Sustainable Living

The Golden Rules of Regifting Your Presents to Other People, According to Etiquette Experts 

Whether you want to be mindful of your budget or just don’t want to deal with the potential headaches of shopping during the holiday season, there is another way to indulge in the joy of gifting. One word: regifting. As the name implies, this is essentially the practice of giving a gift that someone gifted you to someone else.

For a long time, regifting had a bad rap. But as people start looking for more sustainable living solutions in every facet of their lives, the concept is catching on, especially amongst those who are looking to buy less. From a faux pas perspective, Nick Leighton, an etiquette expert, and host of the podcast Were You Raised By Wolves?, says there’s no hard-and-fast rule around regifting. Some may say its deceitful, while others believe it’s a genius way to pass along an item to someone who will use and enjoy it. 

A regift should be something that you would’ve purchased for the receiver if you’d gone to the store yourself.

Leighton says the most important thing is being mindful of other people’s feelings. And if you’re looking to make more of a permanent shift in the way your nearest and dearest exchange presents (not just find new homes for a few items you’ve received), be upfront about it, recommends Jodi RR Smith, an etiquette consultant and president of Mannersmith. “Have conversations with friends, family, and your social circles about how you want to handle [gift giving],” she says. 

So again, as long as you’re considering everyone’s feelings, and following the golden rules below, regifting is totally fine. 

The best practices for regifting

Only regift brand new items

Regifting rule number one is to only regift items in their original packaging and/or with tags still attached. “The item you are giving should be brand new and never used; never worn, never washed, never played with—even for five minutes,” Smith says. There is one caveat to this rule, though: items, such as jewelry or china that are family heirlooms, Smith says. In that case, you may even want to share that it’s a regift, since it adds value and meaning.

Or, if a friend has admired something of yours, such as a teacup and saucer or a book series you’ve already read, these could be great opportunities to regift the item. In this case, Smith recommends adding a little something extra to make the gift complete such as teas and gourmet cookies to go with the teacup or a thoughtful note and brand new fuzzy socks to go with the book series. 

Gift things that are still in style or timeless

Even if the item is new and has never been used, it should still be relevant to the lifestyle and taste of the recipient, says Smith. In other words, don’t regift something that’s dated and has been hanging out in your closet for a few years. 

Ensure it’s a thoughtful gift

Another very important regifting rule: The gift has to be something the receiver will actually enjoy, Leighton says. Smith echoes this sentiment saying, “regifting is not purely to rid yourself of some ill-gotten gift." A regift should be something that you would’ve purchased for the receiver if you’d gone to the store yourself. 

For instance, Smith shares, if someone gifted you a beautiful perfume, but you’re allergic to it, it’s perfectly acceptable to regift it to someone in your life who likes fragrances and would really love it.

Regift among separate circles

A worst-case regifting scenario would be that the regiftee finding out about the regift from the person who originally gifted you the item. To avoid this, Smith recommends ensuring that the person you’re regifting the item to has no connection with the person that gifted you the item. In general, Smith says, the more unique the gift is, the more distance there should be between the giver and the person you’re passing the gift on to.

Quarantine gifts as needed

Because we are still very much living through a pandemic, Smith says it’s also important that a regift is virus-free. So, if you or someone in your household has been sick, hold off on gifting. If possible, place gifts away from those who are sick and quarantine the gifts somewhere such as a separate room or a closet until you’re sure any potential virus is long gone. The CDC recommends a minimum of three days.  

Be mindful of presentation

Smith emphasizes the importance of putting care and consideration into gift wrapping. Go all out with wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows just as you would with a regular gift. Also, be sure you remove any original cards before wrapping. 

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