"Early Show" consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen offered some ideas Monday.
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See our big Holiday Gift Guide
Even the most fool-proof gifts are subject to being returned. In fact, 19 percent of people plan to return a gift after the holidays, according to a recent Consumer Reports survey.
The National Retail Federation says you should make sure you have the original packaging, and gift receipts or original receipts. Two-thirds of retailers say return policies have changed in the past to combat fraud. Nine-in-ten retailers say stolen merchandise has been returned to stores over the past year. Retailers have also been plagued by problems with counterfeit receipts and returns of merchandise purchased with stolen credit cards. Also, be aware of return policies before you buy something.
If you don't have the receipt:
Learn to love store credit! In some cases, your return may not yield an even exchange or come in the form of a credit issued to your credit card.
Gift card exchanges
At GiftCardRescue.com, for instance, card values must be between $25 and $500. Once you enter the details of your gift card, the site will tell you the card's "redemption value," or how much it is willing to pay for the card; GiftCardRescue.com typically pays between 60 percent and 80 percent of the card's value. You can then choose to receive a check or select a new gift card from the site. Finally, you mail your gift card to GiftCardRescue.com. You should get your new gift card or the cash within 48 hours after the site receives your card. Giftcardrescue.com allows you to exchange your gift card for another gift gard, sell your gift card for cash, or buy discounted gift cards. GiftCardRescue.com guarantees all transactions, including a 100 percent money-back guarantee. All gift cards sold on the site have been verified, and it covers shipping charges. Customers can exchange their card for an Amazon.com gift card that can be used to shop on Amazon.com..
REGIFT WITHOUT REGRET
Seen that gift before? Look closely: Fifteen percent of gift shoppers reported they'll re-gift this year.
Those getting gifts this season may actually find them useful, as 34 percent of adults told Consumer Reports they're more likely to buy practical gifts, good news for the 30 percent of adults who said they wanted to receive more practical gifts. But practical gifts aren't guaranteed to be good, especially if they come from an extended family member, who 15 percent of respondents reported gave the worst gifts. Parents (6 percent) and in-laws (seven percent) are less likely to give the worst gift.
Is the gift re-giftable? Never re-gift handmade or one-of-a-kind items. Signed books and monogrammed items are off-limits. Do you have to be told not to re-gift free promotional items? Some gifts that are good candidates for re-gifting include good (unopened!) bottles of wine, new household items and inexpensive jewelry.
Do you have good intentions? Don't just give a gift to give a gift. Be sure that the recipient will appreciate the item. Remember, if you feel that an item is undesirable, the recipient probably will too. If you are re-gifting simply because you ran out of time, gift cards are simple to obtain and always well received.
Is this going to work? Successful re-gifters use common sense. If you are going to re-gift, be sure you know who gave you the item, so you don't return something to the original giver. Only re-gift items to people who are not likely to see the original giver.
If you don't plan to announce the gift as a regift, ask yourself if you can keep the secret. Never feel guilty about re-gifting once you've done it.
SELL IT ON eBAY
According to the Consumer Reports survey, nearly half of adults plan to shop between Christmas and New Years. Do-it-yourselfers will only have to pay eBay fees and fees for any time of payment that you accept. If you don't have the time or inclination to do it yourself, companies such as iSoldIt will do it for you. The item has to have a certain minimum value and a percentage plus fees will apply.
Traditionally on eBay, the weeks and even months after the holiday season are when a shopper can often find the best deals for a wide range of merchandise. Many eBay sellers will tend to have overstocked inventory post-holiday, stock that they are eager to liquidate. They price this inventory low to make it attractive to shoppers.
Buyers have learned over the years to expect great deals and sales post Holidays from offline retail and they now expect the same from online commerce. Buyers tend to flock to eBay after the holidays looking for the deals that they know eBay sellers will provide. This seller-need-to-liquidate and buyer-desire-for-deals provides the perfect marketplace incentives for both sellers and buyers to increase their activity on eBay.
When is the best time to sell gifts that you don't need/want, have too many of, etc?
For most categories of items, the sooner the better. For example, a new-in-season electronic item tends to maintain most of its retail value for at least a few months after its release but once an even newer model of the same product is launched, previous versions, even if new in the box, tend to start decreasing in value. So if person finds themselves with a brand new, brand name digital camera that they either don't need or don't want, the time to resell it is now, especially if the owner of the item wants to realize the maximum amount of cash for the item. For other items, like collectibles, house wares, clothing, etc, an immediate sale is not as critical since these items tend to hold their initial value longer (as long as the are not used in the meantime).
Some tips for offering items for sale on eBay for the first time:
Take good, clear photos of the item. Write an item description that describes the item in detail.
Take a few minutes to research similar items on eBay to determine the most reasonable prices and costs. (This is also a great way to learn from the "pros" how to put a listing together so it looks inviting and professional). When you are ready to list, click the Sell link on the top of any eBay page and follow the instructions from there.
Donate it to charity. Not only will this help someone else, it may earn you a year-end tax deduction. Every day, charities take items that people don't want and give them away or sell them inexpensively to people who want the item and can use it. Thrift shops, the Salvation Army and Goodwill are examples of some of the charities that will take almost anything that can be used.
The Salvation Army takes most items, and sees a spike of donations before the holidays.
Tax tips from "Early Show" financial adviser Ray Martin:
Deductions for Donations only can be claimed in the cal year the donation is made....so make donations before Dec 31 to claim on your 2009 tax return.
The tax rate is the same as the marginal rate that applies for the donors tax return - for most folks its 25, 28 or 33 percent.
The amount of the donation deduction is limited to the lesser of the actual value or the cost...if giving never used/new property then the cost is probably fine to use.
If you donate and claim property worth $500 or more then you'll also be required to complete form 8283 to your tax return.