Christmas is Friday. Guess what happens starting Saturday?

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For many Americans, Friday is the traditional day of opening gifts surrounded by friends and family — and Saturday begins the tradition of secretly returning many of those gifts you don’t want.

It may seem cynical to write about returning gifts before you even get them, but as I reported two weeks ago, 12 percent of holidays shoppers will buy their gifts on credit cards “with no hopes of paying off the balance quickly.” If you can convert unwanted presents in cash that can pay down your credit card bills and avoid high interest rates — well, those are gift that keep on giving.

Here’s how to handle returns the right way.

1. Don’t open that present!

If you unwrap a gift in front of the person giving it to you, and you instantly know you don’t want it, smile and say thank you — then set it aside. If it comes in a box or jar or bag, don’t break the seal. Some stores don’t accept items that have been opened. Which leads to…

2. Look up the return policy

These vary widely. For example, Sears requires a receipt, and that receipt must show the purchase happened within 30 days — which means if your gift was bought on Black Friday, you have only a couple days after Christmas to take it back. Even worse, some Sears items come with a 15 percent “restocking fee.”

Meanwhile,  Costco lets you return items any time, except for electronics, which still give you 90 days. JCPenney doesn’t require receipts. Bed Bath & Beyond lets you return items by mail and even covers the cost of shipping.

3. Bring multiple forms of ID

It might seem odd that stores want to know who you are when you’re returning a gift you didn’t buy. However, it’s an effective fraud deterrent. The National Retail Federation says up to 6.5 percent of returns are from fraudsters, so asking for ID means stores can see if you’re returning dozens of items yer round or just a couple after the holidays.

4. You can always re-gift

That sounds even worse than returning, but it’s quite common. American Express found many of us re-gift to friends (41 percent), coworkers (32 percent), and even siblings (29 percent). even shows you 5 tips for re-gifting without getting caught!

Howard Dvorkin is a CPA and chairman of, an educational resource for those who want to conquer all forms of debt in their lives.

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About the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

I’m a certified public accountant who has authored two books on getting out of debt, Credit Hell and Power Up, and I am one of the personal finance experts for I have focused my professional endeavors in the consumer finance, technology, media and real estate industries creating not only, but also Financial Apps and Start Fresh Today, among others. My personal finance advice has been included in countless articles, and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur as well as virtually every national and local newspaper in the country. Everyone should have a reason for living that’s bigger than themselves, and besides my family, mine is this: Teaching Americans how to live happily within their means. To me, money is not the root of all evil. Poor money management is. Money cannot buy happiness, but going into debt always buys misery. That’s why I launched I’m glad you’re here.

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