Don't keep a bad gift
Don't want that red reindeer sweater your grandmother gave you? Ditching unwanted holiday gifts is easier than ever and can stretch your dollars, too.
There are lots of old -- and new -- ways to jettison gifts. Some websites help you sell a gift card with ease. Others offer marketplaces for selling gifts.
"It's a brave new world online," says Shannon Hughes, head of marketing at the online marketplace Copious.com. "More people are willing to shop online than ever. So, you don't have to suffer in silence."
For the human touch, consider holding a swap party or donating a gift to the Salvation Army. Or, to stretch holiday dollars, regift presents to Facebook friends. Exploding social networks help us know a lot more about what friends and family want, Hughes says.
Here are five ways to ditch gifts that leave you speechless.
Throw a swap party
Need an excuse to have a fun party? Then swaps are for you.
Known as white elephant gift exchanges or Yankee swaps, these are get-togethers where people exchange wacky holiday gifts. They should make a noise or move, such as slingshot chickens, says Bruce Christensen, CEO of PartyWeDo in McMinnville, Ore. "The sillier the gift, the more the banter," he says.
Here's how it works. Hosts send out invitations, setting the swap party date and dollar limits on gifts. Guests then sit in a circle and pick gifts by putting their names in a hat. Many parties have themes such as kitchen gadgets, and the host sets the rules, Christensen says. You can use your unwanted gift at the exchange.
"It's a social activity, and everyone walks away with a gift," he says.
Sell your gift card
Gift cards are easily sold for quick cash.
There are lots of websites for selling these cards, says Andrea Woroch, a consumer savings expert in Bakersfield, Calif. But, don't expect to be paid the card's full value. You'll get anywhere from 85 percent to 92 percent of the gift card's worth, Woroch says.
To get the most cash, start your search at GiftCardGranny.com, Woroch says. This aggregator site lets you plug in a card brand name and spits out comparison rates from several gift card sites. The day after Christmas, you also can go to GiftCardExchangeDay.com, where you can get instant bids for a card. If you'd rather swap one gift card for another, go to GiftCardSwapping.com.
One hitch: Gift card sites are geared toward big-name brands. If your card is from a small neighborhood boutique, you're out of luck. "Then, you'll have to sell it on Craigslist," Woroch adds.
Donate to a worthy charity
Have a do-gooder heart? Consider donating a gift.
Charities such as the Purple Heart Service Foundation or Goodwill Industries International happily take unwanted holiday gifts, says Bethany Mooradian, author of "I Got Scammed, So You Don't Have To." Or, you can find a worthy local charity at JustGive.org.
Churches and hospitals also take holiday gifts, and some even have drop boxes. "You can also donate gift cards to schools since they can always use supplies," Mooradian says.
The payoff: a warm, fuzzy feeling that you're doing good, and a helpful tax deduction, Mooradian says. The deduction can be claimed at the fair market value, according to Internal Revenue Service tax guidelines. Make sure you get a signed and dated donation receipt from the charity, though, for your tax records.
Recycle by regifting
Regifting presents is green and saves you money.
Regifting works best with generic gifts such as soap, candles or nonperishable food items, says Leah Ingram, author of "Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less." These gifts can be recycled to family, teachers or aunts, she says. Ingram keeps a regifting closet, stocked with stuff she doesn't want to return. They usually end up as last-minute house gifts or holiday gifts, Ingram says.
For help, sites such as Regiftable.com guide you through the ins and outs of regifting.
Word of caution: Keep a gift log. That way, you don't end up regifting the person who originally gave you the gift, Ingram says.
Return the gift
Like the store, not the gift? Return it.
Some national retailers, such as Nordstrom and Wal-Mart, don't require receipts for returns. So, first check out the store's return policy. When returning a gift, you'll need to take along proof of purchase, such as the box, order number or price tags.
"Some stores have cracked down on returns without receipts," says Ingram, "but they may still work with you." Also, many stores such as Wal-Mart have 90-day windows for returns.
And don't expect cash refunds. Most stores dish out store credits instead. For example, Amazon.com has an online returns center for returning unwanted holiday gifts. Refunds are issued as Amazon.com gift cards.
If returns don't work, your fall-back position is to sell the gift via an online marketplace such as Etsy, eBay or Copious. "The objective is making yourself happy," Ingram says.