Regifting Dos and Don'ts You Can Feel Good About

Published November 9, 2022
Woman holding present

When it's done right, regifting is a sustainable choice for your budget and the environment too. When you receive a gift you don't want, you can put it to good use by giving it to someone who will really appreciate it. The etiquette around this issue can be a little murky, but if you follow a few simple dos and don'ts, you can give a meaningful gift, save money, and preserve the planet all at the same time.

Don't Hurt Anyone's Feelings When You Regift

The number one rule for regifting is to avoid hurt feelings. When Aunt Linda gave you that potted plant you're about to kill with neglect, she was putting more than just her money into the present; she was probably also choosing something she really thought you'd like. Even if you have a black thumb instead of a green one and regifting will be about saving the life of this plant, you can't do it in a way that will hurt her feelings.

Even if it seems like it might not offend anyone, don't pass along the unwanted present in front of the original giver. This is an obvious rejection of the gift and the thought that went into it, and it guarantees hurt feelings. Also only regift to someone with whom the original giver has little or no contact. Don't give Aunt Linda's plant gift to your mom and risk Aunt Linda seeing it on her next visit.

Do Regift When It's a Meaningful Choice

When you give any gift, choosing something meaningful is important. The thought you put into the other person is what makes a gift really special, and it's no different when you're regifting. Don't give something away simply because you don't want it yourself; instead, give it because you know the recipient will love it.

A great example of regifting with meaning is when you give a family heirloom to someone. This may be a gift you received, such as a special book or a tea set, but it's become even more special as time has passed. When giving this type of gift, take some time to write down its story for the recipient. This is excellent if you're on a budget; your heirloom and its story become an incredibly meaningful present that doesn't cost a thing.

Don't Give Away Handmade Gifts You've Received

If someone has made something just for you, it's not a good regifting candidate. Even if you think the quilt your mom made you would look better in someone else's home, it's still made by your mom for you. It's never going to matter as much to someone else, and there's a good chance you'll hurt your mom's feelings if you give it away.

One exception to this regifting etiquette rule is when you give an item a family member made you to another person in your family. Then the gift is more of an heirloom. This is especially true if a lot of time has passed since you received the handmade gift and the person receiving it will really use it and appreciate it. It's a good idea to discuss this with the person who made it if that seems like a practical option.

Do Give Away Duplicate Gifts

Regifting isn't just about figuring out what to do with a gift you don't like. Sometimes, you may receive something you really love, but you get two of the exact same thing. It's also possible the person giving you the present doesn't know you already have this item, so they give you a second one. If you get two identical coffeemakers or two copies of a book, you can subtly give away one of them without offense. You'll still have one of the items in your home, so it will be obvious to people who gave you the original gift that you appreciate the item.

The key here is to make sure you pass along the duplicate to someone who isn't in the same social circle as the person who gave you the item. As always, it's important to consider whether the recipient will want the item. Just because you have two hairdryers doesn't mean your Uncle Joe wants one. However, if you have two of something great in brand-new condition and know the person will love it, regifting is a great solution.

Do Get Creative With Packaging

Young woman preparing gift box set of natural eco friendly supplies for teeth

In general, it's best to stick to things in brand new condition when you're passing along an unwanted present. No one wants your toaster with crumbs in the bottom or your stained coffee mug. You don't need items to be in perfect original packaging, though. You can get creative with your own gift wrapping or packaging to make something look spectacular. This is a great option for sticking to a gifting budget and still give something memorable.

One way to do this is to create a gift basket with the item you're passing along and a couple of related things. For example, if you are giving someone a teapot that doesn't have its original box, nestle it in a basket with some containers of tea and maybe some cookies. Use cloth napkins to line the basket and a pretty bow to make it special. The present will be even better because of your creative additions and pretty packaging.

Don't Regift Food Items

If you've received cookies you don't like or a box of chocolates that aren't on your diet, it's tempting to regift these things. The problem is, you don't really know everything about their history. It's possible your friend Susan had those chocolates sitting in her kitchen cupboard for six months before she gave them to you. If you give them to someone else, they may not be especially fresh or tasty for the recipient.

Similarly, homemade food is never a good regifting option. You don't know what the ingredients are, so you can't be sure about potential allergens or how the food was made. What's more, passing on a plate of cookies gives the impression that you made them yourself. When someone asks for the recipe, you'll have to scramble to come up with an excuse for not sharing it.

Do Be Prepared to Explain Yourself

Regifting is a risky business, particularly if you aren't completely up front about the fact that you're passing along an unwanted present. Be ready with answers to any questions you might receive - either from the recipient or from the original giver. The best thing to do is to be at least partially honest about the situation. Try one of these responses if you get questions:

  • "I loved it so much that it's become one of my favorite gifts to give people."
  • "I have one of these and got a second one recently. I hope you'll like it as much as I do."
  • "It's so beautiful, but it didn't fit me. I thought it might be perfect for you."
  • "I absolutely loved this and just wanted to share it with you."

Do Try a Regift Gift Exchange

If you aren't sure what to do with a gift you don't like but don't want to regift it in the traditional sense, you can always try a gift exchange where everyone passes along unwanted presents. What's not your cup of tea might be absolutely perfect for someone else. This kind of upfront regifting exchange takes the potential dishonesty out of the process, keeps things out of the landfill, and is fun in the process.

If you hold a regift gift exchange, make sure it's in an entirely different social circle that the original gift. For example, have the exchange with coworkers and pass on presents from friends or family no one knows. That way, you'll avoid hurt feelings and have fun at the same time.

Regifting Done Right

Ultimately, if you keep everyone's feelings in mind, there's nothing wrong with regifting. It can even be a good way to give sustainably and stay on budget. As long as the item isn't simply a bad gift idea that no one likes or a perishable food, it's a possible option to pass along. As with all gifts, if you put some thought into your choice, it's going to matter a lot to the person who receives it.

Regifting Dos and Don'ts You Can Feel Good About