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Mar 01, 2024

What to Do with Unwanted Christmas Gifts


We’ve all been there. Awkwardly smiling as your family watch you unwrap a gift that you don’t particularly like. The polite ‘thank you’, as you try to avoid eye contact. It’s the performance of a lifetime.

Unwanted Christmas gifts aren’t just awkward, they’re unsustainable. Brits are reported to spend £700 million on unwanted Christmas gifts every year, with £42 million’s worth ending up in landfill each year. We’re quite literally throwing money away.

There are better ways to deal with unwanted Christmas gifts, from selling to upcycling. We’ve listed 10 things to do with unwanted Christmas gifts below.


1. Sell Your Unwanted Gifts

Selling your unwanted Christmas gifts is a great way to get rid of them. You make some extra money and the gift doesn’t go to waste. After all, if someone buys it, they’ll probably use it.

Online selling sites like eBay and Gumtree have entire categories dedicated to unwanted gifts. They are full of unopened body lotions, make-up sets and gadgets. Just beware that if you sell on here you will be going up against lots of other less-than-impressed gift recipients selling their items, so may not get the price you were hoping for.

Alternatively, you can sell unwanted books, CDs and DVDs to us here at We Buy Books. All you have to do is enter the ISBN number or scan the barcode of your items on our app. We’ll give you an instant offer for the items, instead of a bidding system. You’ll get paid the day after we receive your items, as long as they meet our condition guidelines. If you sell more than £25 worth of items, we’ll automatically increase our offer by 10%.

Sell items here.


2. Donate Unwanted Gifts

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Christmas is the season of goodwill. If you won’t use a gift, someone in need will. You can donate unwanted gifts directly to people in need, or to charity shops that will then sell on your items to fund the charity.

Unwanted Christmas gifts can, of course, be donated to your local charity shop. Just make sure your item fits their guidelines. You don’t want to donate anything in poor condition, because it won’t sell and will take up valuable space in the store.

Charity shops are likely to be flooded with donations after Christmas, so you could donate gifts elsewhere instead. For example, domestic violence shelters accept unopened makeup and body wash sets. They also take new women's and children’s underwear and pyjamas.

Another great charity where you can donate items directly to people in need is The Hygiene Bank. The Hygiene Bank is working to close the poverty gap, by giving people the basic personal hygiene items they need to keep clean. They accept donations of unopened personal hygiene and home cleaning items, including shower gel, deodorants, body spray and make-up. So if you find yourself with an excess of Lynx gift sets (again), donate them to people in need instead. Find your nearest drop-off point to make a donation.

There’s also an option to donate the money from your sale to WeBuyBooks to charity. This removes the onus from the charity to sell items to make money. Instead of items sitting on the shelf gathering dust, the charity is guaranteed the money from a sale to us. We have partnered with several local and nationwide charities. From fighting MND to supporting local people with life-limiting illnesses, you can find out more about our charity partners and how donations work.


3. Upcycle Unwanted Gifts Into Treasured Pieces

An unwanted Christmas gift is an opportunity to test your creativity. Turn a drab Christmas jumper into a trendy, retro vest. Make a cute keyring from that gaudy jewellery you’d never wear. Transform that truly awful towel set into a quirky teddy. Hit up Pinterest and YouTube for some easy-to-follow-upcycling tutorials.


4. Re-Gift to Someone Who’ll Like It

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An unwanted gift isn’t necessarily a bad gift. Perhaps you’ve already been gifted it or it’s just not your style. Save it and regift it to someone else who will appreciate it. This stops it from going to waste and saves you some money too! Just make sure you don’t regift it to the person who bought it for you.


5. Recycle

Preferably, we should try to find someone who will use the gift, whether that’s through selling, donating or re-gifting. However, if you can’t find anyone who wants the item, the next best thing is recycling. At least this stops it from ending up in landfill.

Many high street stores have a recycling scheme, which can earn you discounts on your next purchase. For example, if you donate an item of M&S clothing to Oxfam, you can get £5 off a £35 spend at M&S. If you donate a supermarket carrier bag full of clothes to H&M, you can get £5 off a £25 spend. The reGain app is another great way to recycle clothes and get a discount on your next purchase. Just take 10+ items to a participating Red Cross store and you can get discounts of up to 25% at brands like New Balance and Pretty Little Thing.

You can also recycle other unwanted Christmas gifts, like makeup. Brands like MAC, Kiehl’s and Origins accept returns of makeup packaging. For example, if you return 6 lipstick containers to MAC you can get a new lipstick for free.


6. Gift Swap with Friends

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It seems like Father Christmas got your addresses mixed up. You ended up with the trainers your best friend has been drooling over, and they got the jacket of your dreams. Time to arrange a swap!

Instead of reselling or donating unwanted gifts, you could swap them instead. Pop your unwanted gifts in the group chat and see if any of your friends would like to swap. You can even make a night of it! Have everyone bring over their unwanted gifts, so you can enjoy a glass of wine and leftover mince pies whilst you shop and swap.


7. Return Unwanted Gifts

Some considerate gift-givers may include the gift receipt with the present. Rejoice! That means you can return the present and exchange it for money, store credit or something else that you’d prefer.


8. Save It for a Rainy Day

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If you’re too polite to get rid of your unwanted Christmas gifts, you can keep hold and hope that use for them arises someday. This is especially wise for gifts that you might not need right now, but can see a use for in the future. For example, you might not need that towel set right now, but you could save them for when you do up the bathroom next year.


9. Give It Away

We could do with a little more kindness in the world, so why not make someone’s day and give them a present? Why not give your Soap and Glory set to the lady across the road? Or a box of chocolates to your takeaway delivery man? You could bring your Yankee candles to work and make the office smell amazing. Small acts of kindness go a long way.


10. Politely Decline the Gift

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The thought of saying “thanks, but no thanks” to an eager gift-giver is enough to make anyone squirm! But politely refusing a gift doesn’t have to be as awkward as it sounds. There are some easy excuses that you can use.

For clothing, you might say, “That’s lovely, thank you! I just don’t suit pink though and I don’t want you to waste your money on something I won’t wear.”

Or if it’s homeware, you could say, “Oh no, I just bought a set of cocktail glasses last week! Thank you so much, but I don’t have room for them. Is there any way you could return them?”

Just adapt these excuses to your situation. At the end of the day, people want you to like the gifts they buy. Most people would appreciate being told so that they can buy you something you like instead. That way they’re not wasting their money.


Now you know what to do with your unwanted Christmas gifts! Avoid the same predicament next year. Write a Christmas list and ask people to stick to it. That way, you only get gifts you’ll use.

In fact, you could even implement a no-gifts policy. If you really don’t need anything or are sticking to a strict budget, you could suggest to people that you spend time together instead. Perhaps you could cook a fancy meal and enjoy a bottle of wine, watch a show at the theatre, or even enjoy a night bowling.

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