Returning Gifts Gets Easier Thanks to Recession

We all know it's the thought that will count when we rip off the wrapping paper tomorrow. But that doesn't change the fact that some presents just aren't the right fit (sometimes literally).

With money tight, I don't think it's selfish to admit that we want to make every gift count - especially when we've shelled out a mini-fortune to buy presents for friends, family and co-workers. Fortunately, the same economy that is making our wallets thinner might be making it easier than ever to return or exchange gifts post-holiday.

According to, certain retailers are extending return deadlines and making the rules for returning items more lenient.

For instance, Target now allows customers to return up to $70 of products without a receipt after Christmas - a rarity in the retail world. Sears and Wal-mart have both extended the return period for electronics, which typically have much shorter deadlines. Sears will allow returns of gadgets, software and mattresses for 60 days, while Wal-mart will allow gift recipients to use Dec. 26 rather than the original purchase date to calculate the deadline for returning electronics, including computers.

Even with the looser policies, there are ways to increase the odds you'll get the purchase price. Don't open the packaging on a gift you're not sure you'll keep, as stores may not take unopened items back - or might deduct a restocking fee from your refund. In most cases, you'll also need to bring a receipt to make your return.

It might seem like extra effort to wait in yet another line at the store just to exchange or return something you got for free. But if you don't think you'll use the item as is (and if you don't plan to donate it), why let it sit around gathering dust? Even if you aren't able to return an item for cash, you still might be able to sell it on eBay or Craigslist.

Of course, if getting the most bang for your buck still isn't enough to offset the cost of your Christmas shopping - or the debt you rang up during the rest of the year - you probably need more than a lenient return policy. Debt can overwhelm your finances, making it difficult to pay for necessities like the mortgage and the groceries. But bankruptcy can give you back financial freedom by reducing your debt burden, so you can start allocating your paycheck back to the stuff that really matters - not your creditors.

Learn how bankruptcy can help you get back on your feet financially when you sign up for a free personal debt analysis with a Chicago bankruptcy lawyer. And start getting some of your money back, no returns required.

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