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8 ways to turn Christmas trash into treasure

Unwanted presents don't have to be destined for the bin - here's how to make the most of them

If Santa got it wrong this year, don’t feel too disappointed – Which? explains how you can turn your unwanted presents into extra cash by selling, swapping or trading them in.

Christmas is a time for family and celebration – but it’s also undeniably about presents. Well-intended but unwanted gifts often end up in the bin, or on a dusty top shelf. Yet someone else may be delighted by the present you don’t need.

Which? explains how you can make the most out of your gifts this year, including how to sell them, where to trade them in and your rights on returns.


1. Sell them

The best-known resale site is eBay – and it’s a perfectly good option to sell stuff you don’t want, as long as you take into account the costs. Aside from paying for postage, you’ll also need to pay eBay’s 10% cut of the final transaction value and any listing costs (if you’re selling more than 20 items a month – anything under that is free to list).

Other options include Gumtree – which even has a specific ‘unwanted gifts‘ listings section – and eBid, where you put items up for auction.

It might also be worth going more specialised. Sites like Music Magpie, Zapper and CEX take unwanted CDs, DVDs, books, games, electronics and, in some cases, even Lego.

2. Rent them

Just because you don’t want to use your gift, doesn’t mean it’s not worth hanging onto – you may be able to make some extra cash by renting it.

Sites such as Fat Lama match renters with people looking for the likes of cameras, projectors, toys, drones and even clothing. You can choose how much to charge, but there’s a price calculator to give you an idea of what people might be prepared to pay.

Bear in mind that Fat Lama takes a 15% cut of the rental fee – but, on the plus side, their insurance policy covers your item in case of damage.

3. Swap them

A host of sites have popped up enabling you to swap your stuff online. Swapz will let you swap pretty much anything – from pottery to stamps.

There’s also the Gumtree Swap Shop – which has the added benefit of being able to search in your local area if you’re dealing with larger items. More specific sites include Swishing for clothes and accessories, BookMooch for books and TitleTrader for CDs, DVDs and games.

Alternatively, you could just host your own private gift swap party, and invite friends to bring their unwanted gifts along – but maybe don’t invite anyone whose presents you’re trying to offload.

4. Trade them in

Stores such as Game offer a trade-in service for games, phones and tablets. You can check the prices for your items first online, and receive cash (if you go in-store), Game wallet credit or a payment via PayPal.

It’s also possible to trade one gift card in for another, through sites such as Zapper, which will buy gift cards and vouchers for around 24% below face value, as long as they’re valid for three months from the time of trade. Zeek also allows you to buy and sell gift cards, so you can get rid of one you don’t want for one you do.

5. Return them

Returning gifts is perhaps the most obvious option, but comes with a host of potential complications if you’re not the person who bought it.

Legally, you don’t have the right to return goods unless they are faulty or not as described. However, most stores do have a returns policy and are often more lenient with their returns period over Christmas and New Years. Check the store’s policy – if you have a receipt, you’ll probably be given a refund, exchange or credit note.

If you don’t have the receipt, this is trickier, as there may be no way to prove whether the item was bought in that store. But it’s worth asking, as you may be offered the chance to exchange the gift for something you actually do want, a credit note, or the monetary value on a voucher card.

If the gift was bought online, most retailers will want the delivery receipt, along with the reason you’re returning the item (though it doesn’t have to be faulty).

Amazon has a special Gift Returns service, which just requires the item’s order number. You’ll be informed whether the item can be returned, and refunds are processed as gift cards. However, this could mean an awkward conversation with your gift-giver.

6. Re-gift them

One of the simplest ways to get an unwanted gift off your hands is to simply give it to someone else – plus you’ll save the money that you would have spent buying them a new present.

But in the interests of being a good friend, perhaps only do this if you think it’s something they’d genuinely like – and don’t give it back to the person who bought it for you.

7. Re-purpose them

Requiring a bit of imagination and creativity, repurposing or upcycling can mean you’ll make something you don’t want into something you do.

For instance, vases, mugs and kitchenware can double up as quirky planters and garden accessories; dodgy jumpers can be made into Christmas stockings or tea cosies; chocolate tins (once the contents has been eaten) can be redecorated and serve as handy storage boxes.

8. Give them to charity

While you may not earn a monetary reward for giving unwanted gifts to a charity shop, you’ll have the priceless feeling of doing some good – and your items won’t go to waste.

As well as clothes and books, many charity shops will take crockery, games, films, jewellery, ornaments, paintings, shoes and toys. Some shops may also take furniture and electricals – but it’s worth checking first. Alternatively, you could donate your unwanted gifts as a raffle prize, or to local hospitals with children’s wards in the case of toys or games.

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