Is “Re-Gift” a Dirty Word?

wrapped gifts

Is “Re-Gift” a Dirty Word?

By Sherry Crawley

Come on. Admit it. You know you’ve done it.

Re-gifting might seem tacky or ungrateful, but let’s be honest: It is one of the most obvious forms of saving money and reducing your impact on the planet around the holidays.

We all receive gifts that we don’t need or want. Whether your child gets the same toy from both grandparents and you can’t return the spare or those smelly candles from your neighbor make you sneeze, you probably have perfectly good, gift-worthy items clogging up your closet.

But if you’ve ever been on the other end of the re-gift stick, as most of us have, you know it’s a dicey business. I received a crystal gravy boat as a wedding gift that had clearly made the rounds. It had remnants of old wrapping paper stuck to the worn box. I think I “accidentally” broke it and put it out of its re-gifting misery.

Don’t make your friends and family resort to smashing tableware. Here are some tips to help you re-gift with style and avoid awkward situations.

  • If you receive an unwanted gift and can’t return it, jot the name of the gifter, date and location received on a sticky note and keep it with the gift. This helps avoid giving it back to the same person or someone else in that circle of people.
  • You never know when friends might have shopped together. Re-gift items amongst different circles of people so they can’t possibly overlap.
  • Your dad does not want that free t-shirt from work. Re-gifting is not just a fancy way of getting rid of things you don’t want. Donate items that clearly don’t fit with the personality or tastes of your friends and family.
  • Clean out your stash every year, and don’t keep things forever. Styles and colors of products change, so that can be a tell-tell sign of re-gifting.
  • And by all means, don’t re-use the gift wrap or bag it came in – tape marks don’t lie. Double-check for gift tags and cards to be sure you aren’t leaving evidence behind.

Embracing the idea of sharing unwanted items can become a fun holiday tradition. Try out these ideas.

  • Gather your parent friends before your holiday shopping commences for a swap party. Maybe even bring wine – parents usually need it. And get rid of that train your kid HAD to have and played with for half an hour, but that your colleague’s toddler is now pining for. Kids don’t notice or care if gifts are gently used. Have a process to settle disputes; play rock-paper-scissors if two people want the same item, or have them bid to buy it and donate the money to a children’s charity.
  • Go all out and have a White Elephant exchange at your holiday parties. The rules are simple: Everyone brings a wrapped, unwanted item. Draw numbers, and then the first person selects and opens a package. The next person then steals that gift, or chooses another, and so on. A particular gift can only be “stolen” three times, and then it is out of play. This game can be loads of fun, and can help you clean out your re-gift supply. Fair warning: it can get brutal. My husband’s aunt almost beat me up once over a ceramic teddy bear.

Re-gifting has a bad rap, and probably well-deserved. But if you keep the interests of your family and friends in mind and think, “would I buy this for the person I want to give it to?” before (re)wrapping it, you can lighten your holiday load on your wallet and the planet.

Sherry Crawley is the Conservancy’s marketing and communications director in Georgia and an unabashed re-gifter. Just don’t tell her friends.

(Image source: johnmcga/Flickr through a Creative Commons license)

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  1. I have re-gifted an item that was very nice but just didn’t fit me or my home. I take it out of the package it came in, think nice thoughts about the person who gave it to me, and then re-wrap it completely. My daughter and I have a holiday/birthday/mother’sday tradition…we keep passing back and forth the same gift bag. Sometimes a person will mention they would like an item and if I have it in my cabinet, unused, I will give it to them and tell them why. I have never had anyone insulted by this gesture.

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