10 Clever Ways to Shamelessly Regift This Holiday Season
Regifting isn't nearly as discourteous as you think it is, according to etiquette experts—as long as you do it right. Here's how to do it really well. (Consider it our gift to you!)
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Say thank you, no matter what
Even if the original gift-giver missed the mark, they still put the time and effort into gleaning your interests and likes and turning those things into something concrete, simply because they harbor a fondness for you. That is deserving of some gratitude, even if the sweater isn’t quite your style or you already read that book. According to The Emily Post Institute, “your ‘thank you’ should be gracious, but you don’t want to lie. A better tack may be to avoid describing the gift in any way, stressing your appreciation instead.” You can also use this interaction to mine some information about the item and ask where on God’s green earth they found such a gift, so you can see research the store’s return policy later if you don’t think it’s fit for regifting. By the way, this is the best time of the day to return Christmas gifts.
Don’t give away meaningful gifts
Family heirlooms, handmade gifts, and things truly inimitable are totally off-limits. If someone knits you a flawlessly hand-stitched scarf, but you have a weird thing about stuff touching your neck, you hang on to that thing regardless! It may seem like they’re just bestowing a lovely garment, but what they’re really gifting is their skill, thought, and time. You can replace fancy candles, housewares, and trinkets, but you absolutely cannot replace love or time! Consider how you would feel about a particular gift if you found out it had been given away.
Scour it for signs of previous ownership
Elaine Swann, founder of The Swann School of Protocol, says it best: “The name of the game is regifting, not hand-me-downs.” Your gift should be in pristine condition, not something you’ve exhausted then decided no longer has use. You’ll also want to check for any notes, monograms, or stray wrapping paper attached, because while regifting isn’t exactly frowned upon, to gift something explicitly secondhand can send the wrong message.
Ask if the gift makes sense to give
Never regift presents just to get rid of them—only items in premium condition that are worthwhile, but just not for you. Think: clothing that isn’t your style, but would look terrific on a friend; or a kitchen appliance you already have, but know a relative has been hoping for. The Emily Post Institute offers a primo example: “Your sister’s coffeemaker just stopped working, and her birthday is days away. You, who are on a budget, have been given an extra coffeemaker. Instead of stashing the extra coffeemaker in your closet, you wrap it in its original box and present it to her. She’s delighted.” If you want to create a situation like this, check out the pieces of gift-giving etiquette you need this holiday (and every holiday).
Make sure it won’t be missed
Depending on the scenario, the knowledge that they struck out can be hurtful to the gift-giver, and you’re responsible for providing a degree of protection from that hurt. They shouldn’t have to feel like they failed—they just wanted to please you! If it’s a gift that you think the giver may follow up on or notice you aren’t using, it might be a good idea to hang onto it for a little while before regifting.
Stay organized with sticky notes
The Emily Post Institute says, “You have to make sure you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings—either the original giver’s or the new recipient’s.” This is the golden rule of regifting, and while finding the item a new home is infinitely better than letting it collect dust until you finally toss it, you may not want the other parties involved to be aware that regifting has taken place. Mark each present you plan to regift with a sticky note stating who gave it to you and the occasion. When it’s time to find a new recipient, choose someone to whom the original gifter has no connection, so it’ll be impossible for the original gifter to stumble upon their gift to you in someone else’s home. Check out the holiday card etiquette rules you shouldn’t be ignoring, too.
Make it unique
Regifting a mismatched gift is perfectly fine, but opening it, dropping it back in the same gift bag, and passing it along is not. It absolves you of all the effort and forethought that makes gifting special, and that’s not very jolly. “Since you are not purchasing the gift, why not go all out and buy a nice basket and colorful decorating paper?” says Swann. Creatively re-package the gift to make it more special. For example, if you’re gifting a coffee table cookbook, include a nice piece of kitchenware to go with it. Or if you’ve got one too many crystal picture frames lying around after your wedding, add a photo of your best friend and wrap it with a thoughtful note. Always unwrap the gift completely and re-wrap it in a way that aligns with the new occasion.
Don’t wait for the next gift-giving opportunity, just go for it
If you receive an item that truly is the perfect fit for someone, just not for you, don’t wait around until next Christmas or their birthday to regift. Give it to them as soon as the time is right. A good barometer: If the gift really is such an excellent match for someone else, as all regifted items should be, you should be brimming with excitement to give it to them no matter when. If you’re really stuck about what to get someone, check out our list of 101 gifts for people who are impossible to shop for.
Don’t cave under the stigma!
The thought of regifting may make you cringe a bit, but it’s a much greater shame for a gift to go unused or forgotten than it is to regift and find it the loving home it deserves. Researchers at Stanford University performed a study that found that receivers felt regifting would be much more offensive than givers did, while givers reported that they’d much rather their present be regifted than thrown out. Dr. Francis J. Flynn, professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University and author on the study, says, “Although receivers felt givers should have a say in what happened to their gifts, givers actually felt that receivers had the full right to do whatever they liked with a present. Receivers seemed to believe that gifts come with strings attached whereas givers disagree.”
“One Less Gift” certificate
Oftentimes gifts that aren’t all that useful are the product of obligation. You may not really need or want anything, but your family feels compelled to buy you something, because it’s the holidays, after all. Francine Jay, minimalist and author of The Joy of Less, offers an alternative: a “One Less Gift” certificate. It’s essentially a certificate that expresses appreciation and gratitude for you loved ones but lets them off the hook for the gift-giving season, opting to spend time and make memories with one another instead. Even America’s sweethearts and world-famous BFFs Oprah and Gayle King abide by a similar philosophy. “We don’t exchange gifts because both of us feel we don’t really need anything,” King said on an episode of Watch What Happens Live. “We just like hanging out together.” Next, brush up on more polite responses to awkward holiday season encounters.