A woman holding a birthday cake

The Ultimate Guide to Proper Re-Gifting

Eighteen days until Christmas. While you let that sink in, allow me to whisper one word in your ear: Re-gifting.

The act of re-gifting—passing on as new a gift someone else gave you—is controversial but only because of those who do a noticeably bad job of it. After all, if every act of regifting were carried out flawlessly, no one would find it distasteful, or even consider it a thing.

A woman holding a birthday cake

Speaking of what not to do, consider what happened in front of all my friends at a bridal shower—for me, the next bride-to-be in our circle of friends.

I opened the gift of lovely Pyrex mixing bowls, pulled them out of the box to admire the cool colors, only to have a gift card fall into my lap, lovingly addressed to someone who was not me.

With the original giftee sitting not five feet away, I did some really bad version of sleight-of-hand, hoping no one would notice.

All these years later, it doesn’t matter—honestly, it never did. I loved the bowls. Still, that awkward moment re-plays in my mind every time I see her. Which brings me to my Official Rules of Re-gifting:

1. Never admit to re-gifting

If your friends know you’re a re-gifter, you’ll find yourself in the unpleasant situation of explaining why re-gifting is different from not caring. Worse, they will be suspicious of the gifts you give them. It’s best to keep re-gifting completely to yourself.

2. Designate a location

Keep re-gifts in a convenient, albeit secret, place in a special box or cupboard with extra wrapping paper and ribbon. Some people shop for gifts in department stores. Never underestimate the utility of a gift stash that allows you to shop at home.

3. Have a heart

Any gift made especially for you or given to you by a parent, child, or close relative cannot be re-gifted. Even if it’s not ideal, consider its sentimental value. Do not even think of re-gifting. It just wouldn’t be right.

4. Privately, label all re-gifts

Do this as soon as you determine you’ve received a regift to avoid the heartbreak of back-gifting—giving someone a gift they gave you. Simply make a detailed note of where this item originated.

5. Check again

You cannot be too careful. Let’s say the gift is a book. Take a peek to make sure it has not been inscribed to you. If it’s a boxed gift make sure the gift tag has not dropped inside the box. These are the careless acts that give re-gifting a bad name.

6. No telltale signs

A regift must look brand-new. If the box is damaged or shows any signs that it has been opened, it does not qualify as a regift. Reapplying your own tape, attempting to obscure that the item or box has been opened once already—anything like that sadly disqualifies this as a re-gift.

7. Not remotely acquainted

Your re-giftee must not in any way be acquainted with anyone in the circle of friends or relatives of the person who gave this to you. Refer to Rules 3 and 4 above.

8. All new wrapping

If there’s a time you want to recycle gift wrap, a re-gift is not it. Use new paper and new ribbon on a re-gift. Anything else is a dead giveaway.

In conclusion …

No matter how you feel about it, the practice of re-gifting is here to stay. If you choose to participate, do it impeccably well.

And if you don’t want your gift to land in someone’s re-gift box, put a little thought and effort into the gift to make sure it is something the receiver will truly enjoy—not just something that lets you mark another name off your list.



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1 reply
  1. Lin says:

    Last Christmas we were re-gifted (unbeknownst to us at the time) a lovely (on the outside) tower of weird colored dried fruit and a variety of nuts. Unfortunately, the nuts were rancid and the fruit was gross too. We ended up throwing it all away. I suspect they received it the previous Christmas. Moral – don’t regift food – LOL.


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