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Returning Christmas gifts: 7 things you need to know

Received an unwanted gift this year? We have

Received an unwanted gift this year? We have seven tips to make the most of those exchanges. Credit: AP

Holiday presents are meant to make us feel loved and appreciated by those special people in our lives. Still, without fail, many gifts are destined to be returned before they're even unwrapped. 

But before you return that ugly sweater or DVD you'd rather poke your eyes out than watch, here are some tips to make the process hassle-free.

1. Step away from the plastic wrap.

If you received a gift you don't think you'll use, don't unwrap it. Most stores don't allow you to return unwrapped DVDs or CDs, and while some will take unwrapped electronics and toys, you could be charged with a restocking fee of up to 15 percent of the purchase price.

2. Pay attention to deadlines.

You may want to avoid the malls right now as deal-hungry shoppers scour the stores for after Christmas sales, but don't wait too long to return your unwanted items. Many stores give a short window for returns. Some stores, like Kohl's and Nordstrom, make returns easy, while others, like Walmart, have tricky policies that give you a 90-day window on some items, but just 15 on others. Check the stores' websites for info.

3. Throw away wrapping paper with caution.

Hate clutter? Then you probably can't wait to get rid of the boxes, gift bags and wrapping paper lying around. But many stores discreetly tape their gift receipts to the top of the box, while others may get lost in all that tissue paper. Having a receipt will make your returns much easier, although some stores will take things back without one, so check with the retailer before giving up hope.

4. Use technology to your advantage.

Return Guru, a free app for the iPhone and Android, helps you keep track of your returns. Just take a photo of the receipts, and they'll send you automatic reminders before it's too late to return your items. Learn more at

5. Know your gift card options.

Gift cards are usually a safe bet, but if you ended up with one to a store you would never shop at, there's actually something you can do about it. Sites like let you mail in your gift card and receive a check in return. You may not receive the full value, but at least you'll have a card you can use. They then sell your gift cards to other shoppers at a discounted rate.

6. Save on shipping.

Even if your unwanted gift was bought online, many retailers will allow you to return it at your nearest store, saving you a return shipping fee. But check your options -- some stores, like Nordstrom, offer free return shipping, so you can avoid the lines.

7. Have a back-up plan.

If a store won't give you a refund on an item for any reason, ask for store credit. If all else fails, you can always try to sell an item yourself on sites like eBay, or regift them throughout the year. 

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