What to do with Unwanted Christmas Presents

Rather than bin them, you can read our guide to find out ways to repurpose your unwanted gifts.
Amabel Polglase
November 30, 2022
min read

Did you know that approximately 5 billion pounds of gift returns end up in landfill sites every year? Not only are unwanted Christmas gifts wasting a lot of money, but they’re also causing significant environmental issues at a time when we all need to do more to protect the natural world around us.

While we all receive unwanted Christmas presents from time to time, the reality is that simply throwing them away is not a viable or sustainable solution. As we explain in this article, there are so many different ways that you can deal with unwanted Christmas gifts, from donating them to charity to swapping them with family or friends. 

So, with that in mind, let’s look at eight ways you can deal with unwanted gifts this Christmas to avoid sending more items to landfill sites at this time of the year.

1. Donate them to charity

One of the best things to do with unwanted Christmas presents is to donate them to charity. You can visit a local charity shop on your high street, and they’ll be more than happy to receive gifts you don’t want to keep for yourself. They can then sell them on to raise money for their cause, which is a great way of giving back at this time of the year.

Alternatively, you can get creative with how you donate your gifts. Donate children’s toys to your local hospital, gift books to schools or libraries, sports equipment can go to local sports clubs, and clothing can go to homeless shelters. You can search for charities in your local area via the Charities Aid Foundation website.

2. Sell them

Instead of leaving an unwanted Christmas gift at the bottom of your wardrobe to gather dust, you can sell it online and put the money to good use. You can use an online platform like eBay to sell unwanted items or upload your gift to the Facebook marketplace to find a local buyer for something you don’t want.

Selling unwanted items is a great way to stop spending and start saving money, and it’s a good habit to get into. While you won’t necessarily earn a fortune by selling unwanted Christmas gifts, people will pay good money for new items you list for sale, and it’s a great way to add to your savings at the start of the year, particularly after a busy and expensive festive season.

3. Save & regift them

Rather than giving away or selling your unwanted Christmas gifts, you can save them and regift them to a family member or friend. If you have space in a spare room, you can place your unwanted Christmas presents to one side and return them when a special occasion comes around, be it a birthday, anniversary, or even next Christmas.

The key here is not just to pass on an unwanted gift because you can’t be bothered to think of anything good to get a loved one! Instead, ensure you regift your unwanted Christmas presents with intention and be mindful about whether the recipient will appreciate the gift. You can read our handy guide to regifting to ensure you pass on your unwanted Christmas presents the right way.

4. Swap them with friends or family

Given that you’ll spend a lot of time with family and friends during and after the festive season, you might find that someone within your circle has also received an unwanted Christmas gift. If this is the case, a present swap might be on the cards. When you’re catching up in the living room during the Christmas holidays, you might find that you might be able to propose a present swap with one of your relatives. 

Of course, you’ll need to be tactful when discussing a present swap, and you should only propose a swap if doing so is mutually beneficial. Present swapping is particularly handy when it comes to clothing items, but there’s no reason you can’t swap anything that appears in your stocking on Christmas morning. In many households, present swaps are a big part of the day, and it’s a good way to find a home for unwanted gifts.

5. Offer them to a stranger

Christmas is the season of goodwill, and random acts of kindness go a long way at this time of the year. If you have an unwanted Christmas present, you might consider offering it to a stranger. There are several ways to go about this, and the method you choose depends on what you’re giving away. Some people offer unwanted gifts to strangers in their front garden by attaching a sign to the gift and offering it to passers-by.

Alternatively, you can offer unwanted Christmas gifts for free online. One option is to post a status on social media, inviting your followers to drop you a message if they want the gift you’re offering. Alternatively, you could use a site like Freecycle to post the gift to a much wider audience. Freecycle is an excellent resource for finding a new home for larger and bulkier unwanted presents. Offering items is a great way to avoid sending unwanted gifts to landfills.

6. Upcycle them

Unwanted Christmas gifts provide you with the perfect opportunity to get creative. Rather than selling or giving away unwanted items, you can upcycle them into something that you will love. Many people upcycle unwanted clothing items at Christmas, with sweaters and tops providing you with the perfect opportunity to get creative.

There’s a growing movement of dedicated upcyclers online, and you can turn to Pinterest for all the inspiration you need. No matter what you’ve been gifted this Christmas, with a bit of care and creativity, you can transform it into something you can use.

7. Return it to the shops

If the unwanted gift you have been given comes with a gift receipt, your job is simple - you can return it to the store. Increasingly, many people give gifts with the receipt included, as they know that the person receiving the gift might want to exchange it for something more aligned with their personality and interests. This is a helpful tip for you as a gift-giver - including the gift receipt in a parcel that you give at Christmas can make it much easier for the recipient should they wish to exchange or return the gift.

8. Store it for safekeeping

We haven’t mentioned the moral dilemma of dealing with unwanted Christmas gifts. After all, if someone makes an effort to buy you something that they think you will appreciate, it can seem a little ungrateful to return it or give it away to someone else. If you don’t feel good about any of the options introduced above, you can store the unwanted gift for safekeeping. 

While it might not be of any use to you right now, there’s a fair chance that you could use or appreciate it in the future, and it means that you don’t have to take steps to give the gift away in the first place.

Next steps

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year for many reasons, but it’s also a time of the year when we produce a great deal of waste. But by thinking carefully about how to responsibly deal with unwanted Christmas gifts, you reduce the amount of waste that heads to landfills at this time of the year. Given the huge responsibility, we all have for the future of our planet, donating or giving away unwanted gifts is also a gift to the environment.

If you’ve found the tips in this article helpful, you might also be interested in our thoughtful cheap Christmas gift guide and our Christmas preparation planner to help you get ready for the festive season.

Amabel Polglase

Chief Marketing Officer

Amabel has diverse experience in business, marketing and entrepreneurship, including founding her own successful startup. She served in several senior leadership roles prior to joining HyperJar including Zilch and Curve Card where she led brand, marketing and communications. Before joining the fintech revolution, Amabel was a managing global client partner at Facebook and prior to that at McCann-Erickson, the world’s largest ad network. She volunteers at Girls Out Loud, a charity created to empower and inspire teenage girls, and is also a mentor at The Girls’ Network. She received her MA in history and international relations from the University of St Andrews.

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