3 Things to Do With the Holiday Gifts You Just Don’t Want

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There’s no need to keep those items around to collect dust.


Key points

  • It’s common to receive gifts during the holidays that aren’t of great use to you.
  • You don’t have to resign yourself to cluttered closets when there are ways to make the most of those items.

Many people put a big emphasis on giving gifts during the holiday season — so much so that they’re willing to rack up credit card debt when purchasing them and being generous. And if you were the recipient of a string of holiday gifts this past December, then you should be thankful that so many people were kind enough to think of you.

But some of the gifts you received may have missed the mark. Maybe your aunt gave you a lovely wool sweater, only that’s a material your skin can’t stand. Or maybe you were given a box of gourmet chocolates, only you’re trying to cut out dairy.

Situations like these can be frustrating. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with holiday gifts you don’t want or can’t get great use out of. Here are some options to look at that don’t involve resigning yourself to a jam-packed closet of unwanted stuff.

1. Sell your gifts to willing buyers

Maybe you can’t stand the idea of ​​a wool sweater rubbing up against your neckline. But another person might be eager to scoop up an item like that at a discount. That’s why it pays to take inventory of the gifts you don’t want and try to find buyers for them.

In many cases, you’re not going to get anywhere close to those items’ initial value, and you may have to be okay with that. In the case of our wonderful wool sweater, chances are, your aunt spent $50 at a department store, and you’re now looking at maybe getting $15 if you’re lucky.

But hey, that’s $15 you didn’t have before. And a $50 sweater that sits in your closet unworn isn’t going to offer you $15 or $50 of value — it’s going to give you $0 of value. So try not to get hung up on the fact that you’re “taking a hit” on the value of your gifts. Instead, remind yourself that you’re gaining cash you can use for different purposes.

2. Use them to make your friends’ lives better

Maybe you’ve 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, make their day by handing over that box of gourmet sweets you don’t want to be tempted with.

It’s really a win-win. You won’t be taunted by that box of goodies, and your friend will get to enjoy some treats they may not be in a position to afford to buy for themselves.

3. Donate them to charity

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

Not only is that a nice thing to do, but it could serve as a tax write off. If you itemize on your tax return, you can take a deduction for non-cash charitable donations as well as cash donations. The only thing to keep in mind is that you can only deduct the fair-market value of the goods you’re donating.

But if you’re donating gifts shortly after having received them, and they’ve never been used, then you may be able to get away with deducting their full value (or, to put it another way, their fair-market value may be their full value). Ultimately, it’s best to check with a tax professional, but know that you do have options.

Unwanted holiday gifts don’t have to take up precious real estate in your closets. Instead, do something with them that will make you feel good or improve your financial situation.

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