3 Things You Do With Holiday Gifts You Don’t Want

Woman wearing a Santa hat wrapping gifts.

Image source: Getty Images

There is no need to keep these items collecting dust.


the main points

  • It’s common to receive gifts during the holidays that don’t do you much good.
  • You don’t have to give in to cluttered cupboards when there are ways to make the most of these items.

Many people are super focused on gift-giving during the holiday season — so much so that they’re willing to run into credit card debt when they buy them and get generous. And if you were the recipient of a string of holiday gifts this past December, you should be thankful that so many people were kind enough to think of you.

But some of the gifts you’ve received may have missed the mark. Maybe your aunt gave you a nice cardigan, only that is a material your skin can’t stand. Or maybe you’ve been given a box of gourmet chocolates you’re just trying to cut out dairy.

Such situations can be frustrating. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with holiday gifts you don’t want or can’t put to good use. Here are some options to look at that don’t involve giving in to a closet full of junk.

1. Sell your gifts to willing buyers

You probably can’t stand the thought of a cardigan rubbing against your neckline. But someone else might be eager to get an item like this at a discount. For this reason, it is helpful to take inventory of the gifts you don’t want and try to find buyers for them.

In many cases, you won’t even get close to the initial value of those, and you might have to be okay with that. In the case of our adorable cardigan, chances are, your aunt spent $50 at the department store, and now you’re looking for maybe $15 if you’re lucky.

But hey, that’s $15 you haven’t had before. And the $50 sweater sitting in your closet unworn won’t do you $15 or $50 of value – it will give you $0 in value. So try not to get hung up on the fact that you’re “swayed” by the value of your gifts. Instead, remind yourself that you are earning cash that you can use for various purposes.

2. Use it to improve the lives of your friends

You may have sworn off dairy—either as a permanent thing, or in conjunction with a New Year’s resolution you made to improve your diet. Either way, if you have a friend who absolutely loves chocolate, you can make their day by handing them the box of gourmet treats you don’t want to tempt.

It really is a win. This box of goodies won’t make fun of you, and your friend will enjoy some treats that she might not be in a position to buy for herself.

3. Donate it to charity

It can be tricky to donate food to charity (although it’s always helpful to check your local food pantry, just in case). But if you have unwanted holiday gifts that aren’t food, donating them is always an option.

Not only is this nice, but it can be a tax write-off. If you itemize on your tax return, you can take a deduction for non-monetary charitable donations in addition to cash donations. The only thing to keep in mind is that you can only deduct the fair market value of the items you donate.

But if you give gifts away shortly after they’ve been received, and they’ve never been used, you may be able to dispose of their full value (or, in other words, their fair market value may be their full value). In the end, it’s best to check with a tax professional, but know that you have options.

Unwanted holiday gifts don’t need to buy up precious real estate in your closet. Instead, do something with them that makes you feel better or improve your financial situation.

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