We have all experienced the disappointment of opening a Christmas gift that fails to hit the mark.
ovelty socks, books you’ll never read, a spiraliser, endless bath sets, a nose hair trimmer. And we have all performed the ‘How ever did you know? It’s just what I wanted!’ dance to reassure relatives and friends.
In a recent survey Oxfam Ireland found that 83pc of Irish people receive a gift they didn’t ask for and definitely do not want.
Once upon a time the recipient may have taken offense, and shoved the item at the back of a wardrobe before depositing it some time later in a rubbish bin.
But these days many Irish people are heading to DoneDeal, Facebook Marketplace, eBay and adverts.ie to hawk those not-so-great gifts from your in-laws on.
In the UK, eBay recorded a 146pc increase (10 million total) in the number of items listed in the week immediately after Christmas.
According to Colin McCallion of eBay Ireland, this is also a particularly busy selling period in Ireland. Items listed jump drastically on December 27, and he says the average eBay seller makes €135 in customer-to-customer sales between December 25 and January 1.
“People are looking to soften the financial blow of the most expensive season of the year,” McCallion said.
According to eBay, the top 10 items we are most likely to resell are women’s clothes, watches, men’s clothing, video games, women’s handbags, Apple software, children’s toys, mobile phones, necklaces and consoles.
On DoneDeal and Facebook Marketplace there are thousands of listings from around the country. These are frequently grouped together in bundles — a sort of lucky dip of undesirable presents.
On offer in one bundle is cologne, a makeup set, black slacks, and an Ann Summers basque corset leaving me with many unanswered questions. (Who are this couple? Are they still together? Why do I care?).
Kel Galavan, budgeting mentor and author of Mindful Money: More Money, More Freedom, More Happiness, says it’s important to tread carefully if you are selling on gifts.
“It’s a tough area because it can be emotionally charged,” she said. “There has to be a level of compassion because that gift was bought with good intention, for kind and generous reasons and they obviously missed the mark. “And it doesn’t mean that it is not a lovely gift, it just might not be a lovely gift for you.”
While some people may not mind at all to discover you sold their socks on Facebook, another person — who spent two hours traipsing around town searching for the perfect present — might take serious offense.
I know in most cases honesty is the best policy, but here it’s often more of a case of ‘what they don’t know won’t hurt them’.
“It’s addictive selling stuff online,” one anonymous adverts.ie enthusiast explained.
“I’m never going to tell my mam that her present was rubbish, but at least by selling it online I can put the money towards something I like. It works for both of us.”
Decluttering expert and certified Konmari consultant, Vera Keohane, says it is highly unlikely someone will discover you have re-sold their present but if you are worried, create a pseudonym so you won’t be found out.
She also recommends keeping everything in pristine condition as items have a higher resell value if they are as good as new. Tags stay on, boxes remain unopened.
If you feel any residual guilt about flogging things, Kel Galavan recommends putting the money you make towards something practical.
“Make sure that money helps move you forward like paying off a debt or savings. If this money has a purpose then you won’t feel as guilty,” she said. I think she has a point: you couldn’t begrudge someone for selling slippers on DoneDeal if they were using it to pay off college fees.
Of course, if financial concerns are not an issue, then donating to Oxfam or Barnardos is another great way to make sure your unwanted gifts go to good homes.
While some of us are looking to shift unwanted gifts, some savvy Irish bargain hunters are using the urgency with which Irish sellers and department stores want to get rid of Christmas bits and bobs to check off their presents list for next Christmas.
According to mother-of-three Karen Manning, if you shop smart and keep track of what you have bought you could save between €500-700 in the long run. Not to be sniffed at.
“Now is the perfect time to pick stuff up for Christmas,” she says. “I am after buying all my wreaths for the front door, little decorations for the house. The Kilkenny Shop has 70pc off on Christmas stock. Items were reduced from €70 to €15. There are huge discounts out there. I got my wrapping paper from Marks and Spencers for 0.30c. Usually they cost a few euros.”
Karen, who lives in Navan, used to work in the financial sector, but decided to become a stay-at-home mum following the birth of her third child six years ago.
While she was out on her daily strolls with her two youngest children, she started keeping an eye out for bargains around town.
“I would go out walking and I would see things on sale, and get that sort of butterfly feeling…I got a buzz out of it,” she said.
Karen began sharing some of the sales and discounts online and soon set up her own blog The Mother of All Deals. She says the secret to cutting cost corners is buying out of season.
“That is key — knowing the right time to be buying these things. Buying out of season and then holding on until you need it.”
Come January, and most shops are trying to shift snow-dusted decorations, novelty pyjamas, and bath and perfume sets. Karen says the best time to buy an artificial tree will be in roughly a fortnight’s time. “Christmas trees are a big and bulky item, many shops don’t want to store them for months and want to get rid of them. In two weeks they will start the sales for trees so I am waiting for that.” Now is also the perfect time to buy electrical items and domestic appliances (Xbox, PlayStation, AirFryers).
Rachel Massey, a Buildings and Controls and Regulations coordinator from Limerick, also starts shopping early and had all her gifts for Christmas 2022 bought by December 23, 2021.
“Twelve years ago I was out of work around Christmas so couldn’t buy presents. So when I got a job the following February I decided to spend my first pay on Christmas presents. I have got my shopping done early since,” she said.
Rachel has renal failure and as a result cannot spend hours floating around shops so shopping online suits her. Her one tip is to make sure you have labelled everything; one year she forgot to label the wrapped presents which involved a lot of re-wrapping.
To stay on top of everything you buy, Karen Manning advises using an app. She swears by The Christmas Gift List app. “You put the name of the person you bought the item for, or you can put down what you bought and the price…. Keep track because you don’t want to be buying twice.”
While selling presents online may seem like a great way to make money back, Kel Galavan says to be aware of what economists call the ‘deadweight loss of Christmas’.
In a rather gloomy paper titled “Scroogenomics”, US economist Joel Waldfogel found there was a consistent gap between the value the purchaser paid for the gift and the value perceived by the gift recipient. This gap could be as large as a third of the purchase price, and at least 10pc.
So, while you may be making some money back after spending too much, it might be better just to agree to not buy gifts for friends and family ahead of Christmas — and spend the money on an experience that you really want rather than a present that you don’t.