How (and where) to donate unwanted Christmas presents

If you give (or receive) a gift that misses the mark, returning the item is the natural thing to do. After all, return policies are pretty awesome these days.

However, if you decide to make a bigger impact with your gift — an item that you've probably survived without just fine for the last year anyway — why not donate it?

Why You Should Think About Donating an Unwanted Christmas Gift

  • If you donate your unwanted gifts, you'll decrease clutter. Cutting clutter has emotional benefits that I don't understand, but I feel better when my life and environment are clear.
  • Your item might be useful to someone else. Many times, I have kept items I didn't really need because I might need them sometime. But I find it easier to donate or sell items if I imagine those items making someone else's life easier or better … you know, instead of taking up space in my spare closet.
  • Improve your community. Along with being useful to someone else or an organization, your donation may improve your community. How? By giving your fellow community members something they really need or letting a community organization raise money with your gift that could help them operate other community-boosting programs.
  • You may be able to deduct donations on your taxes. According to the IRS, you may deduct certain donations if you've given to qualified organizations. You must maintain documentation of this donation, however.
  • You're giving something. If you weren't able to donate as much as you wanted to in 2015, this is an opportunity to give a little something without, shall I say, much of an investment from you. If the gift had been given to you, you didn't invest anything at all. But, I still think it counts as giving because you could have returned the item for cash or returned it for another item.

Woman gathering toys to donate after Christmas

What Should be Donated?

If you're donating unwanted gifts, they're most likely new and still in the package. (Whether you should give used presents is a topic for another time.)

If items are new, you'll easily find a home for your gift. In fact, as I type up some of the items on this list, I'm tempted to give you my P.O. Box if you want to part with some of this nice stuff. I'll take good care of it, I promise! I'm sure you won't want to donate some of these things, but maybe the model (in the case of electronics) they're replacing?

If your donation is gently (or even not so gently) used, make sure your chosen organization can actually use it. Some organizations can use used stuff, but many can't — and it's a burden (not to mention an expense) for them to dispose of it.

Anyway, these items are, in general, very useful to many organizations:


  • Cell phones
  • Computers
  • iPads

Personal items

  • Clothing
  • Toiletries
  • Shoes
  • Sunglasses
  • Books

Kid stuff

  • Clothes (especially winter items)
  • Shoes
  • Stuffed animals
  • School supplies
  • Musical instruments
  • Craft supplies
  • Games

Gift cards

If you receive a gift card you won't use, you can always, of course, sell your gift card online. But you can also donate it to many of these organizations too.

How to Determine the Best Place to Donate a Gift

First, if you want to deduct your donation(s) on your tax return, some of these institutions or entities are not qualified organizations. In other words, don't pick an unqualified organization if you want to deduct your donation.

If you have community organizations that really make a difference for your community, check with them first. Otherwise, try to match your interests with the item you're planning to donate.

Here are some ideas of places to donate, along with specific types of things they may need.

  • Crisis pregnancy centers – baby products, cell phones
  • Foster care — children's clothing, toys, games, books, school and craft supplies, backpacks
  • Churches – food, clothing, toiletries
  • Hospitals — blankets
  • Schools – school supplies, children's clothing, and books
  • Libraries — Books, of course, and gift cards
  • Animal shelters — blankets and gift cards
  • Homeless shelters — clothing, toiletries, food, and giftcards
  • Women's shelters — cell phones, clothing, toiletries, food, any items for children
  • Food banks — food and toiletries
  • Senior centers — blankets, clothing, electronic devices, and games
  • Day care centers — food, children's items
  • Charity shops — Since these shops are selling items, anything with resale value

How to Donate

After you've chosen an organization, ask:

  • Will they accept your item?
  • Do you need to drop off the item, or will they pick it up?
  • Do they provide documentation you can use for your tax return?

If you enjoy all your presents this year, enjoy them all joyfully. If one or two aren't what you need, don't feel guilty returning them. But if you decide to donate your gift instead, it may have a ripple effect far beyond what you could possibly imagine.

Have you ever donated new gifts you received but didn't want? Where do you donate most of your unwanted item?

More about...Giving, Planning

Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

Subscribe to the GRS Insider (FREE) and we’ll give you a copy of the Money Boss Manifesto (also FREE)

Yes! Sign up and get your free gift
Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor
Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor
5 years ago

This is a great idea. I know a lot of people make good money selling extra gifts and things around their home, but I’m much more motivated to donate things that might be useful to others, than go to the hassle of selling.

5 years ago

We hate wasting money on stuff you do not use – just the things you end up enjoy using. It is just a shame to sometimes see our garage stuffed with useless junk – this is a great idea of saving space and helping out the neighbors. You know what they say – one man’s junk is another man’s fortune.

5 years ago

An abundance of gifts received at Christmas is very rare for thing for me (never happened), and I’ve rarely not liked what was given to me. With that said, if there is anything I have around that house that I’m not using, I try to gift it to someone who would want or need it. If its a large ticket it, I sell.

5 years ago

Are you guys aware no one can log in to the forums?

Linda Vergon
5 years ago
Reply to  lanthiriel

Hi Lanthiriel,

Thank you for letting me know! I’ll alert our development team and try to get that taken care of as soon as possible.

Sure appreciate your comment.

Best regards,

Linda Vergon
Editor of