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Those Dreaded, Unwanted Gifts

As the holiday season winds down, there is one question that almost everyone asks themselves each year; What to do with those awkward, unwanted gifts? Maybe they don't fit well, maybe they're just not your style, or maybe, they're just not what what you wanted in the first place. Ray Hennessey, editor of SmartMoney.com, offers some advice on holiday returns and re-gifting.

First and foremost, if you know you're not going to use a gift, return it right away. "What a lot of people forget," says Hennessey, "is that when you return something without a receipt, they'll give you the value of the lowest price that they sold it for within thirty days." That means, if you return something once the post-holiday sales kick in, you run the risk of getting much less money back. What was a $40.00 sweater could get you a store credit of $14.99 - or less. So be sure to return the item to the store as soon as possible.

Along the same lines, never open something you're going to return. This tip is especially important if you're planning to return an electronics item. You run the risk of being charged a restocking fee, or not being able to return the item at all. According to Hennessey, "If bring it back in the box, they can just kind of throw it back on the shelf again and not have to repackage it, and you're going to save some money."

Keep in mind too, that one person's trash is another person's treasure. Consider selling the item on an auction website like eBay or donating it to charity. The gift that's not quite right for you may be the ideal item for someone else. "There's a lot of nice gifts that we get that charities would take and then in turn, sell it and auction it and then it can help someone else" says Hennessey.

Then there's the tricky subject of re-gifting. Hennessey says it's best to avoid re-gifting an item if at all possible. "You're bound to give it to somebody who knows that (it was a gift) before. These things have a horrible tendancy to come up."

So once the holiday hustle bustle is over, don't fret about what to do with that unwanted gift. Return it, unopened, as soon as possible, auction it, or donate it to charity. Do your best to avoid re-gifting the item. "When people give gifts and you don't like them, I think they want you to exchange it and get something that you like," says Hennessey. "That's why they're giving you the gift in the first place."
By Erin Petrun