10 Worst Christmas Gifts People Need to Stop Buying

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People have the best intentions when shopping for the holidays, but sometimes it’s best to not give than to give Christmas presents that could end up trashed or considered insulting. Don't gift these if you want to err on the side of caution.

I have an aunt who loves to get Christmas gifts for everyone.

Shopping for presents is actually her favorite part of the holiday season, but she doesn’t actually put a lot of time into thinking about the gift receiver.

As a result, her hilariously bad gifts are donated to Goodwill just a few days later. 

People have the best of intentions when shopping for the holidays, but sometimes it’s best to not give at all than to give Christmas presents that will end up trashed or considered insulting.

Christmas Gifts You Should Never Give

Many people say you shouldn’t be ungrateful, but these Christmas gifts can create tension between the giver and the receiver.

1. Exercise equipment

If we learned anything from the great Peloton debacle, it’s that exercise equipment doesn’t make a good Christmas gift.

Giving exercise equipment of any type or for any purpose can give the impression that you think the gift-receiver is unfit, unhealthy, or needs to lose weight, even if that’s not what you’re going for.

Unless the person you’re shopping for explicitly asks for some kind of athletic gear, steer clear of the sports aisle.

Related: 33 Christmas Gift Ideas Under $25

2. Anything “For Dummies”

The “For Dummies” series is a popular selection of books to help anyone no matter where they’re starting from. But giving someone a gift that implies they’re dumb is not the message you want to send on Christmas.

Take it from Darko Jacimovic, co-founder of WhatToBecome.

“By far, one of the worst Christmas gifts I’ve ever received was the book ‘Cooking Basics For Dummies’ from my grandma,” Jacimovic said. “This happened a week after I had sent her some goulash I made, based on the recipe from a famous, world-known chef.”

Instead of insulting your loved one’s intelligence, give the gift of self-improvement in another way. Try a bundle of classes from CreativeLive.com or an all-access pass to MasterClass.com.

Related: 5 Financial Mistakes to Avoid This Holiday Season

3. Collector’s Items

Don’t risk getting the Star Wars enthusiast a Star Trek shirt or a sports fan the jersey of a player they don’t like.

Unless you’re also very knowledgeable about the genre or get a request with a link to the item, skip giving collector’s items as gifts.

You could end up like Christian Antonoff’s wife, who got what she thought was the perfect gift but was just slightly off.

“I had been telling my wife about all these cool DC comics,” Antonoff said. “She got me a Marvel Studios’ boxset with 12 paperback novels about the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”

Antonoff spent the rest of the day thanking her and pretending to be excited about books he had no interest in reading.

If your loved one is a fan of something, there’s no shame in simply asking what they’d like to add to their collection. You can still surprise them or get creative, but you’ll do it with a clearer direction.

Related: 15 Festive Ways to Make Extra Money for Christmas 

4. Clothes

Buying clothes as a gift runs the risk of getting something that’s not their style or doesn’t fit right.

Even best friends can have differing opinions on fashion. Melanie Musson, writer at Insurantly, said her best friend thought she’d given her the perfect gift.

“The gift was thick, soft fabric, all folded up with a belt around it,” she said. “I was so excited and exclaimed, “Oh great! I seriously was just needing a bathrobe! Everyone else burst into laughter, and my friend told me it was a coat.”

Don’t waste your money on clothes they may not like. The most fashionable gift is a gift card to a store they like.

Related: 12 Best Shopping Apps to Save Money on Holiday Purchases

5. Time-restrictive gifts

Tickets to a concert or a family vacation might sound like a great surprise, but not if it puts extra pressure on the person to attend if they can’t afford the miscellaneous spending or don’t have the time to go in the first place. 

If you’re going to give an experience as a gift, make sure you know the gift receiver’s schedule ahead of time. Or buy open-ended tickets so they can pick the most convenient time for them.

6. Tchotchkes

These are the trinkets and tokens that serve no function but sit on a counter or shelf as decor. And most of the time, your tchotchkes are not going to blend well with the person’s design aesthetic.

Avoid giving gifts that don’t serve a purpose, even if you’re getting a great deal. These items are likely to end up being returned or sent to the donation pile.

If you want to give something decorative or you’re looking for ways to save money on your Christmas shopping, think small. A jewelry dish or soap dispenser can be a great accent while being truly functional.

7. Anything you can buy in bulk

On the opposite end of the spectrum, don’t get anything too useful. Unless you’re giving toilet paper and Ramen to a college student, any bulk gift is probably not a good present.

You might think you’re helping by giving a practical gift you know will get used, but sometimes it can be insulting to the receiver. They may get the impression you think they can’t afford basic necessities.

For a sensible gift that everyone loves, you can rarely go wrong with food. Whether it’s homemade baked goods, a gift card to a restaurant, or a basket full of snacks, edible gifts are always useful.

8. Pets

A pet is a life-changing commitment, not a Christmas gift. The average lifespan for a pet is 8 to 10 years for a dog and 13 to 17 years for an indoor cat. That means caring for another life for a decade or longer.

Even if you know the person wants a pet, by giving them one as a gift you take away their ability to choose the right pet for them. They may want to rescue a certain kind of animal or buy it from a special breeder. You may get a breed or size that doesn’t work with their family.

Instead of getting a pet, get a gift for their future pet. If you know the person wants a dog, get a fun collar. Or if the person is getting a cat, get them some catnip.

9. A car

Don’t be tempted by commercials that make buying a car look like a great Christmas gift. Cars are expensive and making a major financial decision like that without consulting the person you’re buying it for can be devastating.

Plus, those giant bows can be expensive, and it’s unlikely you’re ever going to be able to use it again.

If you really want to wow your significant other with something big, opt for a new grill or a luxurious blanket they can cuddle with in the winter. You can still do something unique and special without taking on debt.

10. Regifts

It goes without saying that re-gifting something is a bit of a risk. Worst case, someone you semi-care about receives a gift you put absolutely no thought into.

Take it from my woeful personal experience. 

I was part of an employee white elephant gift exchange. I made the life-altering choice to regift the present that I had received (a Margaritaville-themed cup) I had received in my employee mailbox. To my surprise, my BOSS happened to randomly be both the person who bought my gift, and simultaneously also the recipient of my now-regifted gift…


Make The Thought Count

Don’t feel pressured to get something for everyone if you can’t come up with meaningful gifts for them. Holidays are about spending time with the ones you love. Your friends and family will appreciate a gift card or handwritten letter more than anything on this list.

Related: 5 Cheery Ways to Celebrate Christmas on a Budget 

Jen Smith

Hi, I'm Jen! As a best-selling Amazon author writing about minimalism, spending less, and making more money, my work has been featured in U.S. News and World Report, Yahoo Finance, Money Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2017 my husband and I finished paying off $78,000 of debt and that's what I help others do here.

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