Cost Of Unwanted Christmas Gifts Could Give Homeless People £10,000 Each

by : Francesca Donovan on : 21 Dec 2018 15:05
homeless man christmas presentshomeless man christmas presentsGetty/Pexels

Christmas is a time for goodwill to all men, giving wholeheartedly and, depending on the gift, giving back without a receipt. 


Start practising your gracious face, because the big day is just around the corner and you don’t want to upset Auntie Pat by implying you don’t actually like, want, or need a porcelain doll whose eyes follow you around the room…

Or yet another LYNX Africa box set:

Whatever you get, you can guarantee you won’t be the worst off in the country as you unwrap your presents around the tree come Christmas morning.


Spare a moment for those who don’t have a home in which to celebrate this time of year – the quarter of a million people who are living on the streets of the UK.

As the winter months descend, things get so much bleaker with many under threat of freezing temperatures with no shelter.

At these hard times some become more vulnerable to crime and addiction, simply to pass the cold hours away.

Many are rallying to help the homeless during the festive season, like London Euston did last year, when the station opened its doors to treat over 200 people to a Christmas feast.

Meanwhile, one 2011 Gumtree survey suggested £2.4 billion worldwide would have been spent on unwanted gifts for those who perhaps don’t need them.

UNILAD decided to put down the quills and do some maths – we worked out if you divided the huge total between each of the 250,000 rough sleepers in Britain, all of them would receive £9,600.


The number, estimated by homeless charity Shelter in December 2016, is considered a ‘conservative’ estimate and the true total of homeless people on out streets is likely much greater – with 400,000 people in the UK expected to be homeless by 2040 if current trends continue.

While you may be one of the lucky people who get what you want on this commercialised denominational holiday, there are many more whose presents will be totally wasted – to the tune of £355 million ($473,972,880) – in the UK alone.

Even the value of those unwanted gifts, split among the homeless community would give 250,000 people fallen on hard times £1,420, which could make a huge difference to their standards of living.

Now, far be it for us to suggest how that could work practically. The bureaucracy alone is migraine-inducing.

Yet it’s an interesting idea to consider, the value of many of your unwanted or needless gifts could make more of a difference to someone else… It is the season of goodwill, after all.

We all want to do better at Christmas and there’s a lot we can do to share the love and help strangers in need, while making sure our families and friends get to enjoy the holidays for all its modern commercialisation.

Besides the obvious – helping at food banks and kitchens, as well as donating warm clothing and blankets to charities – we can start by stopping the needless waste which occurs around the holidays.


UNILAD spoke to Julie Hill, author of Secret Life of Stuff, who advised:

Think whether ‘stuff’ is needed, or whether a pledge to help out with something, or a cheering meal in the middle of February, might do a better job.

Ask nearest and dearest whether they’d like to go halves on a present to charity and something small for themselves – that way everyone wins.

If in doubt about tastes, ask for guidelines – something that allows you the fun of some choosing, but avoids waste.

Julie continued:

For those you know will appreciate it, go pre-loved from charity shops – and with a tag explaining a charity has been helped.

Don’t be afraid to re-gift or recycle – if you don’t like it or need it, you’re not doing yourself or the giver any favours by letting it gather dust.

There are also loads of conscious small businesses up and down the country which give members of the homeless community better opportunities.

Why not treat someone you love to a walking tour of Edinburgh led by homeless tour guides as an alternative to the usual gift experience fodder… No one really like Zorbing anyway, do they?

Besides presents, the same applies to food.

Brits will bin the equivalent of 54 million platefuls of food this Christmas, with seven in 10 admitting to buying far more food than they need, and two thirds saying at least some of the turkey usually ends up in the bin.

While many see the holidays as a time for excess, we can do better. Merry sustainable Christmas, folks!

If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Francesca Donovan

A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you've never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.