The Worst Gifts Ever: Crystal Frogs, Re-gifted Candy and More Bad Holiday “Fun”

While our little half-acre of the internet is called The Free Financial Advisor, sometimes I think people go overboard on the “free” part.

Re-gifting isn’t something I frown on. Two weeks ago we received a bottle of chocolate wine. If I could find a friend who I thought loved that sort of thing, I’d re-gift that baby in a heartbeat. They’d be happy in their alcohol and chocolate stupor, and I’d get that little slice of counter space back. Win-win.

In some ways, I agree wholeheartedly with Greg at Control Your Cash. Giving “stuff” at the holidays is silly, and the older I get, the sillier it seems. Creative re-gifting to “fit in” this holiday season could help some budget-tight families make it through this period without falling into debt. But re-gifting just to unload used stuff to someone who clearly isn’t in the market for an item is ridiculous.

Regift away, but make it thoughtful, people.

In early November we shared OG’s Halloween experience on the podcast and on Facebook. It seems that someone, unhappy with their choice of candy gifts during an earlier holiday, gave OG’s son this little beauty for Halloween.

Not only does OG NOT have a girl….it also isn’t Valentine’s Day, and hasn’t been for about roughly eight months. Luckily, Fun Dip will survive a nuclear winter, so what’s a half-year to a bag of sugar?

Let’s continue the fun. What are your worst gifts ever….re-gifted or not?


My 3 Worst Gifts



Cheryl’s sister used to brag about their income level (“Lou makes so much money….but how can you live on $400k per year?”). She’s gotten better recently, but that doesn’t stop us from chuckling about it every six or seven seconds. A few years ago, during the height of her “monetary influx discourse,” she gifted me a book about the Enron fiasco, something that she thought I’d love as a money geek. She was right on the money, and I told her. She said, “Yeah, when Lou (husband’s name changed to protect the guilty) read the book, he thought you’d really like it.” As I flipped through it, pages was dog eared and some food stains marked several pages. That’s when I realized that Lou hadn’t liked “that title.” He’d liked “that actual copy of the book and now that he’s read it, we’re gifting it to you for the holidays….because how many books can you buy on $400k?” Don’t get me wrong: this is #3 NOT because it’s a used book, but because it was a used book passed off as a new one by someone who brags about how much income they make.


The second culprit wasn’t gifted to me exactly, but to Cheryl. While I’m a Catholic boy, my wife is from a Jewish family. That makes Christmas travel easy: I win. That also means her family gets Thanksgiving every year. No family battles for the Saul-Sehys. Initially it made for some funny moments when my well-meaning mom tried to do the right thing. One year, early in our marriage, she decided–in an effort to show no favoritism–to give both sister-in-laws the exact same gift. Christmas morning, after the stocking were emptied and we’d moved on to the gifts, she laid huge boxes out in front of Cheryl and my sister-in-law (a different one than above), with instructions to open them at the same time. I feel bad remembering this, because she was clearly excited as they opened the boxes.

In front of both women was a beautiful hand-made ceramic Nativity scene.

Cheryl stared at it. Nothing says “welcome to our Christian family” to a Jewish girl like a Nativity scene.

The room was super-duper quiet. Finally my dad, sitting in the corner, said, “I told you it was a bad idea.”

We laughed about that one out loud then, and for years after. I still feel bad for my mom, but she’s given us so much over the years, you knew she wasn’t going to be right on every call. God knows I haven’t.


This one is truly bizarre. Some gifts were mixed up at our wedding as they were transported back to my apartment. The next day we worked through them all. For the most part, they were easy to figure out. Only Uncle Stan would have gotten us those German beer steins. At the bottom of the pile, after all the gifts had been assigned, was a beautiful crystal (wait for it…….):   frog.

It’s a nice enough frog, but the gift raises a few questions. Who the hell looks at me and says, “You know what would be perfect for Joe? Two words: Crystal. Frog.” I have difficulty imagining someone walking through a department store, searching for that special wedding gift, thinking, “Hmm….salad chopper. No. Pillows. No. Knife set. Nah. Oh, check this out. A crystal frog! Perfect.”

The Funnest Part

Honestly, today’s post was less about me sharing, as it was me being curious about what you’ve received. I can’t wait to check out the comments to hear some amazing “worst gift” stories. Step it up below:


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  1. says

    I worked for a company for a few years that had always done some nice stuff for Christmas. They’d have a nice holiday party either rented out somewhere or at the bosses house (he had a great house) and we’d always get a nice little gift like a gift card or something like that. The last year I was there, they had a new co-owner and he was a total d***head and everything got pretty much canceled. So I was surprised when I got a call saying ‘Stop by the office when you can to pick up your Christmas gift’. At some point later in the week I did and opened my present to find it was a 12 pack of Beers of the World.

    I hate beer. I do not drink beer. I honestly felt like Clark Griswold in Christmas vacation when he opened up the Jellys of the Month gift. I was like ‘Uh, that’s great, thanks’. I got the hell out of there and ended up giving the thing to a buddy who actually liked beer.

    Without a doubt that was the worst gift I ever got. I also left that place several months later. Not because of the gift but really what it represented, which was that working there had become a joke. For what it’s worth, my original boss ended up getting in a feud and splitting up with the co-owner he’d brought in, but not before a good number of people had already left.
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    • Average Joe says

      That’s the perfect re-gift. The buddy was happy with your present and you were happy to get rid of it. Sounds like a horrible company. No wonder you didn’t want to go get beers with me when I was in Michigan!

  2. says

    “The room was super-duper quiet. Finally my dad, sitting in the corner, said, “I told you it was a bad idea.””

    – Your dad sounds hilarious.

    Worst thing I’ve received? The first generation of prepaid ‘anywhere’ cards, which were anything but, came with $2.95 fees upon activation (or whatever), and the face value was probably like $25. I seriously think I may have gotten 40% out of them that first year they existed (while it sounds acceptable, the frustration was the gift I didn’t like…)
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  3. says

    “It’s a nice enough frog, but the gift raises a few questions. Who the hell looks at me and says, “You know what would be perfect for Joe? Two words: Crystal. Frog.” ” That’s classic, I am still laughing!

    I have a family member who gives the absolute worst gifts you could imagine. I think the phrase “It’s the thought that matters” came from someone who got a gift from them. She gave us some massive glass…frog years ago. The worst part about it was that it required batteries so it could “talk”. The thing was possessed and scared the crap out of our cat.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..10 Ways to Stretch Your Grocery BudgetMy Profile

    • Average Joe says

      In some ways, wouldn’t it be cool to be known as the guy who gives rotten gifts? It’s like that Ray Romano joke, where his wife sends him to buy tampons and he comes back with a hammer. She never sends him to the store anymore. Perfect!

  4. says

    Ok, these stories are funny. Still laughing about the nativity scene gift :)

    One of the worst gifts I ever received was a completely see-through black shirt made out of some lace/netting material. It had poofy sleeves. It was given to me by an elderly great aunt for Christmas. Did I mention I was 13 at the time? LOL, what does one one say to a gift like that? “Ummmmm…thanks?”
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  5. says

    You got me laughing with that crystal frog! We do a white elephant gift in our family, so every year someone gets a ceramic frog with many colors of paint dribbled all over it. My brother started this & it reflects his sense of humor. Trust me, your crystal frog is an improvement!

    I got a photo album one year. The only problem was that the insides were all dirty and bent. What can you say to something like that? I just said thank you. Unbelievably it came with another photo album. The covers were slightly the different, but the insides matched perfectly!
    Maggie@SquarePennies recently posted..10 Creative Gift Wrapping Tips that Save You MoneyMy Profile

  6. says

    Man, I don’t even know. I haven’t received many bad gifts, especially not a ‘crystal frog’, LoL!

    I’ve gotten some epic bad clothes over the years, can’t remember from who, though. Mostly because I’m a bean pole and I was swimming in the clothes….Felt like wearing a cotton tent.
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    • Average Joe says

      I wouldn’t know what to do if Cheryl’s mom gave us anything remotely sexy. Though in a funny story, we were playing this game called True Colors with my in-laws, sister in law, her brand new boyfriend (we’d just met him) and Cheryl & I. The question in the game was “who is most likely to get lucky tonight.” The way it works is that you all vote secretly (the game comes with these little ballot boxes).

      Every vote in the box was for the new boyfriend except one (definitely his vote…even though we don’t know for sure)….meaning that both my sister in law AND father in law voted that she was going to score before the night was over. Awkward….

  7. says

    I think my worst gift ever was probably the can of spray paint my parents got me for Christmas as a kid. We had a big scavenger hunt with the 3 kids, and at the end were brand new bikes for my older brother and sister, and a can of spray paint so I could paint my sister’s hand-me-down bike.

    Were it not for the unfortunate juxtaposition with brand-new huffy’s, I probably would have loved getting to paint my sister’s old bike. Instead, it goes down as the most disappointing build-up ever. =)

    PS – check out our site tomorrow, it’s along the same theme and I think you’ll get a kick out of it!
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    • Average Joe says

      That’s one of my favorite stories you’ve told. What an absolute let down. You’re right, too….it wouldn’t had been if your siblings hadn’t gotten brand new bikes.

  8. says

    I have had my share of stupid gifts mostly from companies I worked for. It range from Christmas tree socks to chia pets. I am glad I no longer work in industry. I do not have to participate in this kind of exchange as a teacher. Occasionally, I get some strange presents from my students, but very rarely.
    krantcents recently posted..Is College Worth It?My Profile

    • Average Joe says

      Why do companies do the trinkets and trash thing? Ours did that stuff, and I still have a billion golf tees, cup holders and pens. It’s a waste of cash.

  9. says

    When I was in high school my grandma got me a plaid, flannel, turtleneck, ankle length nightgown. No, she was not Amish. My husband’s grandmother, bless her heart, got us a ceramic eagle when we got married. I’d love to compare with your frog and see whose is better. I think it was something she must have had at home, but it could have also come from the dollar store. I love the Nativity Scene story! That’s great.
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  10. says

    If I had something that was new and was gifted to me like a bottle of some sort of alcohol I didn’t fancy and I knew my mate would I’d give it to him. There’s nothing wrong with that. I know a friend of my wife who along with her family who don’t have a lot of money give “new to me” gifts. These gifts can be from craigslist, the basement, garage sales, the thrift stores. I think that if the family is happy with that arrangement some people won’t care as long as it’s something they can use. Funny they do say those with money can be the cheapest… so did you read the book? lol
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  11. says

    I’m beginning to suspect that my SIL is doing this on purpose– on my amazon wishlist she always picks the item that says “low” or “very low” (ignoring the very high, high, etc.). Sometimes (but not always) there’s even a note saying, “place holder for when reprinted– not worth $41” or “waiting for paperback”. Maybe I should take such things off my wishlist or have another wishlist for placeholders.
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  12. says

    We’ve had people give us wine- neither of us drink wine. But we have friends that do, so we generally regift any wine given to us as hostess gifts to other people, and just hope it’s not awful.
    Other than that, I don’t know that’ I’ve ever gotten a really awful gift. My family, if they didn’t know what to get you, decided to start you on a new collection. As a child, I collected dolls, music boxes, perfume bottles, spoons, unicorns/pegasi, etc. My brother collected model airplanes, baseball caps and a few other things.
    This might have been great, if we both hadn’t started collecting a number of these things either before (model airplanes for my brother) or shortly after (perfume bottles for me) birth.
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  13. says

    I couldn’t immediately think of anything when I read this yesterday but I do remember my brother receiving a yucky gift from my sister when she said she didn’t know what else to get him.

    Remember those rolls of toilet paper with sayings and jokes on each sheet? He wasn’t impressed. He would have been much happier with a case of beer.
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  14. says

    It has always blown my mind how bad some people can be at gift giving. The gifts miss the mark so much I often question if they know me at all. I know the thought counts but seriously. I have regifted what I have been able to so that someone else can enjoy the stuff.

    We actually haven’t done gifts as families for a few years now. We just spend time together. No one really needs anything and being together is much more important.
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  15. says

    All funny examples. Great that your family has a sense of humor with the 2nd example, it good to have perspective and be able to laugh at well-intentioned mistakes like that.

    I was struck by the regifted book example. Maybe that’s how they got to be 1% people, with tactics like that? :)

    For me, I suppose I’d have to think about this some more. One that immediately comes to mind was a gift given by someone that was actually a bottle of wine. But they had gotten it as a gift from somone else, as a gift sticker/tag was attached to the wine bottle bag – to the person giving the gift to me! With wording from the other person. It was tacky and incredibly blantant/transparent regifting. What made it funnier is that the person was someone who tried to hide how much of cheapskate she really was.
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  16. Bichon Frise says

    I give my nieces and nephews all the yellow starburts. They seem to love them in our otherwise candy empty house. Sometimes, I even throw them an orange now and then and it truly makes their day….

  17. says

    The post was very funny-but the comments have been sensational. Wow. At first I was thinking I’d never gotten any really bad gifts, then I read the comments and some long buried traumas surfaced. Thanks guys. Like the time I’d just delivered my second child and my Mom gives me a lovely skirt in a size so small I’d never worn even as an adult. Ok. But a real puzzler was a gift my brothers and sister and I received from our Grandfather’s latest girlfriend. Picture 4 rambuncitous kids opening packages containing toothbrushes and toothpaste. I still remember all of us looking around the room not knowing what to say.

  18. says

    My mom insists that my two brothers buy me a gift every year. They are much younger than me, and it’s always a surprise what kind of gifts I’ll get. One year was a kitchen towel set. The next was an ugly (and I mean Ugly) ceramic heart jewelry box. But the gift to top all gifts? A turkey baster.

  19. sewingirl says

    Love the stories, but you’ve missed a whole category of bad gifting, the gift that the giver really wanted! This 50ish Mom has recieved from my loving hubby and children over the years: a shop vac, a pellet gun, a lawn trimmer, a tool box, a carpet cleaner, various DVD’s that I wouldn’t watch on a bet, jewelry that was “borrowed” never to be seen again, and several can cozies etc, that obviously came from the corner convenience store. Have mercy!

  20. Sarah says

    I used to handle several accounts at the company I worked for. One was huge – and made at least 50K for the salesperson on the account. At Christmas she gave me a votive from Crate and Barrel – that cost $4.95. It was nice and everything but this is how you reward someone who makes sure the client is happy and provides about 50% of your income? Our company itself always gave a thanksgiving gift – a $25 gift certificate to the local grocery store. We really appreciated those!

    • Average Joe says

      I’m sure she gave you the $4.95 votive because the $2.95 ones were all sold out already…. Sometimes people are just a little selfish, aren’t they? Getting nothing would have been a better gift.

  21. Deb says

    Two Christmases ago, my Sister-in-law called us crying that she didn’t have enough money to buy the food for Christmas dinner for her family.

    We had already sent their gifts the week before. We live three states away and could not make the trip that year so we decided to send her a Walmart gift card to cover the cost of the meal and then she and her husband and child could have a big turkey and all the fixins’. We felt so good that we were able to help.

    A week later we got an envelope in the mail with a photo of their child that had been non-expertly printed on very cheap (free sample) photo paper. She had used her new copier-printer-fax machine that she bought with the Christmas dinner gift card to copy a photo of her child as our Christmas gift. It was the same photo as the previous year.

    She said she needed the new printer to go with her new laptop computers because it had Bluetooth.
    Worst gift: Bad photo. Best gift: Lesson learned.

    • Average Joe says

      I can’t figure out why she doesn’t have money, Deb….Maybe she can sell copies of stuff for a profit in her house. Ha! That’s really, really sad. I think I’d be a little angry when that picture arrived.

  22. JJ says

    One year when a family member was right in the midst of Dave Ramsey’s 7 steps, they gave everyone in my very large family a raw amish chicken and a frozen bag of peas. So awkward.

  23. says

    The worst gift i received was a mirror! I didn’t want it at all. But, i don’t want to disappoint the one who gave it to me. I just accept it and then keep it in my cabinet.


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