How To Recycle Or Return Unwanted Gifts

Blog | January 8th, 2020

Although birthdays and holidays can be a lot of fun, gift-giving can be tricky. Regardless of how well you know someone, there’s no guarantee that you’ll give the right gift. As the recipient of an unwanted gift, the last thing you want is to let an unwanted gift clutter up your home and go to waste. 

Rather than letting unwanted presents collect dust in a closet or storage unit, here are a few ways you can recycle or return them:

Exchange It for Store Credit

When you receive an unwanted present from a friend or family member, one of the easiest ways to recycle it is by exchanging it for store credit—especially if it comes from a retail store you enjoy shopping at anyway. 

Not only can the store resell the item to someone who wants it, but you can use the store credit to purchase a gift you’ll actually get some use out of it. While this typically works best if you have a receipt, many stores allow you to exchange a gift for store credit after the Holidays (if it’s unopened, in the package, or still has the tags).


While regifting has been seen as controversial in the past, there’s nothing wrong with it if you know someone else is going to love the gift. For instance, if someone gifts you a blender that you know you’ll never use, but you have a friend who loves to make smoothies, there’s no harm in regifting it. 

However, regifting can be tricky if the person who initially gave you the present finds out you’ve given it away. To avoid hurt feelings, your best option is to regift the present to someone who doesn’t know the original gift-giver.

Donate to Charity

If you aren’t comfortable with returning the item or regifting it, you always have the option to donate it to charity. Organizations like Goodwill or the Salvation Army operate nationwide and will sell your donated items in one of their thrift stores. When someone purchases it, the proceeds will go towards helping the needy. 

One of the perks about donating an unwanted gift to an organization like this is that they sell just about everything. While some local thrift stores may only accept clothing or certain household items, Goodwill and the Salvation Army will accept and sell just about anything you give them—from books to furniture and appliances. 

Another advantage of donating is that the value of the item will be deductible on your taxes too. If someone bought you a $40 pair of shoes that you’ll never wear, that $40 can then become a line item deduction on your taxes.

Return for Money

Although it isn’t always possible to do this, a common way to recycle an unwanted gift is by returning it for a cash refund. In some cases, the friend or family member who purchased the gift might have included a receipt so that you could return it if it wasn’t what you wanted. 

If you’re in a tight spot financially and in need of cash (much more than a t-shirt that you’ll never wear), there might not be any shame in asking the gift-giver for the receipt either.

Related: How to Earn Cash Back on Everyday Purchases

Modify the Gift

While it isn’t always an option for every unwanted gift, sometimes a present just needs a little makeover. An unstylish pair of jeans or a blank t-shirt can become your next craft project if you’re feeling creative. 

If you aren’t sure where to start, there are plenty of online tutorials and Youtube videos that can give you plenty of DIY inspiration or step-by-step instructions if you’ve already got an idea in mind. Your friends or family may even start giving you similar items in the future if they know you like to personalize them.

Swap It With Someone Else

Trading your gift might not always be the best way to recycle a gift, but it can work under certain circumstances. If someone else in your family or friend group got stuck with an unwanted present (that you’d much rather have), you can always discreetly ask them if they’d like to trade. After all, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. 

If you do plan to swap your gift with someone else, make sure you do it subtly so the gift-givers don’t get their feelings hurt.

Selling It Yourself

It might take a little bit more effort than regifting or returning to the store, but one way to recycle an unwanted gift is by selling it yourself. If you’re cleaning out the closet and find a few old gifts you thought you’d use but never did, selling them yourself might be the way to go. Selling an item can take some legwork, but if you think you’ll make a little money from it, it might be worth it. 

To get started, certain websites like Craigslist or even Facebook Marketplace allow you to advertise an item at any price you want to people in the surrounding area. However, if nobody in the local area wants it, sites like eBay allow you to interact with buyers from all over the world. 

When it comes to dealing with unwanted presents, there’s no reason you need to let them collect dust in your closet—there are plenty of ways you can recycle or return gifts you know you’ll never use.

Related: The 5 Best Debt Consolidation Companies