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Don't Like Your Gifts? Regifting Rules for 2011

Published
By Stacy Johnson, dealnews contributor
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You've tossed the wrapping paper into the recycling bin, you've put away the tree, now what about the gifts in the reject pile? If you've got a few there that just aren't for you, join the 68% of people who claim they've regifted, or considered regifting, a holiday present.

A 2009 study by Patron Spirits found that the most popular regifting targets are fellow work employees. Whether you're going to trot out one of these gifts on a birthday or put them away for next year, there are a few things to consider.

Philosophies on regifting vary: for some people it’s unthinkable. Others are OK with it, as long as the gift is still brand-new, not a hand-me-down. And then there’s that one relative you (mercifully) don’t see often, who will always, shamelessly, regift anything from promotional merchandise to obviously used oddities and “As Seen on TV!” items.

But regardless of where you stand on the moral scales of regifting, there are definitely right and wrong ways to go about it. Done right, a regifted present can save you money and make everybody happy. Poor regifting, though, could offend the recipient and embarrass you both for years. Here are nine things to consider before you regift:

  1. Christmas spirit. Even regifts deserve some thought. Try to make sure the gifts suit the recipients, instead of just getting rid of things you don’t like. Otherwise, they may feel like you don’t care — and then they’re more likely to regift your regift.
  2. Common regifts. We all inevitably get some of the same things from people who don’t know what to get us. You know what’s on this list: candles, body wash, cologne and perfume, obscure books and DVDs. These probably aren’t things you want to regift. After all, if you didn’t want them, who would?
  3. Condition. Use presents that are in original or mint condition. If they’ve been sitting in your closet or used around the house, cleaning them up is a must — there should be no dust, scratches or pet hair. Never reuse old wrapping paper, gift bags or tags, either.
  4. Age. You probably don’t want to regift a product that is obsolete, has been discontinued or is from a company that’s closed its doors. Look it up online before you wrap it. If the product has an expiration date, check it — this could be not only a dead giveaway but also a health risk.
  5. Accidental extras. Be careful about regifting things you haven’t opened or thoroughly examined — the original giver may have snuck a card or trinket into the box that you didn’t notice, or personalized the gift with an engraving. They also may have thoughtfully left the receipt in case you wanted to return it, but that receipt is dated and could prove embarrassing. You may have put something extra in yourself, too, so check any pockets, zippers, liners, sleeves and between pages. On the other hand, make sure there’s nothing missing, including the warranty and documentation. If the gift is in factory-sealed packaging, you’re probably safe either way.
  6. Gift cards. These seem straightforward and safe, but check the balance before handing them out. You might’ve used them once and forgotten; particularly old cards might have depreciated or expired. If the balance doesn’t match the face value of the card, consider spending what’s left toward a gift instead.
  7. Distinctive gifts. Don’t regift anything that was handmade just for you — this can be very hurtful. Plus, the recipient may have seen it around your house before. What happens when they notice that it’s missing?
  8. Source. Don’t forget where a gift came from, or you might give it back to the person that gave it to you! There are plenty of horror stories about the same gift being given in circles for years. If you’re not sure who it came from, try to regift it to someone you’re sure is outside your circle of friends and family, or someone you don’t regularly exchange presents with. Failing that, donate it to charity. Another problem with not knowing the source: you might be asked where you got it. Uh oh.
  9. Honesty. If you get caught regifting, it’s probably best to just fess up. That can turn the situation into a funny, cherished holiday memory — instead of bruised feelings, grudges or long-lasting embarrassment. Sometimes regifting works best when you acknowledge it up front. Gifts can become family heirlooms this way. If you’re in a tight financial spot, this can be the best route to take.

Keeping these things in mind can take most of the risk out of regifting, but new regifters might feel a little cheap or guilty. If that’s the case, try thinking of regifting as “going green,” instead of as “saving green.”

If you’ve gone through this list and come up with several items you just can’t regift, consider selling them on eBay — any money you make can be used to buy new gifts next time. Just don’t wait until the last minute and get stuck regifting again.

And if you don’t have anything worth regifting, or really can’t stand the thought of it, try Regiftable’s personalized gift certificates, which you can make for free and print out. This can be an inexpensive and personal alternative. And while you’re over there, check out the regifting stories. They’re hilarious.


Stacy Johnson is a CPA and has also earned licenses in stocks, commodities, options, mutual funds, life insurance and real estate. He spent 10 years working for three Wall Street firms and for the last 20 years has produced Money Talks News, a consumer/personal finance TV news series that airs in about 80 cities nationwide as well as around the web. Follow him on Twitter &mdash @MoneyTalksNews or on Facebook at Facebook.com/MoneyTalksNews.

Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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