Unappreciated Gifts? (Frugal Friday)

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. For more details, please see our disclosure policy.

How do we as parents handle unappreciated gifts?

Girls dressed in princess costumes.

Want to save this post?

Enter your email below and get it sent straight to your inbox. Plus, I'll send you time- and money-saving tips every week!

Save Recipe

I think that my parents and my sisters will recall the Christmas of Disappointment. It’s also referred to as the-Christmas-when-my-sister-wanted-a-Cabbage-Patch-doll-but-my-brother-who-couldn’t-care-less-got-one-instead-and-my-sister-bawled-her-eyes-out.

Yes, that.

My guess is that if you’ve lived in the US for any number of years, you’ve probably encountered, parented, or even been the child who was disappointed on Christmas morning.

That is the hazard of giving gifts — and having expectations — on Christmas morning.

(I don’t personally recall a Christmas like that, but the birthday when my mom got me an autoharp instead of a Commodore 64 computer? Yeah, well, that comes close.)

It’s better to give than to receive.

It is better to give gifts that to get them in return. Disappointments happen in life. There are much worse situations than not getting what you want on Christmas.

We’re so blessed in so many ways, that it seems silly to even mention it.

But, honestly? I know this is an issue to tackle. I don’t want my kids to be disappointed when someone gives them gifts. I hope and pray that their hearts will be as thankful as their words. But, I know that that monster of disappointment will rear its head. And I want to know how to respond.

I also know that despite best intentions (mine included), the gifts are not always appropriate or needed. You don’t want to waste a perfectly good item; you don’t want to keep something that you don’t need or want. There’s a quandary there.

Saving money is worthless if we aren’t thankful for what we have. Being frugal is to make the most of one’s resources, not be a grumpy old miser about our precious stuff. One of the fringe benefits is (hopefully) to share with others.

And yet there’s that question:

What do we do with unappreciated gifts?

I honestly don’t have a lot of answers. Donating them comes to mind. I know some people regift them. Others return them to the store without any qualms. Making sure my kids write thank you notes figures prominently.

How do we express thankfulness without being saddled with an item that is unnecessary, wrong size, or simply unappreciated?

I’d love to hear what you do.

How do you tackle the topic of unappreciated gifts at your house?

jar of money on concrete by grassy lawn, with text overlay: Frugal Fridays.

How do YOU save money?

Please remember to follow the Frugal Friday Guidelines or be deleted.

  1. Post a money saving idea and explain how it is helpful in your post.
  2. No giveaways or deals posts.
  3. Recipes are allowed, but you must explain how it saves people money.
  4. Please include a link back to Life as MOM.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. When my husband and I lived in California–we were expected to come “home” and visit and buy gifts for everyone–the cost of airfare and gifts just about put us in the poor house. So the next year we had to stay in CA and the expectation is that we would ship all the gifts (for 21 people). . . which was also expensive and nerve wracking. As my husband and I opened envelopes with gift cards . . . I felt deflated. So the following year we ended up moving back to my hometown–and I decided that I was not going to get gifts for adults–only for kids.

    My decision was not well received.

    Now I give gifts out of love and not out of obligation. I hope that my friends and family do the same . . . some do, some don’t. But I don’t stay awake at night trying to make life “even Steven.”

    Be Blessed.

  2. My worst gift ever was from my MIL. She gave me a set of four coffee mugs, which were nice, that were used and still had some coffee dried up in the bottom. Of course I graciously said thank you and they were great. Driving home that night I told my dh and we had a good laugh about it. I did keep the cups after they were washed.

    I taught my girls to always say thank you for the present because the person giving the present wants to make you happy. I have returned some gifts to the store that were not appropriate to our family, like makeup for a seven year old. If I decided to keep the gilts to regift I would give the girls the money to buy something they wanted. They had quite a few girl friends that were their age so it worked for us. Most of these gifts were from relatives they only saw once or twice a year so it worked out okay.

  3. Yeah, this is a tricky one. Because I have worked to teach our son the fine art of graciousness…and he is AWESOME at it. He doesn’t want to disappoint anyone with a poor response…however, he is like that with ME a lot… i.e. when I buy him clothes he is sometimes too “polite” to tell me “UH…NO, mom.” And then an item sits. I have explained to him that being polite, gracious and accepting is what we need to be. But if indeed something isn’t quite right or doesn’t fit, then it is ok to return it…and by all means if it is something that we bought him PLEASE let mom or dad know because if you cannot be HONEST with mom and dad… well, then…. But on a second point I am HIGHLY disappointed how the world just doesn’t “do” thank you notes. My mom ingrained it in my and my sister…but I have yet to ever get one from my sister. I make it may business that our boy writes them out… and that they get done before the Christmas break is done. If I need to break the job up over several days, than I do. But nothing is worse than spending time and effort and having it be UNACKNOWLEDGED…which goes back to your first point here…right? haha! God Bless and have a beautiful, bright new year~!

  4. We have talked about always saying thank you and that you like something, we also have talked about never saying you already have what ever the item is. I have no problem helping my daughter exchange items that come from a store. She understands it isn’t just about the gift but the thought behind the gift. When we buy things we try hard to buy something the person will love and doesn’t already have, but we always include a gift receipt because we would both rather they exchange for something they really want than not be able to enjoy something. My daughter is now 8 and for her birthday this year got a couple things she REALLY didn’t like, you couldn’t tell while we still had company, but came to me after everyone had left and asked if we could exchange the things. Every gift she opened this year she smiled and said thanks and seemed like she really loved it, I was proud of her. She said she’s always happy people get her something even if it’s not something she wants. We were at a birthday party this summer and it was PAINFULLY obvious which gifts the birthday girl liked and it was just as obvious that some of the gift givers felt bad.

  5. As I read this I come to think that there is not much tradition in returning gifts to the store where you live?
    Here we have the big returningday on December 27th.
    This year we have been good at telling everybody what exactly the kids needs and wants, and the only thing my kids did not approve of where a knitted-like sweater that my youngest kid got. He hates wool, and belives that everything knitted is made of wool, sooo.
    We teach them to be gratefull anyway, and to tell the givers what they liked the most with their gift. In this case I wil tell te giver that my kid did not like the sweaters style, because he has a frigth for wool.
    (and I hate that he does not like wool!! What! I got a kid that does not like wool? ME? I love wool myself. Maybe he got an overdose when he was litlle? :P)

  6. We just dealt with this during Christmas this year. My son received a Transformer from a relative that he ALREADY has two of…the two that he has are different colors, so that is why we kept them. He received those other 2 last year fro Christmas and at his birthday party. I appreciated the way that my 6 year old responded…he actually did not know what to say, so he did not say anything, he just held it. The relative realized something was “wrong”, so as the mother, I did chime in and say that he already has two of these. I was told that they were purchased a long time ago…so, I am wondering if this store normally carries these transformers. It is a tough decision as afar as what to do with it, b/c his 4 year old brother received a transformer from the same relative that we do not have in our house. The relative said, oh, I wish that I asked you – I would have switched who got what. To tell you the truth, we really don’t need 3 of the same transformer, so I wish that they would have said something to me and I could have told them so that they could have given a different one. I did not say that to the relative – but now, I feel like I need to fix this and buy my son a different one :(. It is a little disappointing, but has not “rocked our world” negatively. My husband and I are trying to decide what to do!

  7. We’ve not had too many disappointments; when they have happened, they’ve just been due to miscommunication or less deep relationships, where someone gave a child a gift that “normal” kids would probably love, but that don’t particularly suit our brand of odd. 🙂 In those rare cases, we’ve encourage the recipient to focus on the fact that the giver was kind enough to try, and we can appreciate that kindness, even if the gift isn’t something we’ll necessarily use.

    We do return/exchange things if possible, or donate/re-gift if that works better…. and Never Mention That Result. 🙂 Instead, we try to strengthen/deepen the relationship with the giver in the following months, so they have more personal information to use if they choose to give a gift in the future.

    We got to visit one branch of the family for the first time in a bit more than a decade this fall, and the family members had a chance to get to know the kids in person; the gifts they very kindly gave at Christmas were so personalized, and very delightful! Being able to focus on the relationships over the items really seems to help.

  8. I was not appreciative the year I turned 20. I bought my new mother -in -law a cabinet that she always wanted for her living room total cost $350 dollars. That was after discounts etc… She gave me a coat handed down and used from one of her daughters. (Thing is she gave me this same coat one year earlier from the older daughter and since she bought the coat for both daughters she gave me the second coat as well) (Needless to say I was upset) I was only 20 years old and she full expected me to buy her the nice new piece of furniture (I only made $12.00 an hour at the time) and she was earning about $24.00 an hour and she gave me a hand me down coat.
    I was not grateful at all.

  9. My children have 6 gift-giving grandparents, and they receive plenty from others as well. Santa leaves less than he used to and the items are pretty useful and battery-free! I keep wish lists going on Amazon for all children for grandparents to access, but we still have too many and some unwanted gifts. I filled a good size box with unwanted items this year. Small toys will be given as rewards and busy activities are being saved for travel or rest-time. Some items may come out for birthdays. But those that are just complicated, poorly made, or battery hogs will likely be gone. Goodwill, Salvation Army, church consignment sales, or ebay will get them- others can read the reviews on these and decide for themselves.

  10. I had a similar Christmas of Disapointment when I was little. I wanted a GIRL cabbage patch and my parents got both my sister and I BOY premie cabbage patch dolls (the kind with no hair). I’m guessing they either didn’t know we wanted girls, or maybe those were the only ones they could get since they were so hard to find back then?

    My children are only 2 and 4, so I haven’t had to deal with unappreciated gifts yet. I am very curious about what others say, as I’m sure I’ll have to deal with this soon.

  11. I have worked on my children’s reactions to unwanted gifts over the years teaching them to accept whatever the gift is with grace. As to what to do with the gifts. I have re-gifted only if I knew the perfect person for the gift or it was a fun white elephant gift exchange. I have returned gifts sometimes just because in my mind I feel I would get better value out of the gift givers gift if I returned it and got something I needed. Other times I have donated it. The harder situation for me is what to do with belated family items. Family heirlooms seem to be even trickery items than unappreciated gifts.

  12. What is an unappreciated gift? We don;t know for sure people’s intent when they give the gift. Sometimes we can hazard a pretty good guess, but we still might be wrong! Even the phrase “saddled: with an unappreciated gift is questionable. As fas as I can see, it is all on the receiving end. Yes, some put more thought into their gift giving than others, but the desire to give is evidently there even with what we might look at as a dumb gift. We, as the receiver NEED to be appreciative, and as soon as our children see that example in us, they will follow suit. There was a time when every single thing held value. Even the paper that meat was wrapped in at a meat market was wiped off and saved for another day, the string was wound up and used for something important. Every thing was treasured, but today we have so much, it is not the giver’s fault that the one being given to has so many things. Those who love to give can not possibly keep up with society’s materialistic attitude. Some things we might not need, or even want, but why can’t we appreciate them for the sake of the giver? Why can’t we find a special place on our shelves, at least for a time and treasure the thought or the love that went into it? We have lost the value of the simple thought, the gift of love, with losing that I think we make it so much harder for those around us to see the love of God the Father sending his Son to us. I received some nice gifts for Christmas, but my favorites, a poem written by my 11 year old grandson with stones around the edge of the paper for embellishment, the story or poem writtne by my 8 year old granddaughter, a wooden leaf painted by a granddaughter because of listerning to her mother talk of how much I loved walking in the leaves in the fall, and now I can no longer do that, a string crocheted into a circle, with a red piece of yarn made into a bow, this will go in Grammy’s ornament box and be treasured, how about a purple wooden cat, (knowing purple is that child’s favorite color)! One last thought, since when did Christ’s coming move our focus to what we get, yes, it’s about receiving Christ, but it is more so about God’s giving. Maybe we should all drop the idea of receiving gifts for Christmas, and keep our focus on the giving. If we aren’t “wanting” anything, how can we be disappointed? If we have a thankful heart, how can we not be thankful? No matter what the gift is? I have received gifts that were not “that” beneficial to me, but the Lord brought someone along that I was able to share it with, lend it to, and I was ever so glad I had it to that with. It all comes down to trying to have a thankful heart and a giving attitude, and realize we really need very little. If thiss isn’t what you had in mind, please delete it, just some thoughts from an older person. Happy New Year’s to each of you! Love you!