Regifting: 101

Posted January 8th, 2018

When you give a gift to anyone – either regifted or new – you want it to provide a sense of pleasure. But before you start rewrapping all your unwanted Christmas presents to give to other people, keep these points in mind:  

Choose the Right Recipient
The whole point of giving a gift is to think about the other person’s needs and give something that will make that person happy. So the best way to regift is to pass along something that isn’t right for you, but that would be perfect for someone else. For example, if you receive an Indian cookbook but don’t like Indian food, regifting it to someone who loves Indian food is a great idea. But don’t give it to someone who hates to cook, or to someone who has a whole shelf full of similar cookbooks.

Don’t Make It Obvious
There’s nothing wrong with openly passing a gift on to someone else, asking if they’d like it because it’s not right for you. But if you’re going to rewrap someone else’s gift and pass it off as something you picked out yourself, you have to make sure the regifting isn’t completely obvious.

Regift in a Different Social Circle
When you pass on an unwanted gift, you have to be very careful not to hurt the feelings of the person who originally gave it to you. The easiest way to do this is to make sure the original giver never finds out. So when you’re regifting, choose a new recipient from a completely different social circle. For example, if you got a book you already own from your mother, pass it on to a coworker. Don't give it to another member of your family who might spill the beans to Mom.

Don’t Regift Used Gifts
If you’ve already used something, it’s not a gift – it’s a hand-me-down. An out-of-date garment that’s been sitting unused in your closet, a gift card with some of the credit used up, and a book of crosswords with some of the crosswords completed are all tacky, cheap-looking excuses for a holiday gift. It’s still okay to give them away, but don’t wrap them up and present them as if they were real gifts you’d actually put some thought into.

Don’t Regift a Heartfelt Gesture
If your grandmother gives you a necklace that’s been in the family for generations, it’s not okay to simply wrap it up and give it to your girlfriend – unless she’s about to become a part of the family. Similarly, if your little nephew spent a whole week sculpting an ashtray for you, it’s wrong to pass it along to a neighbor just because you don’t smoke. A gift of a unique, homemade, or treasured item deserves to be cherished for the feeling that went into it, even if it’s not something you can actually use. Turn your nephew’s ashtray into a candy dish, and wear the necklace on family occasions. But feel free to regift a more generic item, like a CD or a bottle of wine.

Package It Nicely
A regifted present should be packed with the same care as a new one. Keep it in the original box and wrap it up in the same nice paper you’d use for a store-bought gift. If the box is damaged, then go out and get a new box from the same store so the present will look as good as new, not just “good enough.” However, don’t substitute a box or bag from a fancier store to make the present look more expensive. Considering that you didn’t actually spend anything on it in the first place, that’s in particularly poor taste.

There’s no obligation to keep a gift you don’t like or can’t use, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to thank the giver for it. It’s just a matter of common courtesy to express gratitude for any gift – even for one you end up returning or giving away.

That’s how we do.