My Fail-Safe Method For Getting Away with “Re-Gifting” This Holiday Season


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More than half of all American "re-gift." The other half? Probably afraid of getting caught. But here's a proven technique for not getting busted - and even getting patted on the back

Ask most people what their holiday nightmare is, and you’ll probably hear something this: “I don’t want anyone to catch me re-gifting.”

Nothing is more embarrassing than being caught trying to pass off an old gift you got as a new gift you’re giving. Yet studies show more than half of all Americans re-gift – at least the ones who admit it to researchers.

A 2009 study by Patron Spirits (best known for its tequila) was shocking enough to drive a gifting purist to drink: It found that “68 percent of people claim they’ve re-gifted, or considered re-gifting, a holiday present.” Not surprisingly, their re-gifting target was most often a fellow employee.

Not content with letting a liquor company corner the research, academics at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand would love you to take this confidential online survey that covers re-gifting. It gets at the psychology of re-gifting, but we won’t say anymore, lest we ruin it for you.

As for the deep-seated fear of getting caught, there’s a website called Regiftable.com, where you can share your re-gifting horror stories – whether you were on the receiving or delivering end. In fact, Regiftable has declared this Thursday, Dec. 16, as National Regifting Day.

But if you’re intent on re-gifting – whether to get rid of a present you don’t want or to feel like you’re being frugal by not throwing it out – you need to do it right. Sadly, much of the advice you’ll find by searching “re-gifting” is so basic it’s nothing more than common sense.

For example, Regiftable suggests…

  • “Never give partially used gift cards.”
  • “Signed books and monogrammed items are off-limits.”
  • “Be sure you know who gave you the item, so you don’t return something to the original giver.”

Well, duh. If you want to get away with re-gifting, you need to go to someone who does it so well that no one knows about his seedy past. Like me. Yes, I’m admitting for the first time ever, I’m a serial re-gifter. And no one’s ever found out.

Warning: My hardcore counsel on this topic runs counter to much of what you’ll read online. Here’s what one website says not to do when it comes to re-gifting…

“Certain items are a total, dead, instant giveaway that you not only are re-gifting, but you’re also too lame to put any effort into it: candles, soap, random books, mysterious CDs (unless your brother wants the hip-hop version of “Man of La Mancha”), obscure software, cheesy jewelry, scarves (do we not all own a scarf?), fruitcake, pens, cologne…”

This would be sound advice, except I get away with it – because I give all this stuff in one box.

I once  famously packaged together a bunch of gifts I never opened: scented candles (why do women give guys scented candles?), a cookbook (I don’t cook),  a CD of romantic standards covered by a singer I never heard of, and a bottle of cologne I never opened (I don’t wear cologne). I gave it to a female coworker who was returning to the dating world after her divorce. She loved it.

To make this work, you have to be savvy on the front end…

  1. Unlike most guys, I never rip open a gift. I’m praised as being patient and thoughtful, but really, I don’t want to damage an item I could re-gift later.
  2. Once I spy something I know I won’t use, I resist the cries of “Open it!” by replying, “This is so cool! I want to take my time with this one! When we’re all done opening everything else, I’m going to spend some time with it!” Invariably, no one remembers that.
  3. In the closet in the spare room, I keep assorted minor gifts I know I can package together later. These include CDs, poetry books, T-shirts, and jewelry – because I also collect unwanted gifts from female friends who are too afraid of re-gifting themselves and just want the stuff out of the house, lest the giver ever come over and find it unused. That seems an irrational fear, but hey, it gets me free gifts.

Before I assemble my re-gifting care package, I study my target. What’s going on in their life? Are they bragging about their upcoming trip to Cancun? Those wrap-around sunglasses that aren’t my style would go well with that extra bottle of sunscreen I bought when I didn’t realize I already had two in the bathroom cabinet. Add in the “Life’s a Beach” T-shirt I got as a stocking stuffer and that sombrero I got as a gag gift, throw in a funny card, and I can cross that casual acquaintance off my list.

So collect your unwanted gifts, then mix and match them for specific people. You’ll actually be praised for your thoughtfulness. If I had a soul, I might even feel guilty about this.

Stacy Johnson

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