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The Ultimate Guide to Proper Re-gifting

Six 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.

RELATED: The Gentle Art of Gift-Giving

4. 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.


A close up of a logo

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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7 replies
  1. Ruthi Sommers says:

    I have a good friend Jim who is a notorious prankster and his wife is the opposite. Another friend, Mike and his fiance, had a couples wedding shower. So the notorious prankster picked up a fairly cheap toaster to wrap and give to the future bride and groom for their shower (along with a very NICE gift card thanks to Jim’s wife) . . . however, before wrapping the box he bashed the toaster in several places, sprung half the wires which were now sticking out of the bread slots, and cut off the plug. He was able to repack it into the original box so carefully that no one was the wiser. Well apparently the bride and groom got several toasters and put a couple of them to the side unopened for future gifting including the one from prankster Jim and his lovely wife. Flash forward a year or so, and Mike’s wife is attending a wedding shower for one of their friends and yep, you guessed it, the Jim toaster was resurrected and wrapped for a shower gift. But THIS bride and groom decided to OPEN the box when they unwrapped it to take a better look and pulled out this toaster in total shambles. Yah, it was a number of years before Mike’s wife (and maybe Mike too) would even talk to Jim the prankster. Still makes me laugh 20 years later!!

  2. Joanne says:

    Mary, we have a Christmas church party in our homes that requires that the gift exchange game must not include new purchases, but must come from what we already have, or could make inexpensively. We have a ball and I got an unused Chinese teacup and saucer set that was unique and beautiful. I display them prominently, but use one particularly lovely cup every day. We offered a duplicate Swiss army knife which the group ‘fought’ over a few times in the game. Wonderful fun.

  3. Sally Fiesbeck says:

    When we got married we received a set of Pyrex bowls. I got several sets as gifts so I kept that set for regifting. When it came time to give the neighbors son a wedding gift I started to wrap those bowls. That was when a card fell out of the box. Yes, it had been regifted. The first couple had married several months before we had and the card was to them. I imagine there is still a box of vintage Pyrex mixing bowls floating from house to house to this day.

  4. Galestorm says:

    I was the recipient of a regifting gift for Christmas some years ago from my brother and sister-in-law . The Christmas before , we had visited their home on Christmas day and she showed her all of their gifts, one of which was to my eye, the most ugly handbag I had ever seen in a most putrid shade of yellowish tan. The following Christmas Eve, as we were opening gifts, my gift from them was said ugly purse she had shown me the year before! Knowing my sister-in-law as I do, I knew she had hated that purse and I was undoubtedly I was the unlucky soul she chose to to give it to the following year to rid herself of the hideous thing!I said nothing and she then said she thought the purse “looked like me!” I would have sooner she told me I had a tease for poopy looking things, which I think is what she believes. I was sure she had forgotten she had shown it to me the year before but as I have thought more about it, I have decided that she did remember she had shown it to me but simply didn’t care . It was hurtful to me but not the first time she had ever hurt me. When she and my brother married, I wasn’t even asked to be a bridesmaid though I am my brother’s only sister! She said she “had too many friends” to have to include me in their wedding despite the fact that I was soon to be her sister-in -law, I would hate to think I ever did anything like that to anyone- (regifting a gift I had shown to the recipient the year before that I obviously didn’t want.)But it obviously didn’t bother her or my brother in the least.

    • CHERYL SHANKS says:

      This would have been a good time to make a family joke of it, and say wonder where it will land next year. Like the birthday card signed hundreds of times as it is passed back and forth. Do something to make it uglier like a tacky scarf tied to it, and gift it back with a note, that says something funny, like, I hope you enjoy the fruitcake of pocketbooks!! ;0> Then do a good deed in her name, like volunteer at a charity of her choice, or donate to a charity of her choice as her Christmas gift. If she is just truly a horrid person and is just rude to you, pray for her. She has to live with herself, and if she can be ugly to you, imagine how much uglier she is being to herself!! Those kinds of people are never happy!

    • Cathy says:

      Wow, she sounds a lot like my “ex” sister-in-law. Every gift from her was always odd. One was a huge purse big enough to be a diaper bag (she always commented on liking my smaller, normal sized purses), another a white skin tight runner’s shirt with zipper at the neck (I don’t wear white skin tight anything especially with a zipper at the neck and she knew that), another a skin tight white t-shirt and neon sports bra (again, nothing skin tight especially with neon anything under it) and the final straw was nightshirts in a Lands End catalog that we showed each other for Christmas. She pointed out the one she liked and I said the same in a different color. I ordered hers and mine turned out to be a men’s XL plaid nightshirt from JC Penney (the box included the catalog delivery plastic packaging so she knew how huge it was). When I opened it and held it up, I said “Wow, family sized!” Back in the box it went. The JC Penney customer service woman got a chuckle out of it. That Christmas in 2012 was our last family get-together and they have not been missed.

  5. mamaknowsmost says:

    I remember when we got married. We received a beautiful and unique crystal bowl from a coworker. As I admired it, my husband kept saying it looked familiar. It finally dawned on him that it was the same bowl that he gave to our coworker just three months earlier for Christmas. We laughed and decided that my husband indeed had good taste! Plus it was better than the used (slightly cheese encrusted) lasagna pan we got from another coworker.


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