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The Dos and Don'ts Of Holiday Regifting

This timeless tradition can be a lovely way to pass along a treasure — or it can blow up in your face.

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gif illustration of friends regifting presents
Ana Curbelo
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One of the highlights from my childhood Christmases was watching my parents open the white elephant gift from their circle of close friends. They rotated certain presents every holiday, but the funniest was an oversized bra that made the rounds each year.

Whoever had the bra last was responsible for "sprucing it up" for the following Christmas. One year, the bra had bright sequins sewn into the straps. Another year, it had plastic grapes and giant eyes attached to the cups. The unveiling of the white elephant gift always made Christmas special, and as a teen, I thought it was pretty cool that my parents had such fun friends.

Nowadays, there are hundreds of gag gifts on the market, including such oddities as a yodeling pickle, potato gun, public toilet survival kit, and a nose flute. Although these make great white elephant gifts (if you've been invited to do so), what about regifting a practical item? There are a lot of conflicting thoughts on regifting; some people feel it is improper and bordering on cheap. But if the item is brand new and something you know the receiver will love, why not?

Certain etiquette applies when it comes to this budget-friendly practice. You wouldn't give your friend the fruit cake sitting in your freezer since last Christmas. Nor should you give an unused gift card for Chuck E. Cheese to someone who doesn't have children. Although easy and inexpensive, avoid the urge to unload unwanted presents from the bottom of your closet onto your family, friends, and coworkers. Of course, there is always a risk with regifting; hence, you should only consider giving an item that is in pristine condition and useful to someone who will enjoy it. Also, repackaging is a MUST so that it's visually appealing (and remove any tags that may have your name on them!).

Here's a simple checklist to avoid the embarrassment of a regifting gone wrong:


Regift unopened liquor, wine and champagne as long as you check the expiration date and rewrap the bottle.


Regift sentimental items. This includes an heirloom jewelry box or that string of faux pearls your grandmother gave you last Christmas. You risk hurting the original gift giver's feelings if you’re caught. Keep these items to yourself and pass them down later to the next family generation as keepsake gifts.


Pass along brand-new kitchen gadgets and small appliances if the person receiving the items doesn't already own them. Unopened crockpots, food processors, and coffee makers make great holiday gifts for newlyweds or first-time homeowners.


Give freebies you received from a hotel or conference swag bag. This is especially true if the items are mini-sized toiletries. Keep the stash for when overnight guests arrive so they have fresh toiletries or donate the items to a shelter needing personal hygiene products for their residents.


Regift unopened housewares such as candles, decorative wall art, picture frames, and vases. You can also add a touch of DIY craftiness to the item to personalize it — as long as you know your friend's taste in home decor.


Regift homemade food. Just because you received a loaf of pumpkin bread from a coworker doesn't mean you should stick a bow on it and give it to your friend. If you are given baked goods from a neighbor, remember the thoughtfulness behind the gift and bring the treat to your next holiday gathering to share with others.


Make your own home-baked goodies and deliver them as gifts. Remember, it's all in the packaging, so make it extra special by wrapping them in a holiday basket with colorful ribbons and sprigs from your Christmas tree. This creates a beautiful and tasty gift your friends will enjoy.


Regift gourmet foods such as boxed fruit or cheese and salami platters within days of expiration. Not only is it tacky, but it’s also dangerous if someone becomes ill. However, it’s fine if you have a gift basket or canister of tea, gourmet coffee, or items with a long shelf life that you know someone else will enjoy.


Gift cards make nice regifted items as long as they can be used for something the receiver enjoys, such as a special restaurant or store they frequent. Cash cards work just as well, but be sure they haven’t expired and inspect them thoroughly to ensure no personal notes are attached.

Other easy, regiftable items include books, unopened fragrances (as long as it's a scent you know the receiver loves), new board games and toys, full-sized unused bath products, dishtowels, blankets, novelty items, or practical clothing items (unused and with the tags still on them — but no undergarments!), and any homemade crafts you have stitched, painted, or designed specifically for that person.


Regift anything that has already been opened, signed, or monogrammed. Ever. Also, no outdated technology such as a GPS, iPod, etc., even if it's still in its original box. More importantly, avoid the faux pas of regifting an item in the same work or social circle. You can prevent this mistake by keeping a record of your gifts with the giver's name.

Whatever you decide to give this holiday season, make sure the item is something the receiver will appreciate. After all, you don't want YOUR gift to end up in next year’s regift pile!

What do YOU think of regifting? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Money