stop unwanted gifts

10 easy ways to stop unwanted gifts!

Did you know that the 28th of December is now known as Boxing Up Day? It’s the day that we sell our unwanted gifts online. Sites like eBay see a huge spike in listings. Last year they predicted there would be ‘a staggering 74 million items being listed following Christmas‘. We need to put a stop to unwanted gifts!

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So many of us do not want them. Add to that the effort people go through to find the gifts, the money it costs them and the negative environmental impact of it and it seems crazy to keep doing this every year!

Let’s make things easier for everyone and put an end to this madness! Here are my 10 ways to put a stop to unwanted gifts:

1. Gift lists can put the brakes on unwanted gifts!

Agree to shop from gift lists in your family/ amongst your friends. You would have to all agree to this together as you can’t tell people they have to buy you something from a list!

2. Ask before you shop

Ask people what they want before you buy them a gift and only buy stuff they actually want. For an element of surprise in the gift, ask them for a few ideas and just pick one of them!

3. Give money to stop unwanted gifts

Give money, it is better than gift cards. This is because if you buy a physical gift card that is a waste of plastic and/ or paper. Secondly a large proportion of gift cards get forgotten about and never get used.

4. Do a Secret Santa

Instead of giving gifts to all the adults in your family, do a Secret Santa. Make sure to still check the gifts will be wanted. It doesn’t even have to be secret. It could just be that each member of your family gets one gift from the rest of you. That way there are a lot less gifts being given between family members meaning less stress. Plus you can all club together and spend a bit more on one big gift, rather than lots of smaller gifts.

5. Only give to the kids in the family

Agree to stop doing gifts between adult friends and extended family and just give to the kids in your family. This makes me think of unilateral disarmament. All put down your weapons a.k.a. gift shopping activities together. Remember to ask what to get the kids before you shop!

It may be tricky to do straight away, as some people might be a bit resistant to it. We phased out gifts to extended family by starting off with a Secret Santa first and then stopping it altogether.

6. Stop unwanted gifts by telling people what you do and don’t like!

We all know those people who are impossible to buy for. You have no idea what they are into and no clue what to get them for a gift. If you want gifts, that you will like, don’t be one of those people!

When someone asks you what you want, give them some ideas. If there are certain things you really don’t like let people know!

7. Break the cycle

This is a tip for people who want to keep giving and receiving gifts, but repeatedly get the same unwanted gift (or gift type) year after year. For example, how can you politely tell someone that you don’t like fruit cake any more, when they have been giving you one every year for 15 years?

In this situation you could say something like this (before they bake the cake):

I wanted to let you know before you bake your annual fruit cake that I’m really sorry but although it is really lovely, as I’ve got older, I’ve gone off fruit cake a bit. Your lemon drizzle cake is delicious though (/ insert a type of cake / alternative you do like).

It’s OK to let someone know your tastes have changed and to give them some hints about the kinds of things you do like. This can apply to things like beauty and bath products and food and drink. It can also apply to a particular hobby that you are no longer into and your kids changing tastes as well (if the gift is for your child).

8. Stop giving gifts and ask for nothing in return

This doesn’t have to mean never giving or receiving gifts. Just scale things back so that you exchange gifts with a smaller circle of people e.g. your immediate family.

I find that when you tell people you don’t want gifts, there will still be people who will give you gifts anyway. This could be for a variety of reasons, maybe they don’t believe you or they are used to showing they care by giving gifts and can’t imagine not giving them.

How to get people to stop giving you gifts:

The two most effective ways I found to get people to stop giving me gifts were to:

  • stop giving people gifts myself because then people don’t feel obligated to give you anything and
  • give people their gifts back, if they ignored me and bought something anyway.

Giving someone their gift back is filled with problems and could easily cause a lot of offence. It’s probably best not to do this. But if you are going to, avoid try to avoid causing offence by being careful about the way you say it. Things you could say to smooth things over could go something along these lines:

Thank you so much for the thought, I really appreciate it, but we already have one of those and there isn’t anything else we need, so I would rather you took it back and got your money back

You could substitute the ‘we already have one’ part with we used to have one of these, but found we didn’t use it much or I’m so sorry but we really don’t have anywhere to put that and so on.

9. Don’t be a repeat offender – giving the same unwanted gift year after year

If you are guilty of always giving the same gift every year, check in with people and make sure they still like and want it! I usually give photo calendars of the kids to the grandparents every year, because they don’t really need anything and they love having photos of the kids. It makes my life a lot easier not having to think up something new each year!

However, they might be fed up with the calendar size or it might be that they would rather have a photo book than a calendar and are too polite to say. It is a great idea to check that people still want that gift you keep giving them to save them the stress of trying to work out ways to tell you that they don’t want it any more!

10. Share articles like this one with your friends and family

If you feel the suggestions above are a step too far, another approach is to share articles about the problems of unwanted gifts. You can do that on social media, email or even just in conversation with people. That way you are opening up the issue for discussion rather than imposing anything on them.

Find out how your friends and family feel about gift giving. Some will love give giving. However you might be surprised to find that some would be really happy to stop doing it!

I have a whole section in my Eco Thrifty Living book about gift giving, in which I raise some of the issues and problems with it. Sharing my book with them could be another way to ease into the subject!

So there you have it – 10 ways to put a stop to unwanted gifts!

Take things further and make sure the presents you do give are sustainable gifts!

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