If you feel that re-gifting is cheap, think again. Being thrifty is being smart. In this economy, re-gifting makes great sense as long as you remove any evidence that the gift was once yours. The last thing you want to do is hurt someone’s feelings. Never try and pass off something as a gift when it’s clearly a donation, a hand-me-down, or something that you don’t think your giftee would like. If you can honestly say that you are not burdening someone with an unwanted item, go for it.
Done correctly, re-gifting can be an art form. Most everyone has recycled a gift or two. The end goal is to make sure that the gift is suitable for the recipient. Gift-giving is about the gratification someone receives from a gift, not whether the item was purchased or passed on.
When is re-gifting permissible? Never re-gift within a specific social circle. In other words, make sure the person receiving the gift does not know the friend who gave it to you in the first place.
Can I use the wrapping from the original gift? Never. Choose new wrapping paper and ribbon with a fresh note (make sure to remove the original card). And don’t use packaging marked with the name of a retailer, whether the original source of the gift or not. This could be embarrassing all around if your re-giftee tries to return the gift.
What items should never be re-gifted? Food items, anything used (such as a toaster oven), books that show any sign of wear, and department store gifts-with-purchase.
What about gift cards? Partially used gift cards are a dead giveaway that the gift was once yours, especially if the dollar amount is not an even number.
Should I keep track of who gave me the gift first? It would be embarrassing to give back a bottle of wine to the person who gave it to you in the first place. If you are a regular re-gifter, keep a database to be on the safe side.
Can I sell my gifts on eBay? As the largest store in the world, eBay is the perfect place to sell anything. With your windfall, you could buy new gifts to keep or give away.
What about re-gifting for hostess gifts? Re-gifting is ideal for hostess gifts. Soaps, candles, books, stationery, bottles of wine, or small gifts for children are the perfect way to say thank you.
Should I re-gift to charities? Charities are perfect recipients for re-gifts, and you even get a tax deduction.
Should I ever admit to re-gifting? If the gift is expensive, this is one case where it is socially acceptable. For example, if you went to the opening of an upscale retail store and they gave you a set of bracelets that you’d like to pass on, your giftee would probably appreciate knowing where they came from.
When is re-gifting an especially good idea? If you have friends or family who are “expecting,” why not pass on costly baby equipment that’s just taking up space? In this instance, be up front about the gift.
The Golden Rule of Re-Gifting is that the gift must be new, not used. Always give a gift that you would want to receive, or don’t give at all.
Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert and the author of A Traveler’s Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder of The AML Group, certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital and Microsoft to Nordstrom and KPMG. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle Magazine, The Sunday Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. She has appeared on various radio and television stations, such as ABC, CBS, and Fox News. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on www.Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and www.Facebook.com/LisaGrotts.