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Ask the Readers: Is Regifting an Acceptable Practice?

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Christmas is fast approaching, which means it’s time for Christmas shopping and exchanging gits. Chances are, most of us will receive a gift or two that we either don’t want or don’t need. So what do you do with that gift? Do you add it to the clutter in your closet where it will never be used, do you donate it to a charitiable organization, or do you regift it? I’m sure that in today’s difficult economy, more people will consider regifting items as a way to save money.

Is regifting tacky or resourceful?

I know there are many people out there who believe that regifting is tacky and should never be done under any circumstances. But, I’m a frugal person by nature, and I want things to be used instead of wasted. Personally, I have no problem regifting something or receiving a regifted present – as long as it is done well.

Rules for Regifting

If you are going to regift something, you should follow these simple rules:

  • If you wouldn’t want to receive the item (or something comparable) as a regifted item, do not regift it.
  • Only regift items in new condition and good working order.
  • Remove the old gift tag and make a new one. Don’t get busted by leaving the original gift tag in place!
  • Regift it outside your normal circle of friends and family. For example, don’t regift the wineglasses you received at your wedding to people who were actually at your wedding!
  • Regift items you know the other person will use or appreciate. For example, you receive an extra copy of a book you think someone will like, you receive a gift card to a store you don’t shop at, or a bottle of wine when you won’t drink, etc.
  • Do not regift items that are personalized to you or are handmade.
  • Give it as a white elephant gift. Regifting is the point if white elephant giving anyways!
  • Be honest about it. Something like “I received this and thought it was more your style,” may be all you need to smooth it over.
  • Turn it into a game. Receive an unwanted gift, hand it back next year, repeat. The ultimate story in regifting took place between two brothers-in-law in Minnesota. It started when one man received a pair of moleskin pants, gave them to his brother-in-law and they began exchanging it between each other, eventually trying to one up each other in terms of creativity. The regifting escalated from giving wrapped pants in a box, to wrapping them in a 1 inch pipe, all the way to encasing them in concrete, putting them in the glove box of a car – then crushing the car and delivering it to the other person’s front porch, to putting them inside a concrete filled tank. You can read the full story here: The Moleskin Pants Story.

Your thoughts about regifting?

So what do you think about regifting? Good, bad, ugly? Any other regifting rules I missed?


Published or updated February 27, 2011.
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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Laura @ no more spending

I have no problem regifting as long as I stick with your first 5 points. I would never gift something that wasn’t in a brand new condition :)

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2 Kristen

I have personally never regifted. On the whole I’ve been fortunate to usually get gifts that I really like or can use.

Funny story about regifting … My mom bought a birthday card for her sister about how beautiful and fabulous she is, and the card says, “You can just send this back to me for my birthday.” So my aunt sent it back and included $1 to pay for half the card. My mom is now preparing to send it back to her with a 50-cent piece. I see this becoming a card regifting game for awhile. :)

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3 Ryan

Kristen: I love the gift card exchange between your Mom and Aunt. :-)

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4 Becky

One year my BIL gave us a gift card to Bombay Company. It had an expiration date for the next year. Well, I could never find anything I wanted, so when Christmas rolled around the next year, I bought him a nice table with the card. He was sooo mad! They still rib me about it and it’s been 10 years!

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5 Ryan

Craig: some of those are hilarious!

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6 Craig

I agree with Laura. I wouldn’t re-gift something that wasn’t brand new. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and this isn’t even trash. If someone else can find it useful, definitely give it to them, and it saves you a gift. Here’s a site to find some funny regifting stories.

http://www.regiftable.com/

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7 Craig

Thanks Ryan. I read a few and thought some of them were great. Hope everyone else reads a few.

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8 Lois Quakenbush

My friend Nate and I have an annual re-gifting exchange. We break all of the etiquette rules and enjoy telling stories about how we came upon the items. Last year, in addition to his Zicam nose swab, he took a bunch of items from my desk and threw them in a bag. At least the Zicam nose swap wasn’t used.

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9 Ryan

I love it, Lois. :-)

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10 No Debt Plan

I think if the person would truly like the gift, then yes.

But giving away your unwanted crap as “gifts” doesn’t sit well with me.

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11 Jeff Rose

Two regifting stories. One for a good cause, and one just got caught.

Good Cause:
I received a fancy BBQ Set in a nice wooden case. Very fancy but I already had one. Last night we took it to our Annual Rotary Christmas Dinner where we raffle off the wrapped mystery gifts by auction. My BBQ set that has been sitting around for months raised $45 for the Rotary club. I did it for the kids!

Funny Story
When I got married, my wife and I received five of the exact same Willow Tree figurines that you get at Hallmark. Instead of returning them, we kept them because we had several weddings in our future including one of my good friends. A year later, when visiting my buddies place that had received the regifted Willow Tree, he pulls me to the side and says “Let me show you something”. He pulls the Willow Tree out from their display case and hands it to me and says, “Read the Bottom”. On the bottom, is a handwritten message that says, “Congrats Jeff and Mandy. May you have a long and happy marriage. Love, Uncle Ron” Dohh! Busted….

Thankfully, it was my best friend. Otherwise, I would have felt like a doofus. Well, I still kind of do.

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12 Katie

I don’t see a problem with regifting something someone else would love to receive. But regifting things you don’t want and the other person doesn’t want is a big no no to me. It really is NOT about the gift, it IS the thought that counts!

My mother and I “re-gift” gift bags at Christmas. We have 20 giftbags, 10 in each of our wrapping supply buckets, that get swapped back and forth each year. Every year we “ahhhh” over the bags. It just seems wasteful to buy new bags every year when really, those are STILL in excellent condition. I mean, we simply put presents in them, put them under the tree, and then take the presents out and refold the bag. Somehow we remember who the bag is for that year, because the tags are long gone. :)

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13 Ryan

Great idea on reusing the bags, Katie. My wife and I save them as well. They will definitely last several years because they don’t go through much wear and tear – they just sit under a tree!Thanks for sharing. :-)

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14 KTHunter

My mother and I reuse the bags as well. Why put more stuff in the landfill than you have to? And why buy more bags/wrapping when you don’t have to? (Although sometimes the bags just wear out or we get something that no bag can hold, so we do have to bite the bullet and get new bags or wrapping sometimes.) The tags are no big deal. I make my own out of paper (and if I had to wrap something else, I use the leftover scraps of wrapping paper and cut them into cute shapes and write on the blank side), use a holepunch to punch a hole in the tag, then attach it to the bag’s handle with a bit of ribbon or string. If I used wrapping paper to make the tag (or scrapbooking remnants), I have a pretty design on the other side for all to see. This tag can be cut off before the bag is reused, and there are no tags stuck on the bag to peel off/recover. You can also have fun with the tag. Cut it into the shape of a snowman. Put a funny saying or a clue as to what the present is on the tag. Write the message in fun colors or in gel pens. Or make an origami tag and attach it. The tag can be a great part of the gift presentation (and with my husband, presentation of the gift is almost as important as the gift itself). Of course, if you have lots to wrap and little time, you can just write the old reliable TO and FROM on them. Or use the purchased stack-o-tags and just punch a hole in them and tie it on.

You can also wrap in fabric, like the Japanese tradition of furoshiki. Bandanas are great for this… they are inexpensive and reusable. I gave my brother a present wrapped this way once, and he was so happy about just the wrapping because it was so different and cool. If you google for “furoshiki”, you will find several sites that show you how to wrap just about anything this way.

I agree, only regift if it is something people will like. Best policy is to just give it to people unwrapped and do not treat it as their “official” gift for a holiday or birthday… just treat it as passing on something that they might like or use.

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15 Ryan

KT: Thanks for sharing how you give gifts. I often use scraps of wrapping paper for tags – it’s economical and creative. I have never tried furoshiki, but it is certainly a creative gift wrapping method!

Thanks for sharing, and Merry Christmas!

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16 Nicole

I think regifting is okay as long as the gift is something the other person would like and is in brand spanking new condition. I regifted for the first time this year. A friend gave me a Bath and Body Works set which I knew I’d never use. My Aunt loves Bath and Body Works, so I regifted it to her along with a gift card to one of her favorite stores.

From my aunt I got some Philosophy bath wash that I know I’ll never use. It’ll be going to my best friend, along with a handful of other gifts that I purchased especially for her.

Really, if it’s something someone was pretty sure I’d use and enjoy, I’d rather it be regifted to me then to sit in the person’s closet collecting dust.

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17 Kitty

I hate the idea of “regifting”. Especially when you rewrap it (even beautifully) and give it as if you bought it yourself. What is actually happening – someone else is buying the gift you are giving away to someone else and you act like you thoughtfully picked it out for them yourself. If you want to “give” a gift that you recieved to someone else simply give it to them without all the pretending that you bought them a gift. Don’t be such a miser.

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18 Ryan

Kitty, I don’t think it’s being miserly to regift something that you know the other person would appreciate and be able to derive use and pleasure from. But, I understand your opinion, and can appreciate it. I would never regift something to you if you were in my circle of friends, because I know how you feel about it. But I wouldn’t have a problem if someone regifted something to me because they knew I would enjoy it and be able to use it. I guess it’s a matter of personal preference. Thanks for adding your thoughts! :)

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19 M

I see how all of you feel about regifting, many of my gifts this year were free after rebate, tools from Menards, things from Wal-Greens or CVS. This year I’m giving my DH’s parents TP, yes Toilet Paper, when we asked what they needed they said they were almost out of TP. At least I know it will get used.

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20 Ryan

LOL.

Q. What do you get the person who has everything?

A. toilet paper!

I’m sure you will get a few laughs. :-)

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21 fathersez

In our part of the world, the gifts for the local festivals are usually cash. So the question of having to regift is not there.

Still I would think the choice of regifting or letting the gift go to waste by not being used is a no brainer.

By all means we should regift!

Cheers

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22 K

This year, I received some perfume (impersonal employee gift) that has made me think of regifting in a new light. We’re a fragrance free household due to allergies, so I can’t regift to anyone I know because they might use it around me! And yet I don’t want to have it go to waste. That has me thinking about the women’s and homeless shelters that have been in the news more than ever lately as people’s needs are increasing. How many of us received new gifts that we don’t really need? My perfume, the extra gloves, a jacket that doesn’t fit, you name it, that might be loved as an after Christmas gift by someone in need?

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23 Elizabeth

Hi All,

It is interesting to hear you all discuss re-gifting as I am currently doing my Masters Research project at the University of Canterbury on the topic. If any of you have re-gifted before and would be interested in taking part in the survey, just click the link below.

http://canterbury.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_1FBqjUxRZgByXAw

It is only short and everything is confidential.
If you wish, you will be entered into a draw to win one of three Amazon.com gift certificates worth $50 USD.

Elizabeth

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