The New Rules of Holiday Re-Gifting

woman holding a wrapped Christmas gift

Whether it’s a tacky holiday sweater, a throw blanket that doesn’t match your décor, or the third set of cheese knives you’ve been given this year, we’ve all been the recipient of a less-than-great gift. But just because a present isn’t right for you doesn’t mean it can’t be perfect for someone else. (Hopefully a person on your very long holiday gift list!) Follow these seven rules, and you’ll have mastered the art of re-gifting, and saved yourself some time and money in the process.

(This post is part of a special project produced by CafeMedia's branded content team. We hope it helps you find something for everyone on your gift list!)


Consider the Giver
First things first: Before you even think about re-gifting, consider the person who originally gave it to you. Are they likely to ask you about it, or will they expect to see it in your home? If a friend or coworker gives you a gift card or store-bought sweets, you’re in the clear. But if your mother in-law gifts you with a distinctive vase, a piece of jewelry, or something homemade: hang onto it. Sure, it’s a bit of an annoyance. But it’s better to showcase it once or twice when she comes over than to hurt her feelings. Then you can donate the item so it can go to someone who will truly love it.

Like-New Items Only
Anything you re-gift should still look like it’s brand new. Make sure the packaging wasn’t damaged when you unwrapped it, and check that all parts and instructions are still intact.

Don’t Just Unload It
Resist the urge to re-gift just to get something off your hands. Ask yourself if the recipient you have in mind will truly like it. Can you picture yourself spending the money to buy it for them? If so, you’ve got the re-gifting green light. If you wouldn’t actually open your wallet to buy it, donate the item, or bring it into work and slap it with a sticky note that says “take me.” You’ll make a coworker’s day.

Avoid the Same Social Circles
Never re-gift within the same social circles as the person who gave you the present. That way you can avoid embarrassing snafus like your book club friend showing up to your monthly get-together wearing the scarf given to you by another member, or for your aunt to ask, “When did you get this?” when she spots the coffee maker she gave you for your birthday at your mom’s house.

Do a Double Check
Look the entire item over to make sure there are no stickers, gift tags, or cards that would give you away. The last thing you want if for your giftee to find a gift tag with your name on it lurking on the underside of the item, or in an overlooked pocket.

Pretty it Up
A handwritten card and new wrapping paper will make your present look and feel thoughtful and fresh. You can also consider making it part of a larger gift. Re-gifting a popcorn maker? Make it a theme by presenting it along with some specialty salts and DVDs. Or, package the extra set of mixing bowls you got with some baking mixes, cookie cutters, or a cute apron.

Ditch the Guilt
Lastly, there’s no need to feel guilty for finding a worthy home for something that wasn’t right for you. (And whatever you do, don’t even think about confessing to your giftee!) If you’ve followed these rules, you’re giving someone a present they’re sure to love, and they’ll never guess it wasn’t purchased especially with them in mind. And remember – we’ve all re-gifted!

What items  have you re-gifted in the past – and to whom?


Elizabeth Brownfield is a food and lifestyle writer who has been on the staffs of Metropolitan Home, Martha Stewart, Domino, and Every Day with Rachael Ray magazines.

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