The Art Of Regifting: The New Rules Of Secondhand Presents

Christmas Eve has arrived, and with it comes a focus on giving and receiving. But what happens when you don’t so much like what you receive? When you’re sending everything you can to your Pay Yourself First account, there’s a temptation to reuse and recycle everything. But is that a good idea?

Regifting is one of the most taboo practices in modern culture, and is especially common around the holidays. Yet nearly everyone’s partaken — either as the giver or the taker of a secondhand present.

It’s so common, in fact, that more than 60 percent of us have done it, with friends and coworkers being the most frequent recipients. There’s even a National Regifting Day, plus several books like this one on the subject.

With the tendency for spending to get out of control during the holidays, regifting is most certainly a cash flow-friendly option and can save gift givers a lot of hard-earned money.

But that doesn’t mean that any old candle, T-shirt or home-gardening kit you received is truly regift-able to the next lucky person in your life.

Here, we offer best practices into the most regifted goodies and up-to-date “do’s” and “don’ts” to guide your decisions.

Ready to regift

Not sure whether your gift qualifies as a decent regift? If you search “good regifting gifts” online, you’ll come across the following items multiple times:

  1. picture frames
  2. Bottles of wine or liquor
  3. Gourmet food (e.g., a box of high-quality chocolates) or coffee
  4. Candles
  5. Fancy soaps or lotions
  6. Scarves or new gloves

What’s not OK to regift? Anything too personalized or from the already-been-used category — such as fragrances or perfume, homemade cakes or cookies (or any other cooked food item), or vintage clothing, for example.

Navigating the rules of regifting

But it’s not just the type of gift that counts — it’s how you regift it (and to whom). Here, we offer six critical do’s and don’ts, based on common sense guidelines, to inform your decisions.

  1. DO label the gift you intend to give away. You don’t want to accidentally give the regifted gift back to the original source.
  2. DO keep the gift in its original packaging. Giving gifts without the original wrapping or packaging cheapens the effect to the intended recipient — and will likely give you away
  3. DO make a list of who got you the original gift. If you’re not going to regift an unwanted item right away, don’t stash it in the closet without attaching a sticky note telling you who it’s from. You don’t want to present a beautiful set of wine glasses to your best friend Mary one year after she gifted you with them on your wedding anniversary. And always be sure to check books for personalized notes on the inside sleeve.
  4. DON’T be a cheap-o. Make sure you personalize your “regift” when appropriate; for example, place a fresh photo of you and the gift recipient in a regifted photo frame, or pair a regifted coffee mug with a pound of high-quality coffee beans.
  5. DON’T regift something you’d never buy. If you haven’t tried fruitcake, and you’re grossed out by your ‘gift’ of one, why would you impose the undesirable to your aunt or uncle (if they’ve never expressed a love for fruitcake)?
  6. DON’T tell the gift recipient. While regifting is commonly practiced, it’s one of those things people don’t like to admit to — and probably shouldn’t (Case in point: While I don’t mind that you’re bringing a bottle of champagne from your folks to my housewarming party, I don’t want or need to know that when I answer the door).

Of course, if the gift recipient unintentionally learns a gift is a regift — say, you forgot to remove the original card, or you accidentally regift something within the same social circle — don’t deny it. That will only make you look like you did something wrong.

But if you’ve done your best to remove all evidence of the original gift (e.g., tags, identifying cards), and put a thoughtful spin on the gift, and believe it is a wonderful present for the new recipient, you’re a good person. And your regifted good truly reflects the true spirit of the holidays.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of

image credit: Bigstock/Nyura

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