Five ways to deal with unwanted Christmas presents


If you don't love your Christmas presents, what do you do? Don't stick them in your bottom drawer or throw them out.

Instead, find a good home for them. Probably someone will treasure them. Or return them for something you want and need. Or unlock some of the value and sell them.

A whopping 10 million Christmas gifts worth more than $400 million aren't liked, according to research by ING

what to do with unwanted christmas presents donating unwanted christmas gifts

People who feel compelled to frantically shop in the lead up to Christmas, suffering from FOGG (fear of gift-giving) often give friends and family ill-considered presents.

The problem is that unwanted gifts cause financial and environmental consequences. Around 25% of Australians run up debts buying Christmas presents and they could well be going into the red for presents no-one wants. The most unwanted Christmas gifts are novelty items (51% of Australians), followed by candles (40%), then pamper products (40%), pyjamas or slippers (35%) and underwear or socks (32%), according to ING.

The dark side of Christmas is the waste it generates with a third of Australians saying Christmas is the most wasteful time of the year. Along with the wrapping paper, Christmas decorations, leftover food, unwanted presents often go into landfill. Here are five steps to stop this.

Return to the shop

Exchange your gift for something you prefer. Retailers don't have to give you money back on the gift under consumer law. But if you ask gently, you might be able to get a refund. If you have a gift receipt or the actual receipt, returning for an exchange or credit note is easier.

Just remember to keep unwanted gifts in good condition and keep the packaging intact and the tags connected. But it is important to get in quick.

Keep trying. If one staff member doesn't have the authority to accept your return, politely ask to speak to the store manager or contact head office.

If it was bought online, many online stores even offer free return postage, so you don't need to pay for and apply postage to your item-just find something sturdy to package it in and drop it off at an Australia Post shop.

Donate to charity

Even charities get swamped with goods that they send to landfill. It is estimated charities send 60,000 tonnes to landfill every year. But new clothes, household items and other new goods are always in demand. The money raised by op shops helps people in need.

You can donate your unused, sealed make-up and beauty products to a number of specialist charities that differ from state to state. They won't take expired products with less than 12 months to expiry or sample products. Check with your state. In NSW, for example, there is Every Little Bit Helps, Pink Cross and Look Good Feel Better.

Sell your gift

There are plenty of online sites for your unwanted gift. One person's rubbish is another's treasure, so they say.

It can be surprising what people buy on eBay and Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace. Give it a go.

Swap presents

Nearly everyone knows that people receive the wrong presents at Christmas. Why not swap them with someone who wants them?

A friend of mine, Bridget, lives in an apartment block and every year with her neighbour who wants to get rid of his calorific gifts of chocolates, biscuits, wine and Christmas cakes he receives as a nurse. Bridget loves sweets and wine so swaps the candles, soaps, cookbooks and kitchen goods that she receives as a beautician.

As well there are online swap websites with mapping and courier services to help with delivery.


Put your presents into your gift drawer and give them away for birthdays and even the following Christmas.

Some people find this inefficient because the chances of other people liking the gifts you don't could be slim. So the presents pile up.

But if you are sure that someone else would really like it, regift away. But the product should be as good as new. Fresh rather than musty, and in its original box.

And don't forget to keep track of who gave you what so you don't regift something to the person who gave it to you

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.