Recession Mama Michele Ashamalla: Well, the shopping and wrapping and giving and mailing are done, and so is the unwrapping. I like to get our thank you notes done quickly or else it becomes a painful, drawn out affair. I have some fill-in-the-blank kids cards for my youngest and some fun postcards and note cards I picked up at the dollar store for the more competent writers (I'm putting myself in that category -- although sometimes I long to use the fill-in-the-blank cards myself).
What I also like to do soon after the holiday is take a long, hard look at the gifts we received. Did anyone get clothes that don't fit (and won't later) or that aren't their style? Any books or toys that missed the mark? Whenever possible, when I give a gift, I try to enclose gift receipts to make those exchanges easy. I'm not offended if, for whatever reason, the gift isn't a big hit. We all try our best, of course, but sometimes we strike out. If you receive a gift you would like to return, but don't have a gift receipt, some stores will accept returns anyway. Target, Wal-Mart, Costco, Kohl's, JC Penney and Bed, Bath and Beyond all have provisions for no-receipt returns, but their restrictions vary. Most times, you will end up with a store credit for the lowest selling price of the item with the last 30 days.
If that doesn't work out for you, I see no problem with the re-gift. Candles or soaps are nice hostess gifts. That Dora game that won't get a second glance because your child is all about Hannah Montana could be perfect for a birthday present for a younger child.
Be creative. Years ago, I got a lot of duplicate baby presents and items I didn't end up using -- onesies, blankets, baby books, etc. I was too exhausted in the months following the births of my kids to return anything (and the first time, I didn't even know what I would need). I ended up grouping the extra items in baskets, wrapping them with cellophane and ribbon and donating them to school silent auctions. And, of course, almost any charity would be thrilled to receive the new items that your family could do without.
A former state deputy attorney general and current stay-at-home mom, Recession Mama Michele Ashamalla has three kids and ten years of experience stretching one salary to cover the necessities and more. She's all about saving money whenever you can, so you have it to spend on whatever you want!