7 Secrets to ‘Regifting’ Without Getting Caught

Done right, the practice is budget-boosting, clutter-busting and eco-friendly. Done poorly, it can ruin the holiday. Here’s how to regift with care.


Thinking of regifting this holiday season? You’re probably not alone.

A few years ago, 92 percent of those surveyed by the yard sale aggregator site Bookoo.com said that recycling gifts was OK, and almost as many were pretty sure they had received regifted items.

Done poorly, the practice can be downright insulting. Some of those surveyed reported receiving “gifts” such as 2-year-old fruitcake, monogrammed items (with someone else’s initials), fingernail clippers and a used toilet seat.

Then why regift? Several reasons:

  • It’s a budget booster. Having a couple of great things you can give means two gifts you won’t have to buy.
  • It’s eco-friendly. Instead of buying more stuff, you are recycling unused items.
  • It busts clutter. It helps clear your house of items collecting dust.

These regifting guidelines can help you from crashing and burning on Christmas Day:

1. Make sure it looks new

Original packaging is best, folks. Something that’s been sitting unprotected on a shelf has likely picked up grime and might have faded where the sun hit it. If it’s been in the basement, it might smell musty.

If you have to blow dust off it, pass.

2. Remove any sign that the item is recycled

Flip through books to see if your dad underlined a certain passage and wrote, “This sounds like you!” in the margin.

Check to see that your mom didn’t paint your name and “Christmas 2013” on the underside of that hand-decorated ceramic snowman.

In other words, make sure there’s nothing to indicate to the new recipient that this wasn’t purchased just for him or her.

3. Keep track of who gave what

I once read about a woman who gave a cookbook with a $100 bill tucked inside as a wedding gift. A couple of years later, the happy couple regifted that cookbook to her for Christmas.

How did she know? Because the $100 bill was still where she’d placed it. (See “flip through books,” above.)

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson suggests labeling items you receive with the date and the giver’s name, so you don’t goof up.

He also advises keeping a running list of regiftable items to which you can refer when it’s time to give a present. That’s much easier than rummaging around in closets or dresser drawers, searching in vain for that journal or picture frame.

4. Don’t give garbage

Your practical-joker brother gave you a T-shirt with an offensive joke on the front. If you’d never wear it, why would you inflict it on someone else?

Ditto items such as musical snow globes, self-published books of poetry, or bath products with overly strong fragrances. Maybe a secondhand store would take such things.

If not, don’t feel guilty about throwing them away.

5. Don’t regift handmade items

Your great-aunt put in a lot of time crocheting that pink-and-purple afghan. You don’t have to keep it, but you shouldn’t give it to someone else. That is, unless that person thinks you know how to crochet.

Before throwing such things away, however, see if a thrift store will accept them. Or try to keep in mind that it was made with love and that an extra afghan can come in handy on chilly winter evenings.

Either that, or sell it to a hipster who’s decorating his living room in neo-kitsch.

6. Don’t regift ‘gently used’ items

Don’t wrap up something you’ve already worn, listened to, read or watched.

A book you’ve read a dozen times probably looks a bit dog-eared and might even bear a coffee drip on page 127. That cashmere scarf may look brand-new to you, but your sister might remember your having worn it last winter.

And while some people love getting gift cards for the holidays, don’t give a partially used one. Nothing says, “You’re so special to me!” like being handed a Subway card with an $11.47 balance.

7. Make sure it’s a good fit

If your teenage niece is a die-hard video gamer, giving her a scented candle is not the way to go. The relative who loves barbecue will likely fail to appreciate a book about vegan cooking.

Imagine the tables being turned — people who supposedly love you looking at Christmas as a chance to get rid of unwanted items, whether or not the gift suits you. Doesn’t feel so good, does it?

Got any tips on regifting, or any “regifting gone wrong” stories to share? Share them in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

Stacy Johnson

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