Giving unwanted gifts worse than receiving

GETTING IT WRONG: Unless you're the undiscovered equivalent of Trinny and Susannah, don't do surprise clothes.
GETTING IT WRONG: Unless you're the undiscovered equivalent of Trinny and Susannah, don't do surprise clothes.

Unwanted Christmas presents. I'm fairly sure you'll get one this year.

If you have particularly loving friends and family, you may even get two, three, four or more. It's a hazard of too much good cheer.

So what do you do with them? Money writers all over the world at this time of year have advice for you.

It boils down to being polite, saying 'thank you', and then deviously disposing of the unwanted article for gain, karmic brownie points, or in return for something you actually want.

Really, there are very few options. I count five sensible ones.

The five Rs

Regift: Sticking them in the present cupboard until someone who they are appropriate for needs a gift.

Resell: Popping them on TradeMe, after either an indiscreet, or discreet time lapse, depending on how short of money you are.

Recycle: By this I think of giving it to someone who can make use of it, rather than putting it in the recycling bin. For me this generally means giving it to the Sally Army in my bi-annual clearout.

Reject: The bin, which is wasteful and not planet friendly.

Refund: This is for the brave. You say to your giver, ''Thanks. I don't like it/I've already got one/it's not my colour, but I'd love to swap it for something I'd like/Something different/something that suits me. Have you still got the receipt?'' Apparently social surveys in Britain have discovered only 6 per cent of people have the pluck to ask for the receipt.

The flip side to getting unwanted presents is giving them.

To give an unwanted gift is far worse than to get them. It's a waste of your money.

Also, it's tempting to think there may be some karmic link between giving rubbish gifts and getting them, so in my book it's worth putting a bit of thought into present-buying.

Based on my own experience, I'd boil down the principles of gift-giving to five points.

The first is: If in doubt, give something nice to eat or drink. I dare anyone to feel disappointed to get a funky bottle of exotic Aroha cordial, or a box of Devonport chocs. Most importantly, an edible or drinkable present will never hang around for long, or go to waste.

My second principle would be: Unless you really are the undiscovered equivalent of Trinny and Susannah, don't do surprise clothes. The scope for getting clothes wrong is immense.

Closely associated to that is my third rule: Don't give display items like pictures, object-d'art, and so forth unless you are very, very sure. Giving someone a vase they'll think they have to put out every time you come around isn't very kind.

Fourth: A cracking book with the receipt tucked in the back is never a mistake, although check the shop will allow unread books to be swapped before you buy.

Fifth: Unless they are young folk, don't give them gift cards. That's just a thoughtless gift for a grown-up, though for a cash-strapped youth, it is the gift of power.

Oh, and please, don't trap each other into gratuitous gift-giving, particularly if you have less well-off relatives.

Golden rules

■ Give generously, but not widely

■ Spend carefully

■ Resell, if you must

- Rob Stock is a business journalist with the Fairfax Business Bureau and Money Editor of Sunday Star-Times

Fairfax Media