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This holiday season, you may feel tempted to give the gift that someone already gave.
That's right: you might feel tempted to re-gift.
Re-gifting occurs when someone gives another person a gift that he or she received as a gift in the first place. Say your grandmother gave you a horrendously ugly Christmas sweater that you then give to your hippest friend. That's a re-gift, and while it might make your hip friend happy, it might break your grandmother's heart. After all, she didn't go to the trouble of buying, wrapping, and delivering your gift just to have you give it away!
This practice is not a sin, but it's far from the nicest thing in the world you can do. For that reason, most people feel a little uneasy about re-gifting and want to take every precaution they can to make sure that they avoid detection.
Take it from us: it's very possible to re-gift without hurting anyone's feelings. You just have to be careful, conscientious, and put a little bit of effort in and you should be able to accomplish it without any serious consequences. Follow these 12 tips and you'll be re-gifting like a pro in no time.
1. Be thankful, no matter the gift
They say that giving feels better than receiving, and when it comes to giving away gifts you've received, that is true. When you tear open a package just to find an unwanted gift within, it can be difficult to hide your disappointment.
However, when you get a gift you don't want, it's vital to grin and bear it. On one hand, the act of giving itself is something to be grateful for. You were so important to someone that he or she decided to give you something you'd genuinely enjoy (hopefully). The least you can do is smile and say thank you.
On the other hand, if you project disappointment, the gift giver is going to be on high alert for any signs of re-gifting. You don't want grandma to ask to see the sweater she bought you the next time she comes to visit as a way to call your bluff. When it comes to re-gifting, diplomacy is crucial.
2. Keep track of where your gifts came from
If you’re a serial re-gifter, then it can be tough to keep track of all the lovely things you plan to give away. The worst possible outcome of a re-gift, however, is giving the same gift back to someone, so be careful.
Keep track of who gave you what in a spreadsheet or even by using sticky notes. It might seem silly to list everyone’s name out (and it might make you feel a little guilty), but six months down the line when you’re scrounging through your stash for a last-minute birthday gift, you’ll be glad you did.
3. If the gift has sentimental value, just keep it
It’s one thing to give away an extra iPhone charger; it’s another thing to give away a family heirloom. If a gift has any kind of sentimental value, just suck it up and keep it. You’ll learn to appreciate those gifts over time, the ones imbued with memories and emotions. They’re also the kinds of gifts that the original gift giver won’t stop asking about, so if you give them away, you’ll be covering up for your crime for a long time to come.
4. If the gift came from someone extra meaningful, just keep it
Similar to Point #3: if someone who means a lot to you gave you the gift, you should probably hold onto it. People can come and go from your life seemingly without warning, and the gift that you originally hated might become a cherished keepsake.
Past that, if someone matters that much to you, you probably don’t want to run the risk of him or her finding out about you giving away their gift. Most people don’t take kindly to re-gifters, and you don’t want someone special in your life to start thinking of you as ungrateful.
5. Choose someone far outside the original gifter’s circle
If you do decide to give your gift as a gift to someone else, choosing the correct recipient is the most important thing you can do. Both the recipient and the original gift giver can never find out that you re-gifted. Otherwise, the original gift giver will be hurt and the recipient will feel like you only care enough to give something secondhand.
To avoid this, you need to choose a recipient that is far outside of the original gifter’s social circle. With social media, this can be much harder than you might expect. Make sure you check to see if the gifter and recipient have a connection in any way, including any mutual friends. Only re-purpose a gift if you feel positive that both of these people won’t cross paths anytime soon.
6. Consider donating the gift to charity
Before you consign your unwanted gift to the re-gift pile, consider donating it to charity instead. Especially during the holiday season, plenty of worthy charities would be overjoyed to receive your donation. They can find someone who actually needs the gift, and you get to do the right thing. It’s a win-win.
Donating to charity also insulates you from scorn if you’re outed as a re-gifter. How can someone be mad at you for being generous? They might be a little bit miffed, but they’ll probably understand.
7. Eliminate all signs of previous ownership
Price tags, receipts, pieces of tape, handwritten notes: everything must go. You need to eliminate all signs of previous ownership from your re-gift. Nobody likes to get a gift secondhand, and if someone feels that way, he or she might start asking you some uncomfortable questions about where the gift came from.
Before you give the gift, play a mental game of detective. If you didn’t know that this was a re-gift, would there be anything suspicious about it? If you suspected it might be a re-gift, is there anything that might confirm your hunch? Really think about it; you’d be surprised how much mental energy people can expend on outing re-gifters.
To be sure that you’ve eliminated all traces of re-gifting, you may have to get creative. Did you damage the original packaging when you first opened the gift? You’ll have to repackage it. Does the gift come with any indication of its purchase date? If so, be ready to explain why you held on to it for so long before giving it. Preparation is the name of the game here.
8. Make sure your re-gift isn’t a re-gift already
You’ve probably heard stories about gifts that just go in circles. Some gifts are simply so horrible that no one wants to hold onto them. The recipient re-gifts, and the next recipient re-gifts, and so on, until finally, someone unwittingly presents the original gift giver with a re-gift and everyone has some explaining to do.
So, just like in Point #7, put on your detective hat. Is there anything about your gift that indicates re-gifting? If there is, it’s probably best to just hold on to it, donate it to charity, or just get rid of it to end the re-gifting cycle.
9. Give the gift “just because”
If you can, avoid giving re-gifts during the holiday season, for birthdays, or for any other occasion that calls for many people to give gifts to the same person at once. During these types of occasions, there’ll be many people scrutinizing every gift given, which drastically increases your chances of discovery as a re-gifter.
Instead, give the gift “just because.” Often, these kinds of gifts feel more meaningful because they’re unexpected and feel like authentic gestures of friendship and love. They’re also less likely to be observed by a large number of people. A “just because” gift is also lower stakes; if the recipient finds out that it was a re-gift, it likely won’t matter much because he or she wasn’t expecting a gift in the first place.
10. Repackage the gift with a little extra oomph
Repackaging a re-gift can be an art form. You don’t just want to take the original box and throw some wrapping paper on it. You want to put some effort into dressing it up, if only because you didn’t put that much effort into procuring the gift in the first place.
At best, you’ll be able to add a secondary element to the re-gift that makes it more meaningful for your intended recipient. Say that your aunt gave you a picture frame that just doesn’t work with your apartment’s decor. You want to give it to a friend whom you think it would appeal to. Scour Facebook and find a nice picture of yourself and your friend, and then pay to have it professionally printed and throw it in the frame. Your re-gift has turned from a low-stakes effort to a meaningful gesture in one fell swoop.
This kind of forethought also insulates you a bit from criticism if discovered as a re-gifter. After all, you weren’t just getting rid of the gift; you were giving it to someone who would appreciate it to show how much you care. That’s the essence of giving, after all.
11. Lift the stigma with a re-gift exchange
If you have many gifts you need to offload fast, and you're worried about discovery as a re-gifter, it may be time to lift the stigma. Set a date, send the invites, and get excited: you're hosting a re-gift exchange.
Of course, you don't have to advertise it as a re-gifting event. Just have a post-holiday gift swap where people are encouraged to bring gifts under a certain price range to exchange. Usually, these types of exchanges are White Elephant exchanges (also called Yankee Swap). Participants put their (wrapped) gifts into a pile and everyone takes turns picking until the gifts are gone. This type of exchange is simple to set up, low pressure, and can even be anonymous, allowing you to re-gift out in the open without fear of reprisal.
12. If caught, be honest
Even if you take every precaution listed above, you might still be outed as a re-gifter. That's just the risk that you take when you decide to engage the morally dubious practice of giving away the gift that someone else so thoughtfully bought for you. If the original gift giver or the recipient finds out, things could get tense.
If they do call you out on your re-gifting, your first reaction might be to deny that you did anything wrong. Your next reaction might be to get defensive, or even go on the attack, asking why someone would give you such a ridiculous gift in the first place.
All of these reactions are understandable, as you're embarrassed and want to save face. Why would someone think that you'd want a pair of bedazzled slippers anyway?
However, your best move is simply to be honest and accept fault. After all, you're the one who decided to re-gift, and while re-gifting is far from a capital crime, it's generally considered "not cool" in most circumstances. Apologize and, if asked, calmly explain why you did it without insulting anyone's taste. Most friends or family members will be fine with a sincere apology.
We know the holidays can be a crazy time to navigate. Just remember there are lots of ways to save money while holiday gift shopping, and re-gifting is just one of them!