The Rules of Re-gifting

by Shaunna Privratsky


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Consider this scenario: your family is cuddled around the Christmas tree. Your Aunt Molly, who visits every year, picks up a present from you. The paper and bow are tattered, and one end looks like it has been hastily mended with about two rolls of tape. She gets it open, and gasps fill the room. It is the scarf with the anorexic penguins she knitted for you last year!

If you haven't heard of re-gifting, you are either a saint or you live in the North Pole and get your presents hand delivered by the jolly old elf himself. Re-gifting is the process of giving one of your unwanted gifts to someone else. Do it wrong, and you could be humiliated for life. When you get it right, however, re-gifting can benefit you and the new recipient.

Why re-gift at all? Here are some good reasons to ponder:

  • You can't use it. Remember that Christmas where you received an electric shaver? And you were only eight. Or that time someone gave you a bottle of expensive wine, but you are a teetotaler?

  • You dislike it. Okay, there may not be anything wrong with it, but you simply don't care for it. Garish sweaters, strange decorative items or funny hats all fall into this category.

  • Someone else on your list would love it. Say you received a very nice fishing pole, but the last time you went fishing was in 1978. Your sports-enthusiast uncle would love it.

  • You just can't face the return lines at the store. This could be construed as laziness, but I like to think of it as constructive thinking. Time equals money, after all.

  • You get to cross another gift off next year's list. One less present to worry about. Hooray! Your wallet will cheer.

  • You are being eco-friendly. Reuse and recycle applies here.

  • It saves you money. We could all use a little more of the green stuff, especially during the holidays.

  • Re-gifting saves time. You won't have to think of the perfect gift, shop for it, pay for it or wrap it.

Now that we've thoroughly justified the practice of responsible re-gifting, there are some do's and don't we should address:

  • Item must be in new or mint condition. Anything that is obviously worn or damaged is out of the question.

  • This one is a biggie. The original giver will not miss the item. Family heirlooms and anything handmade (like the knitted scarf) or extremely unique are no-nos.

  • The new recipient should live a good distance away. Anything you have to ship to another state should be safe.

  • Consider re-gifting to someone on the other side of the family tree. For example, don't give a re-gift to your brother's wife, since you frequently get together. Instead, find someone on your spouse's side of the family so that the original giver won't be as likely to run across the gift.

  • The gift should be something the new recipient will really enjoy. Wouldn't it be tragic if they decided to re-gift the item? It makes you think of the six-year-old fruitcake that keeps getting bequeathed to various unfortunate friends and family.

  • Make sure you re-wrap the gift and put on new tags. There is nothing more disconcerting than to find the old tag under your name. This actually happened to me once. My mother-in-law gave me a purse that I had given her about two years previously! She had merely inked out her name and wrote mine in.

Keep the thought of re-gifting in the back of your mind. By following these do's and don'ts, you could take that humdrum gift and re-gift it to someone who would love it. It all boils down to responsible re-gifting.


Shaunna Privratsky is an expert in personal finance. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.

Take the Next Step: Keep the thought of re-gifting in the back of your mind. Perhaps there is someone that would really appreciate a gift that you considered humdrum when you received it. Just remember to follow the do's and don'ts of responsible re-gifting.

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