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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…for Regifting

How to regift tastefully and tactfully (and when not to even try)


Q: What do a used breast pump, a gunky hand blender and a bottle of wine have in common?

A: They were all regifted to people I know. And yes, you read those items correctly.

Chances are, you’ve been the recipient of, or a giver of, a regift. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of regifting (one word) is “to give someone a gift that was previously received from someone else.”

The term “regifting” became popular in a 1995 Seinfeld episode about regifting. While it was a no-no for the Seinfeld characters, according to an American Express survey, “regifting is an increasingly acceptable practice, with the vast majority of Americans (73%) agreeing it’s okay to recycle a gift.”

If you are not sure whether or not a regift is appropriate, don’t do it.

In fact, regifting is so popular that since 2006, the Thursday before Christmas has been celebrated as National Regifting Day, which falls on December 19 this year. The event was created by Money Management International in 2006 to save people from coming out of the holiday season (and into the new year) in debt.

Do’s and Don’ts of Regifting

If you are considering regifting, you know that it can be a little tricky. Here are some ways to successfully pass along a gift to someone else:

Do:

Regift something you think the other person will love. You may have received a beautiful seashell-covered picture frame that’s not right for you, but would make the perfect gift for your niece whose entire house is decorated in a coastal theme. Or you might have gotten an amazing bottle of Pinot Grigio, but no one in your house drinks it. Yet the wine would make a great gift for the hostess of an upcoming dinner party, who happens to love Pinot Grigio.

Keep track of who gave you gifts that you plan to regift. One woman I know puts sticky notes on her regifts so she doesn’t accidentally give the gift back to that person. Yes, it can happen!

Regift to people in different circles. Consider this scenario: you go to your hairdresser and notice a beautiful new plant on her counter. When you compliment her on it, she mentions that your mutual friend gave it to her for the holidays. Guess what? It’s the plant you gave your friend! Most of us would consider that a slap in the face. So before regifting, make sure to think about the people your gift recipient might know.

Make sure that any type of personalization is removed. Check for personal notes written inside of gifts (especially notepads), gift tags and names on gift cards. If there’s no way to remove the personalization, don’t regift it.

Use as stocking stuffers small items you’ve received throughout the year. We often get little things that aren’t typically regift-worthy. Those notepads, bookmarks, soaps and gourmet snacks might not be your cup of tea, but they make great stocking stuffers.

Don’t:

Give a used item. The used breast pump and hand blender with gunk on it? Friends of mine actually got them as regifts. Sure, those are extreme examples. But let’s be real. You’ve probably considered (or actually regifted) a “gently used” item. Maybe it’s that pretty vase you bought and used, but no longer matches your decor or a nice sweater you wore only once. The hard rule: just don’t do it. It’s not right. If you don’t want something, give it away. But don’t regift it.

Gift something that nobody wants. My friend Lynn received a gift of a ceramic leopard that she thinks is hideous. Maybe there’s someone in the world who would appreciate it, but she doesn’t know that person. Just donate this kind of thing to charity. Don’t gift something crummy to someone. It’s thoughtless and inconsiderate.

Reuse wrapping paper. My mom’s friend does this all the time. Don’t do it! It looks awful, it’s tacky and it’s a turnoff.

Regift expired items. That box of candy from last Christmas in your cupboard is probably stale a year later. And check the expiration date on the bath and body products you bought and never used. Even if they look okay, it’s not okay to regift them.

Provide a gift you love, but the recipient might not like. Your friend gave you a great shirt, but it’s the wrong size. However, it would fit your granddaughter perfectly. But think about it. Would your granddaughter like it? Is it her style or yours? If you’re not sure, don’t do it. And if you really can’t find anything you’re certain will please the recipient, gift cards and cash are universally welcome.

Give a promotional item. At a dinner party I hosted, I once received a wine bottle (from a good friend) with the logo of a new community being built. I don’t care how good the wine is … it screams “I am a regift.”

A Foolproof Way to Regift

If you follow all the do’s and don’ts above, but can’t think of a recipient for a potentially terrific regift, here’s a suggestion: hold a White Elephant Gift Exchange. You can create a party around it, and even consider having the event on National Regifting Day.

Here’s how a white elephant gift exchange works: Each person brings a wrapped gift and draws a number. The person with the number 1 picks the first gift and opens the item so everyone can see it. Then, each person after that can choose a new, wrapped gift, or “steal” a gift that was previously opened.

You might end up with a gift you love or a potential regift for your next occasion!

A Regifting Word of Caution

Regifting is a great way to save money by sharing terrific gifts with others that for some reason don’t work for you. If you’re not sure whether or not a regift is appropriate, however, don’t do it. Ultimately, it’s simply not worth the hurt feelings and resentment that the regift can bring to your friendships and relationships. When in doubt, better safe than sorry.

By Margie Zable Fisher
Margie Zable Fisher is a freelance writer and the founder of The 50-Year-Old Mermaid, where she and other 50+ women share their learnings and experiences on living their best lives after 50. Her website is margiezfisher.com.

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