10 Rules for Regifting Without Guilt

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.

Regifting has gotten a bad rap, mostly because it’s often done carelessly and without consideration of the person who receives the regift. We’ve all heard stories about regifts with the name of the original recipient left in the package — or the gift presented to the person who originally gave it.

Regifting does not have to be rude or tacky. I consider regifting an honorable extension of recycling, but only if simple guidelines are observed. It’s like giving used presents. Sometimes, it’s all right, but you have to be tactful.

If you want to give unwanted presents a new home, here are rules for smart regifting.

1. Remember the original giver

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If you are a regifter, keep a list of unwanted gifts along with the name of the person who gave it. That way, you won’t give it back to the person who originally gave it to you.

2. Rewrap

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Don’t use the original packaging. Make the gift fresh with new wrapping and ribbon. You’re saving money on the gift, so you can put a little effort into presentation. This also saves you from accidentally leaving the “to/from” sticker or tag with the original giver’s name on the present.

3. Don’t regift junk

Woman with look of disgust on her face.
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Do not regift anything that doesn’t look fresh or new. If you’ve been given a less-than-desirable gift, do not inflict it on anyone else.

Some things are meant to be thrown away. Or at least offered for free on a Buy Nothing group with full disclosure about the condition of the item.

4. Skip the store box

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Don’t put a regift in a store box that is not where the item was purchased. I was once given a gift that turned out to be the wrong size in a Macy’s box.

When I tried to exchange the item, I was told it was not from Macy’s. Not only did I waste a trip to the store, but I discovered that my friend had given me a regift.

5. Match the gift to the recipient

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Make sure the gift you’re recycling is appropriate for the person you want to give it to.

If it’s a clothing item, make sure the colors and sizes are correct.

While you may have no use for that shiny belt or bling-y earrings, do make sure that your intended recipient actually wears sparkly accessories.

Take a similar approach to food and drink items for adults or toys and games for children.

6. Avoid regifting in the same social circle

Upset women opening a bad gift
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If there’s even the remote possibility that the person who gave you the gift will see it in someone else’s possession, don’t do it. Instead, regift the stationery from your mother-in-law to your child’s teacher, or a bracelet from your friend to your out-of-town aunt.

7. Show it, don’t blow it

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If it’s likely that the person who gave you the gift will expect to see it on your person or in your home, then you must keep it.

That said, you will need to remember to put those ugly candlesticks on the mantle when Great-Aunt Rose comes to visit, or pull out the “World’s Best Grandkids” matching pajama sets for the kids when your parents are in town.

You don’t want to get caught out when they ask to see the gifts they gave.

8. Never regift fruitcake

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Don’t ever regift a fruitcake, unless you know someone who actually likes them. (Yes, Virginia, they do exist — I have an English friend who enjoys fruitcake, but only the fancy versions sold by purveyors like Fortnum and Mason.)

Also, be cautious about regifting those mass-produced food assortments that include cheese “products” and similar items. Better to bring food into your office. Hungry co-workers will eat nearly anything!

9. Use the Yes-No-Maybe rule

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The best regifting follows the rule of Yes-No-Maybe. Take a good like at the item in question. If you were in a store shopping for the potential recipient, would you consider buying the item?

If your answer is “Yes” or “Maybe,” go for it. If it’s a “No,” donate the item to Goodwill or another charity and feel good about making that choice.

10. Own the regift

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If you would be truly mortified should your friend or family member discover you gave them a regift, opt for a new gift instead.

If you can be honest about your need to save on shopping expenses and you truly feel your gift recipient would enjoy something you couldn’t use, then you can feel confident that your regift is the right choice. No apologies needed.

If you think the regift is a good choice, but feel bad about not spending enough, consider adding a token small new gift to your regift to make the perfect present.

Bottom line: The most important rule is that the regifting will not result in hurt feelings or embarrassment to anyone.