Ask the Readers: Is Regifting an Acceptable Practice?

by Ryan Guina

Christmas is fast approaching, which means it’s time for Christmas shopping and exchanging gifts. Chances are, most of us will receive a gift or two that we either don’t want or don’t need. Though I do hope you were able to grit your teeth, form a fake smile and manage at least a pleasant ‘thank you’ when you opened the unwanted gift.

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 charitable organization, do you return it for a better gift of your choice or do you re-gift it? I’m sure that in today’s difficult economy, more people will consider re-gifting items as a way to save money.

Is Re-Gifting Tacky or Resourceful?

RegiftingI know there are many people out there who believe that re-gifting 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 re-gifting something or receiving a re-gifted present – as long as it is done well.

Though to avoid all of that mess, if a gift receipt is included in your bag or box, in my opinion, that is the gift giver’s way of saying – “if there is something else you want, I’d like you to get it”, so this makes your life much easier when it comes to an unwanted gift.

Some may also have the fear that if the giver of the gift finds out that the gift has been re-gifted, returned or stuffed in a closet somewhere to be forgotten about, then it will affect their relationship. So if you feel that someone is going to be upset at you for returning a gift, then even if you will never, never, ever use it – keep it. The relationship means more than an unwanted gift. In a year or so, you can feel free to donate it to your favorite charity.

Simple Rules for Re-Gifting

If you are going to re-gift something, you should follow these simple rules:

  • If you wouldn’t want to receive the item (or something comparable) as a re-gifted item, do not re-gift it.
  • Only re-gift 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!
  • Re-gift it outside your normal circle of friends and family. For example, don’t re-gift the wineglasses you received at your wedding to people who were actually at your wedding!
  • Re-gift 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 re-gift items that are personalized to you or are handmade.
  • Give it as a white elephant gift. Re-gifting 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 re-gifting 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 re-gifting 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.

5 Ways To Get Rid of Unwanted Gifts – That Doesn’t Include “Re-Gifting”

1. Sell it on eBay or Craigslist. You can sell everything on eBay and with a quick introduction to a few money making ebay strategies you will be well on your way to having a pocket full of cash instead of an unwanted gift (or even a duplicate).

2. Sell Your Unwanted Git Cards. Of course, if it is a gift card you can follow these suggestions for selling gift cards. But, you might be looking for other creative options for trading, selling, and exchanging gift cards.

3. Donate it. If you ever feel overwhelmed by all your gifts at Christmas you could consider donating it to a local charity. The gift will certainly mean more to them than it will to your closet. Why let something gather mothballs when it can be used?

4. Return it. Around the holidays most companies have fairly liberal return policies. If you don’t have a receipt but you do have a tag, you can often politely request to exchange the product for something else. Of course, returning it is simplified if you have a gift receipt.

5. Be negligent. Accidentally leave it somewhere that you know the dog will eat it.

Your Thoughts

So what do you think about re-gifting? Good, bad, ugly? Any other re-gifting rules I missed? What do you do with those pesky unwanted gifts? Do you fear you will be asked about the gift at a later date? Well my approach to this is easy, I have this personal integrity policy that makes this question simple for me. My policy is this – I don’t lie. While I’m sure you could come up with some creative lies, I think the truth presented with a little icing on top is the best approach.

Published or updated October 17, 2016.
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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 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. 🙂


2 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 🙂


3 Ryan

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


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!


5 Ryan

Craig: some of those are hilarious!


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.


7 Craig

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


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.


9 Ryan

I love it, Lois. 🙂


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.


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.


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. 🙂


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. 🙂


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.


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!


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.


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.


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! 🙂


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.


20 Ryan


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

A. toilet paper!

I’m sure you will get a few laughs. 🙂


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!



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?


23 LeanLifeCoach

Anyone need a LP to MP3 recorder? Got it for my wife to convert all her old records in storage. Out of 45 records only 2 were not scratched!

Ebay here we come!

The best part of the whole deal is I obtained the darn thing using points!

Craig – any chance of you sharing your pizza recipe?


24 Peter

When we get gifts that we don’t want we usually end up re-gifting them. If that isn’t an option, we have no problem ebaying or craigslist-ing the item. That’s one thing about the Christmas season – it just too often revolves around more stuff – and we just don’t have room for more stuff!


25 Craig

I don’t think the relationship with the person should make a difference. If you don’t want something, it’s a waste to keep it. either return the item or if you think someone else could potentially have use for it, give it to someone else.


26 Craig Ford

@Craig – I do have some relatives who would be offended if I didn’t keep their gift. I’d rather have the gift and their “friendship” than the $15 in my pocket, but I hear what you’re saying. Thanks.

@Peter – I hope your family isn’t reading this they might start tracking your gift giving habits! Ebay is an awesome way to unload unwanted gifts.

@LeanLifeCoach – Sell it! But, be sure your wife gets a cut, alight?
As for my pizza recipe you might want to taste it first … next time you are in the South Pacific I’ll have you over for dinner. Nothing fancy (just a slight variation from our bread maker recipe) – flour, water, yeast, basil, oregano, sugar. I can’t tell you more because one day I plan to sell the recipe for several thousand dollars :).


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