Regifting: It Can Be Done!

My mother- and father-in-law are usually spot on with their Christmas gifts for the grandkids. They never fail to find creative ideas for my son and daughter, things my husband and I would never even think of. This year was no different; they got my kids a ridiculously cool toy from Crayola. Unfortunately, so did my parents. And my daughter’s Godparents. So, instead of having one really cool toy, my two children ended up with three.

This actually isn’t the first time this has happened. For my daughter’s third birthday, she got the same board game from two different people. So when I realized we’d have multiple copies of the same gift once again, I already had a game plan (no pun intended) to follow.

It boils down to regifting. Usually, this can be a dirty word; it insinuates that the original recipient of the gift didn’t like it, and chose to pawn it off on to someone else, who will most likely not like it either. But it doesn’t have to be that way. So, before you head off to the customer service desk to return unwanted holiday gifts, read my rules of regifting. You may save yourself time and money!

Regifting Rule #1: Talking To The Giver

Got a gift you plan to pass on to someone else? Although you may be tempted to tell the person who sent the gift your way, resist the urge. The secret of how to regift is just that: a secret. Filling too many people on your actions – or motives – is like having too many cooks in the kitchen: it spoils everything.

When my kids received three copies of that one toy, I made sure to tell everyone who gave it to them how much the gift was appreciated, and how much the kids were enjoying it. And they were enjoying the two copies we chose to keep (one for each child; if you have more than one kid, you’ll understand the method of our madness). The fact is, once everything was unwrapped, I really didn’t know which of the toys we were keeping and which we were going to pass on, so I truly didn’t know if we’d be regifting the toy my mom sent or the one my husband’s mom gave.

What about if the well-intentioned givers had been off the mark? That’s a little dicier. On the one hand, you don’t want to hurt the giver’s feelings, but you also don’t want to encourage similar gifts in the future. The decision whether to tell the giver that their gift didn’t exactly fit your tastes depends on who the person is, their relationship to you, and whether they’re likely to give you more gifts in the future. A bad gift at a wedding? Forget about it. The same person giving you bad gifts every Christmas? It may be worth taking the time to discuss your habits and hobbies so the person gets to know you better, and buys a more appropriate gift the next year.

Regifting Rule #2: Keep Records

Knowing who gave you a gift initially is key for successful regifting. Whether this means you put a sticky note on the gift before shoving it in the back of your closet, or keeping a digital record on your phone or computer, you need to make sure the gift doesn’t somehow end up back in the hands of the giver or someone they know. This is especially crucial with gifts that aren’t mass-produced, like a hand-knitted sweater or a piece of art, which can be more easily recognized.

Regifting Rule #3: Know Your Social Circle

This piece of regifting etiquette goes right along with rule #2. It’s vital that you know which friends and relatives are connected with one another. There’s nothing worse than regifting an item, only to have the original gifter show up at the same event! If you’re thinking of regifting, you must be absolutely certain that the recipient is not in any way connected with the person who gave the item to you in the first place.

Regifting Rule #4: Personal Preferences Still Matter

It’s one thing to regift a beautiful sweater that didn’t fit, but which you were too lazy to return, to another friend who wears the right size; it’s another to pass on a hand-crafted vase that appears to have eyes, which follow you around the room (I’ve received one of those; they’re creepy). But in the end, it all depends on one crucial factor: will the person who receives the regifted item like it?

If the answer is yes, then by all means, go for it. But if your answer is no, then you need to rethink your motivations for regifting it in the first place. There are places where you can dispose of unwanted gifts without putting a relationship in jeopardy: think Goodwill, a store’s return desk, or even the trash.

How We Handled The Extra Toy

Right now, the extra toy is sitting – in its box – on the highest shelf of my bedroom closet, where it’s out of reach (and sight) of my kids. The next time we have a birthday party, I don’t have to buy a gift; instead, I can pass this item along with an enthusiastic endorsement. I don’t tell the recipient (or his or her mother) that the item’s being regifted; they don’t need to know this, although if it’s a cool, well-intentioned gift, there’s no reason to go to lengths to keep it a secret. It’s just a piece of information that’s basically superfluous.

Do you ever find yourself regifting Christmas or birthday presents? Do you have any rules for how to regift?

Libby Balke

Libby is a jack of all trades, master of… well, you know how the saying goes. Media consultant by day, mommy by night, you can usually find her with a glass of wine in hand, provided the kids are in bed!

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