (even if it is ugly and useless). So what do you do if you get a dud gift? Don't just throw it in the attic to collect dust - return, regift or recycle!

Refunds and exchanges

Retailers often put a time limit on change-of-mind returns - seven or 14 days, for example - but many stores will have a more generous window for returning gifts bought around Christmas.

So if you're an organised giver who starts shopping early, for future years it will pay to check when the extended window begins, as purchases made in early November, for example, may not be able to be exchanged in late December or early January (the exception being for faulty items).

unwanted christmas presents

Many retailers will only offer credit to spend in the store, rather than an outright cash refund.

You could also find the item you're returning may have been discounted in the post-Christmas sales, so you may end up with credit for the sale price, not the full price.

Retailers that refuse refunds on sale items are breaking the law. Consumers have the same refund rights on sale items as on full-priced items.

If the item is faulty, the retailer needs to be upfront about the fault on purchase. You won't be able to claim a refund for problems stated on the tag.

Lost your gift receipt? Don't panic. You can still return an item if you can prove you made a purchase.

Credit card statements, layby agreements or an online confirmation number can pass as evidence of your purchase. If you don't have any of these, then the retailer is within their rights to deny you a refund.

If you're purchasing an expensive electronic gadget, don't be pressured to pay for protections you already have.

Delia Rickard, deputy chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), says that if a product is faulty you have the right to ask for a replacement or a refund within a reasonable time frame, regardless of any expired warranties.

Cash in your gift card

Gift cards are easy solution - it's essentially giving someone the gift of choice.

But they're only useful if they're from a retailer that's appropriate for the recipient. Sometimes people get it wrong, and it can be frustrating to know that there's money sitting there that you're probably never going to spend.

If you receive an unwanted e-giftcard, CardHub.com.au can help you sell it. The platform accepts e-cards from Big W, Coles, Woolworths, Dymocks, Event Cinemas, Myer, Super Cheap Auto and more. It also boasts a (slightly) cheaper fee than eBay - 9.8% per sale as opposed to eBay's 9.9% cut.

Encourage family members to purchase future gift cards from Prezzee.com.au. It makes storing and using them a cinch - with the bonus of a regift feature for recipients. You can sneakily pass on unwanted gift cards to other people without anyone needing to know.


Christmas is a hard time for disadvantaged families. While the Australian Retailers Association predicts Aussies will spend over $48.1 billion this Christmas, the Salvation Army claims around 500,000 children under the age of 10 will receive nothing at all.

If you are lucky enough to have an excess of presents, there are a few charities that would be more than happy to find your unwanted gifts a new home.

Ladies, we've all been given horrendous make-up or perfume at one time or another. Perhaps it's just the wrong product, or the scent doesn't suit. The Beauty Bank can help you regift your unwanted beauty products to women who need them.

The charity accepts unopened and unused make-up, fashion products, shampoo and conditioner, soaps, razors, candles (finally, a place for unwanted candles!), handbags, wallets and costume jewellery. They also accept gift cards, movie vouchers, and lightly used bottles of perfume.

Many charities are happy to accept goods as donations. UnitingCare's Lifeline op-shops will sell your everyday items, toys and clothing and invest the profits back into the charity. You can drop off your goods at a Lifeline shop or pop them in the bins at your local shopping centre.

However, it's important to place your items in the bins and not near them, as they could be stolen. If the bin is full, you can let Lifeline know here.

Gifts to charities are tax deductible provided you have proof of the donation. The organisation you donate to must be a registered deductible gift recipient (DGR). You can find a list of DGRs here.

211216presentswp unwanted christmas presents

Sell online

If you would have preferred money, eBay, Gumtree, Carousell and Facebook's new Marketplace can help you sell your unwanted gifts. Setting up shop on eBay is fairly straightforward - you get 40 free listings each month and forfeit 9.9% of each item sold as a service charge. You can auction your items or sell them outright.

Gumtree, Carousell and Facebook Marketplace all allow you to sell for free. Always be careful about who you decide to meet up with and be aware of the risk of fraudulent payment.


In the US, some families host a traditional post-Christmas exchange to circulate the gifts they don't want. They're called "white elephant" parties. Why? In the 1800s in South-East Asia, it was considered an honour to receive a white elephant as a gift.

The term refers to an extravagant yet terribly burdensome gift - one that you're desperate to get rid of.

The exchange has certain rules, much like a Secret Santa. Each participant provides a wrapped present and draws their name from a hat to organise playing order.

Player one selects a gift and unwraps it for everyone to see. The game goes around the circle as players in order select to either unwrap a present or "steal" a present from another player. Each gift can only be stolen once per round. Players who have had their gifts stolen can choose a new gift or steal from another player.

When the last player has selected or stolen their gift, player one then gets the opportunity to swap. If they do so, the next player has the opportunity to steal, and the game continues around the circle until someone declines to steal. Sound like fun?

If you're not up to hosting an exchange event, you can always just keep unwanted presents for next Christmas or birthdays.

Pro tip: make a list on Christmas day so you know exactly who gave you what. If you're a serial regifter, it'll save you the sheer horror of accidentally giving a gift back to someone next year. Yikes!


Did great-aunt Mildred buy you a shirt in a kid's size six again? Get thrifty with your undesirable garments by attending the next Clothing Exchange event.

Founded in 2004, the Clothing Exchange now hosts regular meet-ups across Sydney and Melbourne. Simply bring your clothes, find some on offer that you like and try to negotiate a swap. Admission is usually free.

Get stories like this in our newsletters.

Related Stories

Steph Nash was a staff writer at Money until 2017.