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How to Regift at Christmas: Recycling Unwanted Gifts Makes Holiday Gift Giving Green

Updated on September 1, 2012
Chris Telden profile image

For Chris, choosing gifts is like writing a story: By matching the character to the gift, you learn more about people and what they value.

How many times have you opened a Christmas present, only to find your heart sinking? On the one hand, you're glad to receive such a thoughtful gift. But on the other hand..."Another mug? Wow, thanks. I'm sure I'll find a space in the cabinet with my other twelve Christmas mugs."

The truth is, during the Christmas and winter holiday season we get a lot of gifts we don't need or even, let's face it, like very much. As society becomes ever more green conscious, our homes become ever more crowded with stuff, the economy plunges into a downturn, and people begin to care more and more about waste and conservation, getting holiday gifts we don't need becomes a liability.

The solution is to regift. What is regifting? Regifting is when you give to someone else a present you received before but never used. Is it tacky? Not anymore. Not if done correctly. If done with tact, respect and flair, it's actually considerate and economical...not to mention green. So consider regifting using the tips below the next time you find yourself saying, "Um, great. I can always use a third spice grinder. I mean, um, for all those times when I need to grind mustard seed, coffee and peppercorns at the same time. So...thanks!"

Reasons to Regift

  • It's green, eco-friendly (sort of) and discourages waste.
  • It frees up storage space in your house or apartment.
  • It makes someone happy.
  • It saves you money during a holiday budget crunch.

How to Recycle Unwanted Presents: Regifting Etiquette Rules and Tips

  • Keep a record of the original person who gave you the gift. Also note who was present at the giving. Ideally, you'll give the Christmas gift to someone who never saw it before and who doesn't know it's being regifted. For example, if you received the gift at work from a boss or coworker, give it to a family member. If you received it at home, give it to a coworker for Christmas. If you do regift to someone who knows you got it as a gift, make sure they're the kind of person who's comfortable with that and really could use the gift.
  • Keep the original gift in as perfect condition as when you got it. Leave the packaging on, if possible. Before regifting, examine the object to make sure it's in "giftable" condition. If the packaging has frayed, remove the object from the package and wrap it in tissue paper, festive cellophane or other fancy wrapping before boxing it up.
  • If the gift is something that's time-sensitive, goes bad, expires or is outdated very soon, give it away as soon as possible, before it loses its value. I.e., food, calendars, gift cards. Don't wait for the winter holidays, but instead give it as a birthday gift or for another occasion. You can even give it away for no reason at all to someone who'd like it.
  • Decide who of your acquaintance will really like and appreciate the gift. There's no point giving the unwanted gift to someone who will consider it a "white elephant," too. Keep in mind that many people don't share your tastes. You may find that orange ceramic cat statuette ugly as sin, but your friend's grandmother may appreciate it.
  • Don't regift something that has no value to anyone you know. Give it away at a white elephant gift exchange, or simply donate it to charity or store it away until it can be used by someone.
  • Personalize the Christmas gift for the new recipient. Wrap the gift up with new giftwrap. Make or buy a new card. Add an extra treat, like Christmas cookies. Even if the recipient knows the gift is a regift, he or she will feel you went to special trouble for them.
  • Give the present with love and generosity, or at least free of all guilt. Giving away what you own is part of a long and honored tradition. And as mentioned in 20 Ideas for Spending Less on Christmas Gifts, the wise men who honored the baby Jesus with gifts didn't exactly shop at Saks Fifth Avenue...and you don't have to necessarily, either.

But What if You-Know-Who Notices It's Gone?

Usually, there's no need to mention to the original gift-giver that you're recycling their present by finding a new owner.

In rare cases, the original giver of the present will notice it's gone or expect to see it being used or displayed. If they are so bold as to ask about it, be honest but tactful.

Try, "It was a really thoughtful gift, but I hope you don't mind that I found someone who needed it more than I did."

Or, "I found someone who loved it so much that I thought it best to give it to her."

Don't be defensive, and there's certainly no need to say, "It was a terrible gift, so I gave it away, and good riddance! Next time, don't bother!"


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