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 gifts. Chances are, most of us will receive a gift or two that we either don’t want or don’t need. It’s not your fault. Some of us already have everything we want or need. Some people are notoriously difficult to shop for.…

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. It’s not your fault. Some of us already have everything we want or need. Some people are notoriously difficult to shop for. And some gift givers simply go crazy on Black Friday and shop without putting much thought into what they are buying, or form whom they bought it.

So what do you do with that unwanted 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 and reduce their expenses this Christmas.

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.” 

Receiving the gift receipt 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. Finding the right recipient can make them happy and remove the stress from Christmas shopping for that person.
  • 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 of 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.
  • Get your children involved. It’s not uncommon for children to receive gifts they either don’t want, or already have. Giving them to give the gift to someone else can be a great way to teach them about money.

7 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 gift). Reselling items on Craigslist and Ebay is generally best for high ticket items, due to the time and cost involved. Here are some tips for selling on Craigslist.

2. Sell it to Decluttr or Half-Price Books. Decluttr is the largest reseller on both Amazon and Ebay. They only deal with certain categories of merchandise, including electronics, music, movies, textbooks, and Legos. I’ve sold several boxes of goods through Decluttr. While you won’t get the most money by selling to them, it’s incredibly easy. Just scan the code on your item, box it up, slap a prepaid label on your box, and ship it out. They send you a check or pay you with PayPal after they receive the items. Then they deal with the hassle of reselling the items. Here is our Decluttr review for more information.

3. Sell it to Half-Price Books. Half-Price Books is a nationwide chain of book resellers. Half-Price Books buys and sells books, music, movies, and similar items. Here is my experience selling books at Half-Price Books.

4. Sell Your Unwanted Gift 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.

5. 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?

6. 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. Not all stores will do this, so it’s best to be aware of store policies before spending your time in the customer service line. Of course, returning it is simplified if you have a gift receipt.

7. 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.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of Cash Money Life. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started Cash Money Life in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about military money topics and military and veterans benefits at The Military Wallet.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free account here.

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  1. Craig Ford says

    @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 :).

  2. Andrew says

    It’s a slippery slope, definitely – but I’m not too strong on gifts, people know I don’t like receiving them, so if they do buy me something and I don’t like it – they should expect it going to charity or to somebody who needs the thingy.

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