'Tis the season to return gifts

  @Money January 11, 2013: 5:37 AM ET
fft tis the season

Didn't like a holiday gift? Move quickly - some stores give less time to return electronics than other merchandise.

(Money Magazine)

Hoping to trade in those awful bunny slippers Aunt Gertrude gave you in December?

Get in line: Forty percent of higher-earning gift recipients returned a present last holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation (the national average was 35%).

Here's how to rid yourself of the stuff that Santa got wrong:

Move quickly. Race back to the store with unwanted consumer electronics, says retail analyst Stacey Widlitz.

Related: 12 ways you're wasting money

Gadgets turn obsolete quickly, so stores have trimmed return times for those items in recent years (Target, for one, in September). Feel free to tear off the wrapping -- but for full credit, leave the box sealed.

Recycle plastic. Turn gift cards from stores you dislike into cash at CardCash.com or PlasticJungle.com.

Related: Gift cards charging fees of $25 (or more)

The size of your payoff depends on a store's popularity: You could recently get 92% of the value on a Wal-Mart card, but only 60% for one from H&M.

Regift without guilt. An American Express survey found that 79% of people support holiday regifting.

What are your financial goals in 2013?

"We are obligated not to be wasteful," says Bruce Weinstein, author of Ethical Intelligence.

But recycle that gift discreetly: "Give it to someone in another town," he says, "or better yet, another country."


Carry new bills. Limit post-holiday purchases by carrying crisp, clean currency. A new study in Journal of Consumer Research found that people spend more when the paper money they hold is old and worn.


Pay in Lincolns. People tend to spend more freely, studies have found, when they have small-denomination bills. You're more likely to put the brakes on your buying if you have to break a Benjamin. To top of page

Many speedy returns
Some stores give less time for returning electronics than for other merchandise.
Electronics Most other items
Target 30 days 90 days
Toys 'R' Us 45 days 90 days
Wal-Mart 15 days 90 days
NOTES: Toys 'R' Us and WalMart extend holiday elec tronics returns for two weeks after Dec. 26; Target, for 30 days. Items bought with Target debit or credit cards have 30 days extra. SOURCE: MONEY research
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