The Thursday before Christmas has been designated as National Regifting Day. That seems about the right timing to panic if you haven’t finished shopping yet. This year, with Christmas on a Monday, by Thursday it may even be too late for Amazon Prime to get a gift to your door in time. Going to the mall during this time of peak crowds seems like a surefire way to have your holiday spirit squashed. Suddenly, regifting seems like a pretty good idea.
Honestly, if done right, regifting is a good idea.
Yes, this etiquette consultant and many others will tell you that regifting can be okay. (And you don’t have to wait for National Regifting Day to do it.)
Regifting is an embodiment of the saying that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and it allows us to find use and purpose for items that otherwise might be thrown away or languish unused. (I will put in a plug that donating unwanted items to charity is another good option for gifts that you receive but are unable to use.) There are some general guidelines to follow when regifting:
When you chose an item to regift, make sure it’s appropriate for regifting. Sometimes depersonalizing an item is as simple as removing the gift tag. Other times it just can’t be done. (Rare is the opportunity to regift a monogrammed item!) Books should be checked for personal notes on the inside before regifting to avoid some embarrassment. Food gifts should not be past their expiration date. All of those seem pretty obvious. Less obvious may be to stop and think about whether someone has given you something that you
really shouldn’t be regifting. If you know your great aunt will be really upset if you’re not able to serve her tea in the teapot she gave you for your wedding, you may just have to hold on to it. Family keepsakes may be passed on to another family member, but it isn’t appropriate to regift them to a friend.
The (re)gift should be matched to the recipient. There may not be anyone in your circle of friends who could really appreciate that jar of pickled pearl onions that you received in the office gift exchange last year. But perhaps you’ve received a really nice pair of earrings from someone who didn’t realize you stopped wearing earrings. You have a friend you know who will really like them and be able to wear them, which makes them an appropriate (re)gift.
Don’t regift something you’ve posted about on social media. Let’s say last year when you received those earrings, you made a big deal about how “beauuuutiful” they were and posted a very public “Thank You” for them with a picture on Instagram. Doing that has severely limited who you can regift the earrings to – your one elderly relative who will never use social media. Although you may think you can give them to a friend without her knowing where they came from, there is always the possibility that someone in your social circle has a fantastic visual memory and will recognize the earrings on the recipient and tie them to the original Instagram post, leading to hurt feelings.
Make sure you remember who gave you the gift originally and that you are not regifting to someone in the same circle – or the original gift-giver! Yes, these things happen and not just on sitcoms.
When regifting in a dollar limit gift exchange, make sure the item is of an acceptable value. If you are participating in a $15 gift exchange with friends then make sure any gift you are regifting is worth about $15. This is one of only two situations where I think it’s okay to look up the value of a gift. The other is when you donate a gift you’ve received to charity and need to know the value for tax purposes. Any other time you should just happily accept a gift regardless of value.
So, looking forward to National Regifting Day 2018 (a mere 367 days away!), there are a few things you can do this year if you receive a gift that you know you will not be using and would like to regift it.
Say “Thank You” for the gift. Send a thank you note expressing your thanks for the thoughtfulness. (It should go without saying that you don’t let the giver know that you won’t be using it, but you also shouldn’t lie and say that you will use it all the time.
Put the gift away with a post-it note on it stating who you received the gift from and when. No more worries about giving the gift back to the person who originally purchased it!
When the right person and situation arises, pull out that gift, re-wrap it and give it to someone who will be happy to receive it and put it to use. No need to mention that you are regifting, but don’t lie about it either and make up a story about how you walked uphill – both ways, in snow – to get to the market to find the perfect gift.
Keep it simple and hopefully you will bring delight to someone else with your gift.