Buying the perfect Christmas present is an art form, and one that very few people have mastered.

And the older you get, it seems, the more often gifts from friends and family fall short of the mark. MARK SHIELDS offers some suggestions on what to do with those unwanted Christmas presents.

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Pass it on

Just because the present isn’t right for you doesn’t mean it’s not right for anyone, so don’t open it or wear it, put it to one side and save yourself some money on presents next time around. If you’re careful you might even be able to save the wrapping paper. Just be careful who you give it to.

Exchange it

The obvious solution for a present you’re not keen on, though it does involve that awkward moment where you have to thank someone... and then ask them for the receipt. If you think fast enough you can pretend you have the present already – confirming the buyer’s good taste and giving you the perfect excuse to exchange.

Donate it to a charity shop

Christmas presents tend to be things that we want rather than need, so why not get into the true Christmas spirit by making a donation of your gift to a charity shop? As well as making a difference to the charities, handing out your gifts will give you that smug and virtuous boost to tie in with your New Year detox.

Sell it online

Everyone feels the pinch in January when they realise quite how much they’ve spent on Christmas – so cashing in on your unwanted gifts is a win-win situation. Selling them on sites such as eBay and Amazon is easier than ever, but remember that they will take their cut too.

Sell it at a car boot sale

The analogue forerunner to the online auction sites, and still a favourite. You might have to brave the freezing cold on an exposed playing field in the depths of winter but, once you’ve paid your pitch fee, all the profits are yours and you’ll (hopefully) have the money in your hand for a coffee on the way home.

Freecycle it

This innovative site pairs up people and products to try to prevent them going to waste. If you have something you don’t want, list it on the site along with what you want for it – a fee or a trade or just to get rid – and, because the listings are arranged by geographical location, there’s usually no need to post it either.

Shove it in the loft

When all else fails, put it out of sight and out of mind. You’ll feel much less guilty about throwing it away when you finally uncover the unwanted – and probably out-of-date – gift years later as you move house.

Raffle it

In the unlikely event of there being more than one person who would appreciate the present you don’t, organising a raffle adds a bit of drama and excitement to proceedings. You could even team up with work colleagues in the same situation, and donate the proceeds to charity.

‘Lose’ it

It’s so easy for an ugly scarf to get caught up with the rest of the wrapping paper being thrown away, isn’t it? Isn’t it? If your gift is so hideous that you can’t bear to keep it or inflict it on others, there’s really no other way than to throw it away. But make sure you practise your ‘surprised-and-shocked’ face.

Refuse it

The ‘thanks, but no thanks’ approach – after all, why should you be left to deal with a gift that was probably recycled from the previous Christmas anyway? It’s the rudest strategy on this list, but certainly the one that requires the least effort. Just don’t expect many presents next year.

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