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How to Tell Someone You Don’t Like Their Gift Without Being Rude

How to Tell Someone You Don’t Like Their Gift Without Being Rude

What do you do when someone gives you a gift you don’t like?

Every Christmas, we inevitably receive a bunch of gifts we don’t want to keep. Sometimes we receive a gift slip in the box, but usually, we have no way of returning the items we receive. Many times we don’t even know where the gift was purchased.

How to Tell Someone You Don’t Like Their Gift

When I was growing up, my mom had a rule about gift-giving. If she gave us a gift we didn’t like, she asked that we let her know. That way, she could return it.

She hated the idea of wasting money on unworn clothes or gifts that would eventually make their way to the donation center.

Over the years, I’ve openly told her to take back anything that didn’t fit or wasn’t my style, and as an adult, I’ve adopted the same gift-giving strategy.

How to Tell Your Parents You Don’t Like a Gift

My husband’s family doesn’t work this way. In his family, you never tell the gift giver that you don’t like something they purchased. Unfortunately, this often results in receiving the same unwanted item year after year. 

Of course, this is not the gift giver’s fault. If you accept their offers, they won’t know you don’t like their gifts. If you pretend to be excited, they may wish to see you excited again the following year.

But, should you tell your parents you don’t like a gift they’ve given? That depends on your relationship with your parents. Ask yourself how your parents might react if you don’t like their gift.

Do you think your parents will feel upset or offended by your words? If so, it may be best to accept their gift graciously. 

How to Tell Your Husband You Don’t Like His Gift

What if your husband buys you a gift you don’t like? How can you tell him you’d like to return it or exchange it for something else?

Start by asking yourself what you don’t like about his present. Is the gift too expensive? Will it prevent you from meeting other financial goals this month? Are you stressed about money and concerned the item will put you into debt? If you have financial concerns, address them in a kind and compassionate matter.

Say, “Thank you for this, but I’m concerned about the cost of it.” Then schedule a family financial meeting to discuss your finances. If you’re worried about your budget, consider creating a special savings account or saving money in a jar. Use the cash you save to pay for future presents and not a penny more.

If the gift feels cheap and thoughtless, remind your partner about the activities and hobbies you love. If they don’t get the hint, suggest skipping traditional presents in favor of experiences and activities you can enjoy together. But remember, that the price of a gift does not reflect its value. Some of the best gifts don’t cost much at all.

How to Avoid Receiving a Gift You Don’t Like

If you can’t openly talk to your parents, partner, or other gift-givers, try to lead by example. Begin by modeling the behavior you’d like to see. That begins by stating your gift-giving policy. Like my mom, you can say, “If you don’t like this gift, please let me know.”

My sister-in-law has a similar gift-giving strategy. Before we open her gifts, she always says, “I put a gift slip in the box if you need it.” It’s her way of saying, “You might not like this gift, so feel free to return it. I won’t be offended if you do.”

Discuss your gift-giving policy before an event. For example, before opening gifts on Christmas morning, say, “I want you to love your gifts. If you don’t, let me know so I can return them for you.” 

Or you can say, “I put receipts in all of the birthday gift bags. I bought everything at Target, and they have an amazing return policy.”

When you model this behavior, other family members may begin to do the same.

How to Tell Someone You Don’t Want Gifts

If your parents, family members, or friends are perpetually bad at giving gifts, take a proactive approach to end traditional gift-giving. Tell your family you want to skip physical presents this year in exchange for the gift of time.

It might feel difficult to tell someone not to buy you a gift, so plan what to say ahead of time. You might say, “Let’s skip presents this year and spend the day together instead. We can go shopping, watch a movie, take a class, hang out, go for a walk, or share a meal.”

This strategy is beneficial for those who want to buy and own less stuff. If you are trying to live with fewer possessions or declutter your house, you don’t have to let family members know you own too much already. Just focus on the positive aspects of spending time together doing something you all love to do.

Prevent Someone From Giving You a Gift You Don’t Like

If your family is open to gift lists, create one before holidays and birthdays. Let them know you are picked up a new hobby and need supplies or just started working out and could use new workout gear.

This advice is beneficial for parents who often buy their children toys and clothing they’ve outgrown. Make sure to share your new interests with your parents. Let them know what you like as well as what you don’t want anymore.

When Someone Gives You a Gift You Don’t Like

It would be best if you didn’t make comments to anyone about a gift unless you know the gift-giver will be receptive to it. (Like in the case of my mom.)

It’s often best not to comment on gifts you receive from classmates, friends, neighbors, etc. In those cases, you should undoubtedly smile and say thank you. I learned that lesson as a young child

If you are comfortable telling someone you don’t like their gift, make sure to speak kindly.

Say, “thank you for thinking of me” or “I love the shirt, but it’s a little too small for me.” That way, you won’t appear ungrateful for not liking a gift, but use your words carefully.

Is it Ungrateful to Not Like a Gift?

When thinking about the gift-giving process, remember that a physical gift is the last stage in a long sequence of events. Perhaps your parents, friends, or family members drove to the store and spent time walking the aisles, searching for a gift you might like. 

As they strolled, they thought about what you might like. Maybe the gift-giver contemplated your interests, reflected on past conversations, or thought about how you looked in specific shades and colors. Along the way, they picked up various items, ruled them out, put them down, and tried again.

Even if they shopped online, they undoubtedly reviewed more than one object before choosing the one they wrapped in a box and handed to you.

A present is not just in the physical box you open but also in the time spent searching for a gift you might appreciate and enjoy.

When considering gratitude, remember to reflect on the time and attention the gift-giver spent on you. This knowledge will help you feel grateful for a gift even when you don’t like it.

Is it rude to not like a gift? Of course not, but it is rude to appear ungrateful for the gift givers’ thoughtfulness and time.

What To Do When You Don’t Like a Gift

The gift itself is not an accurate representation of your parents, friends, or family members’ love. It is a material object placed in a box. The real gift is the understanding that someone spent time thinking about you.

With that idea in mind, it’s difficult to feel ungrateful for the gifts we receive, whether we like them or not.

The gift-giving process is the same, no matter who gives you a gift. It’s easier to feel grateful when receiving a gift from someone you love but remember to reflect on that same process when receiving a gift from someone you don’t like.

If the gift-giver spent time searching, buying, and wrapping a gift for you, then try to feel grateful for the present you received. Sometimes we receive thoughtless gifts, but more often than not, we receive thoughtful gifts from parents, friends, and family members who spend time thinking about our needs and desires. If you can’t feel grateful for the gift, try your best to feel thankful for the gift-giver’s time.

Receiving a Gift From Someone You Don’t Like

What should you do if you receive a gift from someone you don’t like? It depends on who that person is and why they are giving you a present.

Telling someone you don’t want their gift is never easy. If the gift symbolizes romantic intentions, let your admirer know you are grateful but not interested. Demonstrate your gratitude but let them know you do not wish to be romantically involved.

Be honest and respectful. If you receive a gift from someone you don’t like, thank that person for their kindness and politely decline their offering. To gracefully decline a gift, say, “Thank you. Your gift is very generous, but I cannot accept it.”

By giving back the present, you set boundaries and make your intentions clear. Make sure to be kind and compassionate in doing so. If you cannot reciprocate the gift-givers feelings, do not accept their gifts. State your reason for refusing their gift clearly and respectfully. 


Tuesday 6th of October 2020

Oh my, loved reading these comments. I think I may have upset my mother in law by telling her a clothes gift she bought my son was unsuitable. He is 8 years old and has his own style. His grandma seems to just not of taken any notice of what he likes which is the most upsetting thing. I also don't want her to keep wasting her money. I now wish I hadn't said anything

One Frugal Girl

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

Oh my, yes tread carefully when talking to in-laws about gifts. As I mentioned in this post I would never say anything to my mother-in-law. My husband's family doesn't want to know if you like a gift or not. I hope you can smooth things over. It might help to get your 8 year old son to point out what he likes instead of having you speak up ;) I often tell my children to speak directly to their grandparents. Don't ask them to say what they don't like. At a non-gift giving time just have them point out the things they do enjoy. Good luck


Wednesday 1st of July 2020

I'm here because I searched "what do you do when, someone gives you a gift you dont like?"

How I got here. Well my boyfriend that I've been with for about 9 years now, has gotten me a few terrible gifts.

I'm thankful for the thought behind the gifts of course but they are usually are clothes that are not my style or not the correct size. Us being a couple as long as we have, he can tell when I dont like something or when I lie.

He instantly gets angry with me before I even get the chance to even thank him for the gift. Or notices that i dont ever wear them and picks a fight with me over it.

He said I'm ungrateful and that i dont ever like anything he gets me. I dont know what i should do without it causing a argument between us.

One Frugal Girl

Wednesday 1st of July 2020

I think it's incredibly difficult to buy women's clothing. I have a hard time finding items for myself, let alone picking them out for someone else. It sounds like your boyfriend often buys you clothing. Could you suggest buying something other than clothing that is easier to pick out for someone else? Or possibly picking out gifts together? What if you both go to the store together, try the clothes on and then he presents them as a gift? Or maybe you could give him hints about the things you really like. Leave pictures out or magazine clippings so he can get a better sense of what you like. Do you think that would help?

Saikumar Iyer

Thursday 11th of August 2016

I had come back from school when my mom told there is surprise for you...i thought it was a headphone as I was taking about it for a few weeks . I had recently found out an awesome Bluetooth headphones but what i got was some poor looking wired headphone. I wanted headphone so that I could not have to manage the wire and the headphone which i had shortlisted was shown to my sis the day before yet she chose the wrong headphones were cool looking byt this looks like hell.i want the one i expected not this one how do i tell


Monday 7th of January 2013

In my family, we've always told each other, in a nice way, if we don't like a gift we've received. But usually not right away (i.e., after opening a gift); we usually wait a week or two before saying something. It may be a little disappointing if someone didn't like or need my gift, but I appreciate the honesty because it helps me pick out better gifts for that person in the future.

One Frugal Girl

Monday 7th of January 2013

The thing that irritates me the most is that we receive the same gifts year after year. I'm totally with you on this one. If you are honest about the gifts you receive the gift giver can pick out something you'd like better the next time around! Oh I'm so glad to see I'm not the only one.

Thanks for the comment!


Sunday 6th of January 2013

I've thought about this a lot because as your kids get older, you have to teach them how to respond when they open gifts. We have taught our kids to always act like they like a gift and say Thank You immediately whether they like it or not. I understand your points but I think telling the gift giver that you don't like a gift is almost impossible to do in a way that would not offend most people.

One Frugal Girl

Sunday 6th of January 2013

Tamara - I completely agree with your comment about what to teach your children. I should have clarified in my post. I'm specifically talking about close family members, not friends, extended family, classmates, etc. Would you want your children to tell you they don't like a gift or just smile and pretend that they do?