5 Rules for Regifting: Give Yourself More by Giving Less!


If you’re feeling strapped for cash, then regifting items you’ve already received could help reduce the financial burden of the holiday season. Thanks to the recession, the practice has lost some of its stigma. In fact, 92 percent of respondents in Bookoo’s 2012 Holiday Regifting Survey said they believe it’s acceptable to regift items and 87 percent believe they’ve received a regifted item. This writer actually saw a cloth “regift bag” at a recent holiday party that cleverly listed the bag’s previous givers and recipients on the bag’s label.

We asked Vicky Oliver, etiquette expert and author of The Millionaire’s Handbook: How to Look and Act Like a Millionaire Even If You’re Not, for tips on regifting the right way.

  1. Match the gift to the recipient. Anytime you give a present (whether it’s purchased or regifted), make sure it’s something the recipient would actually use and enjoy. “You don’t want to give somebody peanut brittle if they’re allergic to peanuts,” says Oliver. Nor should you regift a Christmas tree ornament to someone who doesn’t celebrate the holiday or anything that’s been engraved or monogrammed with someone else’s name or initials. Gifts that don’t fit the recipient show carelessness or a lack of thought. However, if, for instance, your sister-in-law wears a lot of pink and you have a brand-new pink pashmina from your officemate, that might be a better match.
  2. Regift in different circles. You likely exchange gifts with people in a few circles: perhaps family, friends, and coworkers. If, for instance, your mother-in-law gives you a set of snowman hand towels, better to regift them to a friend instead of another relative lest your mother-in-law find out. Don’t tell the gift-giver your intentions unless you’ve received a food item you’re allergic to. In that case, Oliver suggests gently explaining, “I love caramel popcorn but unfortunately it makes me break out in hives. So, I am going to give this to my sister who loves it. Thank you for thinking of me. I really appreciate the gesture.” And it should go without saying, but don’t regift to the person who originally gave the gift. “Stay organized by keeping lists of what you received and what you intend to give,” she adds.
  3. Rewrap before regifting. When you regift an item in its original wrapping, you run the risk of having a card addressed to you fall out of the bag. “The wrapping is part of any gift, but especially with a regift where you didn’t spend any money, the wrapping becomes even more important,” says Oliver. Take the time to rewrap the gift in an attractive way, enclosing a handwritten note to the new recipient. “Whenever you give a present it’s a chance to express gratitude to the person,” adds Oliver.
  4. Bring a regift to a Yankee swap. Gift swaps, especially those that encourage tacky or quirky gifts for comedic effect, are a great place to unload unwanted gifts. If exchanging gifts with coworkers is causing a cash crunch, then Oliver suggests talking to HR about doing a Secret Santa or gift swap instead of a free-for-all. “Sometimes in offices they give a prize to the person who gave the gift that’s swapped the most often,” she adds.
  5. Be upfront about your regifting. Instead of trying to be a stealth regifter and possibly getting outed later, Oliver suggests ‘fessing up and framing it as “I thought you’d enjoy this gift more than I would.” Then explain why that pink pashmina would look great on her or how you remember your neighbor loves sparkling wine. “You always want to show thought, so think who it would be best served for,” says Oliver. “Be honest and tell the person that it is a regift, and you thought they would like it.”
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Published December 12, 2012 Updated: December 27, 2012
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