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The art of gift returns

Ah, the holidays. That time of year when giving is better than receiving. Especially because receiving means getting gifts you don't want, already have or simply don't need. So how do you decide what to keep, what to return, what to donate and what to re-gift? We've got a handy guide to help ease your pain...and conscience. 1) First assess your relationship to the gift-giver. Is this someone you can be honest with about the gift or do you have to pretend to like it no matter what? Also, will they see you with this gift, either on you (if it's clothes) or in your home? Factor these into your decision when deciding whether to return or exchange the item. Sometimes wearing that hideous sweater from Grandma is just worth it to make her happy. And it's only once a year. But if the giver wants you to be happy and provided a tag or gift receipt, it is yours to exchange for something more "you."

2) Do you already have said item? If so, you can definitely exchange it for something else, even without telling the giver you already have it. Clearly if they ever come over, you have the item, so their feelings won't be hurt as they think you've kept it. And you get to select something else, unbeknownst to them.

3) Most stores are happy to give you store credit or a gift card if you don't have the receipt. So if the bar code or tag is still on the item, definitely see if you can get some money towards a future purchase. Be warned that if you don't have the receipt and the item is now on sale, you'll only get credit for the lowest price offered, so it might not even be worth the exchange. In this case, you might want to donate it and at least take the tax write off.

4) Donate. It makes you feel good and this way the giver's item will truly be valued by someone who might really need it. In my opinion, it's fine to donate any gift you get since this is at the heart of the season's meaning: helping others. But the rules from #1 still apply, so be sure the giver won't expect to see the item next time they visit. Or make sure they'd be ok with you telling them you donated it.

In the end, giving is the most important sentiment and if you give someone something, you want them to like it. If they don't, you shouldn't feel badly about it as the item is theirs to do as they wish. So put your feelings aside and next time, get them a gift card or ask them what they want/need. That assures everyone is happy!

What gift return advice do you have?

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