The Art of Re-Gifting: A Beginner’s Guide

The holiday season calls for strategic cost-cutting and clutter-combatting measures. Efforts to combine the two have spawned a sort of hush-hush practice known as “re-gifting”—that is, passing off an undesired gift as new to an unsuspecting recipient.

For those who feel naughty just thinking about it, we’ve compiled some pro tips to help you proceed with the necessary caution.

The DOs and DON’Ts of Re-Gifting: 

DO: Know the trends.

Faux fur was the “it” accessory of 2010. So before you (finally) re-gift that clutch covered in imitation chinchilla, consider the recipient. If she’s style-savvy, abort mission—she’ll be onto you immediately. A bit on the eccentric side? Slap a bow on it and pat yourself on the back.

DON’T: Acknowledge when you’re a re-giftee.

The first rule of re-gifting is that you do not talk about re-gifting. Even if the notion of receiving a re-gift makes your skin crawl, it is imperative that you maintain a veil of innocence regarding the entire practice. When friends successfully pull one over on you, they’ll never expect you to do it back. 

DO: Keep track.

The holidays are overwhelming, and the impulse to get it all done can lead to some serious slip-ups. Keep a spreadsheet of incoming/outgoing gifts to avoid accidentally rebounding an item, or bringing it to an exchange where the original gifter will be present. (No amount of Prosecco can alleviate that kind of awkward.) This will help you sleep at night. 

DON’T: Re-gift freebies (without doing your research).

You have a zillion bottles of nail polish from charity event gift bags, and indigo glitter is so not your thing. But wait…was your potential re-giftee also in attendance at one of said events? Do your research—or better yet, avoid comps completely—to prevent the ultimate faux pas.

DO: Leave original packaging intact.

We shouldn’t even have to say this—but it’s amazing what people will do when budget panic sets in. If you want to burn a copy of that album for yourself, just keep it. If you pulled the tags off that scarf to wear it “just this once,” consider it yours. Re-gifting items that you actually want is an abomination of the art form.

DON’T: Feel guilty.

It can blow your cover, and it causes wrinkles. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with turning over a well-intentioned gift to a potentially more appreciative recipient. Letting it collect dust in the corner is a waste, so pay forward the good sentiment. Wouldn’t you want your giftees to do the same? (Don’t answer that.)

Follow this outline and enjoy a highly efficient holiday season devoid of awkward missteps…that is, assuming you go easy on the eggnog.

—Kate Canary