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What to do with the gifts you hate

Receive a gift this holiday season you can't stand? Not sure what to do with it? Here's some ideas to get the most out of the gifts you hate.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Every year there's always one or two gifts that prompt you to ask yourself "what were they thinking?" 

You know whatever was in that box is something you'll never use, and you're left with the question of what to do with it. This year, don't let it sit in your closet collecting dust... and most certainly don't throw it away. Turn that unwanted gift into something you actually want, be it cash, a gift card, or another item you'll use. Here are a few different ways you can deal with a gift you loathe.

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Sell physical goods

Selling a gift is a great way to turn it into cash. Craigslist, eBay and Amazon are all great places to consider when selling.

When selling on Craigslist, you'll want to make sure you make the item look great in the ad. You'll also want to be prepared to negotiate with potential buyers and make sure to keep your safety in mind. We have a fantastic post that goes through the selling dos and don'ts of Craigslist.

Selling on eBay will allow your item to be seen by more people, which can lead to a high sale price. Then again, it's an auction site, and depending on when your item was listed, the length of the auction and numerous other variables, the final sale price may be lower than what you'd hoped for.

Before listing an item on eBay make sure to check the dollar amount that similar auctions have earned. This will help you determine if it's going to be worth listing your item. You can find out how to check the value of an item on eBay in this post.

If you're looking to sell a gadget you won't use, you can sell it on Swappa with relative ease. The service continues to expand and add new product categories all the time. So if the last time you checked Swappa it was only phones listed, check the site again -- laptops, wearables, phones, cameras and video games are now included. 

Amazon is another option for you to sell your item. You can quickly sign up for a free individual seller's account and list your item in just a few minutes. The fee for selling on Amazon is determined by the item category for whatever it is you're selling. Keep in mind, shoppers come to Amazon looking for the lowest prices on the Internet. So if you're hoping for a high payday, you might want to look elsewhere.

Alternatively, you can always trade in an item on Amazon, and you'll receive a gift card for the site in return. From my experience with trade-ins, you'll receive 10 to 20 percent less of what you'd get if you sold the item on Craigslist, but you won't have the hassle. You simply submit the item, send it in and wait for your payday. You may find that the ease of use is worth taking a hit on your bottom line.

One benefit to selling on Craigslist over eBay or Amazon is the lack of fees. Since you're doing the legwork when selling on Craigslist, you don't have to share your earnings. With eBay, you can expect to pay fees to both eBay and PayPal (should you use it to process payment).

Gift cards

What do you do with a gift card you won't use? You sell it! You can sell any gift card to a site like Card Pool to get a percentage of its face value. If you happened to receive a prepaid Visa card, you can always use a Square reader to pay yourself the balance.

For more options and services, be sure to read our complete guide for selling or trading unwanted gift cards.

Return it

One of the easiest ways to deal with an unwanted gift is to simply return it. Most retail locations will accept returns without a receipt, providing you with a store credit (read: a gift card.) You can then take that gift card and purchase something at the same retail location or sell it.

It's a good idea to do your research before returning an item to a store. The first thing you'll need to know is where the item was purchased. The easiest way to determine this is to ask the gift giver. Or if you're afraid you'll offend someone, simply search the probable store's website. If you're unable to find it on the site, try calling the store to double-check. Sometimes items are available in a few stores and never added to the site.

Walmart's return policy for an item without a receipt is to issue a store credit for items over $25. Target's policy states customers will receive a store gift card. Nearly all retailers publish the return policy on their website, with a link to it typically found at the bottom of each web page.

Donate it

Donating an unwanted gift is a feel-good way of getting rid of the gift. Not only do you free up space in your closet, but you also get to help someone else out. Depending on what the item is, you'll want to find a proper service or individual to donate it to. Read our thorough piece on vetting charities to make sure your item will be used. It's easy to get caught up in the giving spirit and give your item(s) to a charity that isn't all that charitable.

Have some items perfect for the classroom? Call the local school district or library and ask if they accept donations. Receive a coat or blanket? Call your local shelters and/or churches -- they all accept donations.

In the end, the gift you're giving away cost you nothing, but it can mean the world to someone else.

Do you have another method for dealing with a gift you hate? If so, share it in the comments.

Originally published Dec. 26, 2012.
Update, Dec 26, 2018: Updated with current information.