Tips on how to return holiday gifts you don't need

It's been a record-setting season of low sales and high discounts, and there stands to be even more now that Christmas Day has passed. These guidelines can help you navigate retailers for continued deals when you return holiday gifts.

Returning gifts

  • Whether you're the gifter or the giftee, make sure understand the retailer's return policy. According to the National Retail Federation, more than half of retailers' return policies will be more lenient during the holiday season, but that doesn't mean you won't hit a snag here and there. Some of those big pre-Christmas discount offers may have strings attached such as limited or no returns, or exchanges or store credit in lieu of refunds.
  • If you receive a gift in the wrong size, style or color, don't open the product packaging or remove tags. The item will be difficult if not impossible to return, and may be subject to a restocking fee if accepted by the store.
  • Be sure to save receipts, whether for the original purchase or enclosed as gift receipts. This'll ensure that you receive the full purchase value for an item in your refund, exchange or store credit transaction. Receipts also contain return policies and deadlines important for your planning.
  • Make online returns easy by knowing the process and who (you or the retailer) foots the return shipping bill. Most online retailers with brick-and-mortar shops will allow in-store returns of shipped goods.

Bargain shopping

  • Go beyond deals on Christmas wrap and menorah candles and stock up for the first holidays of 2009. A lot of red wrappings, ribbons and craft supplies will be useful for Valentine's Day, and there's a bit o'green among the yuletide fare that you'll be glad to have on St. Patrick's Day.
  • Hold on to e-mailed and newspaper insert coupons for your after-Christmas shopping. Many have terms stretching to New Year's Eve, and some may be honored for a bit past their expiration date in order to move merchandise.
  • If your sale shopping yields several gifts for next Christmas and occasions, record the items and their storage spots so that you'll know what you have and where when said occasions arrive.
  • No matter how amazing the deals, don't cave in to pressure to buy what you wouldn't really want, need or give at its regular retail price. Stay focused and spend wisely with upcoming projects and occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.
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