6 Ways to Recycle Unwanted Gifts

Jon Fesmire | March 13, 2018 @ 9:00 AM

Birthdays and gift-giving holidays are a lot of fun. In addition to getting to spend time with family and friends, we all get to enjoy giving presents to those we love, and receiving presents, perhaps things we’ve wanted for a long time.

What if you get something you don’t need, don’t like, or that just isn’t quite right? First, realize that the gift giver wants you to be happy. Next, realize that there are some ethical options for recycling the gift, and each will either save you money, or result in you getting something that you really want.

Avoid cluttering up your home or storage unit with unwanted gifts and do one of the following.

Exchange For Store Credit

If your gift came from a retail store, the first option to consider is exchanging it there for store credit or a different item. In fact, your friend might give you the present with a gift receipt from the store, especially if they’re not completely sure if the gift is right for you, or if you already have something similar.

Even if you don’t have a gift receipt, after the holidays, most stores will accept gifts back for store credit, allowing you to hold onto that credit and get something you want later, or to use it immediately.

Return for Money

Sometimes, what you really need is money. Some stores will take back merchandise they regularly stock and give you money in exchange, but most will require a gift receipt to give a cash refund.

If you’re in a tight time financially, and you’re comfortable asking for it, you may want to simply tell people that if they are giving you a gift for your birthday or the holidays, a nice card with little cash would be helpful to you.

Modify Them

Some gifts, like blank journals or tee-shirts, are perfect for making part of a craft project. You’ll find many tutorials on YouTube for whatever sort of item you want to modify.

If your friends know that you enjoy crafts, they may even purchase things for you knowing you will personalize them. Once nice thing about this option is that if you show your friend how you modified their gift, they may love what you did with it.


Ah, regifting, probably the most frowned-upon thing you can do with a present. Still, if you’ve received a gift that isn’t right for you, but that you know someone else will love, we see no harm in giving it to that person as a present when their birthday or the holidays roll around.

You have to be careful here, though. If the person who bought you the present originally learns that you regifted it, they could feel hurt.


Have you been holding onto a gift for a long time, and have never used it? The store where it was purchased may refuse to take it back after a certain amount of time, even for credit. Perhaps it was something you thought you would use when you received it, but after having it in your closet for months, you’ve realized you’ll simply never do anything with it.

At that point, you can always sell it. The best marketplaces for this are the online auction site, eBay, where you can sell not only new, but also used items, to people all over the world. For more local options, consider Craigslist and OfferUp.

Donate to Charity

Don’t want to sell? Perhaps you’re more interested in donating to a charity. By doing so, you can help others get quality items for great prices. Organizations like the Salvation Army and Goodwill sell donated items in their thrift stores and use money from sales to help the needy. Their stores sell just about everything.

When you think of a thrift store, clothing may come to mind, and they are a great place to get used, and even new, clothes for cheap. They also sell furniture, kitchenware, books, old magazines, and more. If in doubt that they’ll take a particular item, call and ask.

Not only will you be helping others, the value of the donation is deductible on your taxes. If it’s brand new, that means you can deduct the full retail price. Did someone get you a $20.00 journal book that isn’t your style? Donate it, and that $20.00 can be a line item deduction on your taxes.

Any of these gift recycling methods will make that present that isn’t quite right work for you. Now, go out and turn that gift into something you’ll really enjoy.

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