In a perfect world, we’d all be happy with the gifts we receive each year during the holidays. And those we give gifts to would love what we chose for them. Ah, but a perfect world is a myth and we’re bound to be on the wrong end of the occasional Rudolph sweater at some point. And let’s face it – most of us can relate to picking the closest thing that will prove it’s the thought that counts, just because we’re tired of shopping and can’t find the right gift for Uncle Sal anyway.

But before you start handing out gifts on Christmas morning, check out our tips that will help your lucky recipients return those gifts – and yes, even that tacky Rudolph sweater in lime green with the big red lighted nose.

First thing you should know is return policies have become a bit more convoluted in recent years. We have the convenience of online shopping to thank for that, too. It’s convenient before Christmas, but anything but after you’ve vacuumed up all that stray tinsel.

Stores are now requiring much more, spelled out in lengthy return policies and new, tighter deadlines on when those returns can be made.

While most stores try to accommodate returns, there are new restrictions, especially on sale and clearance items. Remember, they were on clearance for a reason: to get rid of merchandise to make room for incoming inventories.

As a result, many retailers now have several return policies depending on what the merchandise is. Electronics might have one return policy while clothes and housewares have different policies.

Not only that, but online retailers, like Amazon, have plenty of room for all the small print in their return policies, so they take advantage of that additional leeway. At last check, Amazon had more than fourteen different policies.

From a general perspective, electronics are going to have those tighter deadlines. Jewelry, too. Buy it on sale and you might not be able to return it at all. Plus, remember that anything you buy online could add another layer of frustration for anyone wanting to trade it in for a different size or color.

Sometimes the gift is perfect, and the recipient is even happier that you “guesstimated” a size 6 when she really needed a size 8. Still, she’s going to want to get that bigger size. There’s a good chance it’s no longer available.

Another consideration is found in the fact that there’s nowhere for an online retailer to put returning merchandise. Not only that, but many of these new virtual stores have multiple warehouses around the country. It’s dizzying to even think about the inventory efforts.

While you can control all of the logistics, there are some things you can do. First, keep your receipts. You’ll want to keep your credit card receipts – print them out if it’s emailed to you after an online purchase.

Also, keep the shipping invoices, too. Even if you don’t print all of the paperwork out, create a folder to store it in. That way, if you do need to print it out January 4th, you’ll know exactly where to find it.

There should be 1-800 phone numbers as well as the website’s address on those receipts, making it easy for anyone to return their gifts.

If you can find the time, you might want to call the online retailer ahead of time to check on return policies before you buy. Remember too that if you buy a gift for someone and they want to return it, you may want to offer to do it for them.

They’ll have to pay shipping to return it, and as we know, that doesn’t feel much like a gift if it costs us money to own it. If it’s an online retailer that has traditional brick and mortar stores, that might be the better option. Again, try to double check the policies so that you can expedite any returns.

The good news is retailers do try to be accommodating. Don’t underestimate your purchase dates, either. Many holiday return policies are applicable for those purchases made within a certain timeframe.

It might be between, say, Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you’re one who likes to get the shopping out of the way in October, you may be stuck – or rather, your recipient may be stuck.

Unfortunately, the need for a receipt is on the rise, too. There was a time when those policies were lax, but that’s just not the case these days. Make a copy of your credit card receipt or purchase receipt.

Odds are, you’ll have to give the original to the one you gave the gift to. This is another reason why it’s important to keep up with them.

For those that you bought in a physical store, find a place in your home that you can keep the receipts and keep them there until after Christmas and after you know no one will approach you for it.

Finally, just because you paid $50 for it doesn’t mean you’ll get credited for that much. Believe it or not, if that same item is on sale at the time of the return, that might be all that’s credited due to many stores now allowing exchanges, but not refunds.

Ultimately, it’s about organization. Hold on to the paperwork – it’s the only way to keep headaches to a minimum – for both you and your recipient.