Is Re-Gifting Right or Wrong?

A friend, who also happens to read this blog, recently asked me to do a post on re-gifting. The holidays are quickly approaching, after all, and she wanted to know when re-gifting is OK and when it’s just, well, tacky.

My personal opinion is that re-gifting is acceptable if the person who originally gave you the gift won’t find out that you gave it to someone else. I think it would be tacky if my Aunt Pat gave me a sweater, and then I turned around and gave it to my Aunt Deb. If I gave it to my friend Kandy, whom my aunt doesn’t know and will probably never meet, that’s OK.

After writing that down though, it seems kind of deceptive. Why is re-gifting OK only if the giver doesn’t find out about it? What do you say if Aunt Pat asks if you ever wear the sweater she gave you? Do you lie? I’m really not big on lying.

Is re-gifting wrong all together? I don’t think that’s the answer either. If you have received a present that you can’t return, and you aren’t going to use it, the frugal thing to do would be to pass it on. And the person you give the gift to doesn’t need to know that it was originally a gift for you. If you’re truly giving the gift with the sense that it will make the person receiving the gift happy, there’s no shame in giving a re-gifted present.

Since I know this is a touchy subject with many strong opinions, I’m encouraging you all to comment and let me (and my friend) know what you think. Bring on the re-gifting debate! :)



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By , on Nov 8, 2007
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{24 Comments}

  1. Lynnae:

    @Kathy – I honestly don’t have a problem with kindly asking family members for receipts. My mother-in-law just includes receipts with her gifts.

    I think I’m more apt to regift things received as wedding presents or baby shower gifts…events where I maybe don’t have a really close relationship with the person giving the gift. In that situation, I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking for a receipt.

  2. kathy:

    I don’t feel re-gifting is right for anything other than food or drink, i.e. a bottle of liquor or wine. If you’re dieting or are diabetic or have some other food “disability”, then re-gift the food or drink before the expiration date.

    What’s wrong with being honest with a family member or friend saying you’d like to exchange it? Remember someone spent hard-earned money on a gift and if it’s not to your taste, let them know in a kind way and exchange or return it.

  3. Personally, I would rather just ask for the receipt to exchange it…if it’s a situation where the gifter would feel badly that he/she didn’t get something I “liked” then I’d re-gift…or just let it sit for a couple years and donate it eventually…LOL!!!

  4. Fabs:

    I think regifting is fine if you truly believe the person you are giving the gift to will like it. I don’t think you should give someone a gift that you don’t like if you know they won’t like it either. If my aunt asked me if I wore the sweater she gave me, I would lie if I knew the truth would hurt her feelings.

  5. I often regift – mostly in gift exchanges. We do very little gift giving in our family. I do have a lot of gift exchanges I’m involved in. Sometimes I will use something for a year (Like a Christmas ornament or decoration) and pass it on the next year for someone else’s pleasure. I let people know that it is just fine to regift if it’s something they don’t need. I like things to visit, not move in! I do try to give gifts that can be fed to people instead of taking up space!

  6. To be honest I feel a bit uncomfortable about re-gifting. I do give away gifts I get that I don’t like, but it’s much more like a bonus non-festive thing. Someone gave me a handbag which would be perfect but is in the wrong colour so I’ll never use it. I wouldn’t give it to someone else as a present, but I’ll probably give it to a friend and tell them it’s history.

  7. Eric:

    This is definitely a touchy subject. I think it depends on how much thought a person put into a gift and how unique and original it was, among other things.

  8. We regifted a lot of our wedding presents. We got so many duplicates, and were in a different state than many gifts were purchased. Maybe we didn’t need 3 crock pots, but when one of our friends got married, they might need one.

    Housewares are one thing, but more personal gifts are harder to regift, when a person has put a lot of time or thought into a gift, it could be hurtful to learn the sweater that was knitted for you was regifted, etc.

  9. Esme:

    I agree with you. Re-gifting is ok if the other person doesn’t find out about it. For example a sweater I’d have to keep because I have to wear it so the gifter knows I appreciate it. However, things like gift baskets and other things that is consumed or used up (i.e. the gifter questions like why don’t you wear your sweater etc) it’s ok to re-gift. It’s the thought that counts really.

    Also, I re-gift to people who may have more use for the gift than me. Part of the reason for re-gifting is a I feel bad about waste. If I get a gift, which I don’t use and sits there taking up space, that is waste :)

  10. I often give it to someone, but not as an actual gift. I just tell people that i have something I’m never going to use and do they want it.

    I agree with you though. Regifting is fine, but it is a touchy issue.

  11. so should I be looking for a sweater in my box? ;)

    I think re-gifting is ok for a few reasons. If you are really financially strapped, you know the person would love it, its never been used, and you love the feeling of being able to give someone you love something nice, I see nothing wrong with it.

    Doing it because you have the money and are just too cheap to spend it, is wrong (if that’s the only reason).

    If you have the money to spend, but have an item you will NEVER use and you know the person would love, I see no problem with that. That’s being frugal, not cheap.

    Hope that makes sense?

  12. Carol M:

    A gift is just that a gift. After I give someone a gift it belongs to them and they can do with it what they wish. I buy things I think that would be for that person but sometimes it is not what they want. I would want to have this give used so if they regifted I would not be upset.

    I received a set of small bowls for my Christmas gift last year. They were from Pier 1 and they are about 2 inches accross and I have no idea what I will do with them. I have three cats so I cannot display them or they will become cat toys because of the size. Will I regift, yes, as soon as I figure out who will need them, lol.

  13. If it is something that you genuinely believe the recipient would want, then I think it’s okay. While out shopping for a wedding gift I noticed that the couple had a rice cooker on their registry. I had the same rice cooker at home (a gift from my wedding a few months earlier), it hadn’t been opened yet and I didn’t want it, so I regifted.

  14. Michelle:

    I basically agree with everyone that it’s okay if done in a tasteful manner. I have occaisionally re-gifted but try to always make sure it won’t hurt the person who gave it to me (i.e. give it to someone who doesn’t come into contact with the original giver) and also try to make sure it’s something the new giftee would actually use and appreciate. Plus I would never use it first! ha! By the same token, I wouldn’t be offended if someone did the same with a gift I gave them.

  15. chica with issues:

    I think if someone else can get more use out of the gift than you – and you can re-gift without the original person knowing then it is a fine practice. Now, if you are doing because you are just cheap then that is another story.

  16. Kimberly:

    I agree with most of these comments and your post…. Regifting is ok if the other person won’t find out… The last thing you would want to do is hurt someone’s feelings.

  17. Paula:

    I don’t usually do it, but to me, re-gifting is better than just dumping the gift at the Goodwill, or the town dump.

    My MIL gave us a bbq tool set last year for Christmas. We already had received one a few years ago from a co-worker of my dh. So, we graciously thanked her and I put the tool set in my closet for this year’s Chinese Christmas exchange we do with my family. She’ll never know, I saved some cash, and someone in my family will get a deluxe bbq tool set.

  18. My great-aunt (who is now deceased) was notorious for re-gifting. She always kept a list of who gave her what so that she wouild be sure not to give it back to the same person. No one knew for years that she did this. My grandmother had gave her some embrodried pillowcases one year that she spent months working on. Three years later, my grandmother got the back as a Christmas gift. That did not go over well.

    I would hate to know that I was getting a gift that had already been given as a gift. To me, it would show the lack of thoughtfulness and meaning put in to a gift. When I buy gifts, I like to think about what the person would want and put a lot of effort in buying something that suits them. If someone got a gift that they didn’t want, I would sell it and use the proceeds to buy something more meaningful for the person you are giving the new gift too.

  19. I don’t see anything wrong with thoughtful regifting. There have been plenty of times that someone has gotten me something that was very kindly intentioned, but completely inappropriate for my needs/to my tastes, and I have known someone who would utterly love it. I recognize not everyone feels the same way, but that’s my opinion!

    • Elodie:

      The re-gifter has no such concerns in mind. They don’t care about finding a suitable gift, all they want is to flog something they don’t want while making themselves look generous. It’s rude and tacky.
      If I’m given something I don’t like, I accept it with gratitude and give it to someone who I know will appreciate it, stressing that this was a gift I was given. Very different.

      I would feel awful being thanked profusely by someone, while I know I’m recycling some unwanted gift. An utterly hypocritical gesture.

  20. Sally:

    I think re-gifting is okay if it is done in a careful, respectful mannar. The goal is not to hurt the person who originally gave you the gift or the person that is to receive it.

    If a person has a habit of being forgetful in general, they should not re-gift. I was given a gift that I had originally given to that same person. Frankly, I was shocked. But after I thought about it, I realized that she’s so forgetful she probably had no idea who originally gave her the gift.

    If we apply the Golden Rule, the question could be: Would I like to recieve a gift that may have been unsuitable to the person that received it but is just what I would want?

    Hope that helps.

  21. Depends if it’s tacky stuff. I wouldn’t want to feel like the low girl on the totem pole (as a recipient). Kitsch kitties are out unless your friend Alice collects them and your Aunt Nora isn’t good at getting presents.

    However, I’m always grateful for gifts of things people got but don’t use. Non-holiday regifting is a lot of fun, because you can say no if you don’t like it and it goes to someone who would. I’ve never been told that a birthday or Christmas gift was a regift (at other times, though, I’ve gotten offers from friends who think I might want something they got).

    I’ve never regifted for the holiday, but I wouldn’t be averse if the opportunity presented itself and it was a tasteful thing to do.

  22. Julia:

    I think regifting is fine as long as common sense and a spirit of kindness and sensitivity is involved. I mean, if you’re just regifting because you don’t like the gift and want to get rid of it then, no…that just isn’t nice. But if it is truly a nice gift but one you just can’t wear/use/etc. then I think it’s totally appropriate to give it to someone you really think would enjoy it.

    A funny (or something)….I do child care and one year a family gave me a hot chocolate pot/cup for Christmas. Now, I don’t drink hot chocolate and I’m known as the coffee queen, LOL. But…still I accepted it graciously. One day I took it out of the box to see if one of my daughters would like it and guess what…it had drips of hot chocolate on the outside that they missed when they washed it! LOL

  23. I think regifting is okay as long as you aren’t blatant about it. I mean, I am sure you are aware of kids saying “I don’t want thiiiiiiiiiis, here you can have it bro.” all while the person giving the gift watches.

    I think if you are polite about it, then you can regift though. It would still be best to not give it to someone that will likely have contact with the initial giver because that could leave to awkward situations where both parties feel you were “cheap” by re-gifting.

    I think you should thank the person for the gift and when you find someone else you think will like it more, you give it to them in kindness. As for the issue of the original giver asking about it, I think the solution is to be coy on the subject if you are not comfortable being honest. If you know the person you gave it to uses it a lot, feel free to say “It is getting a lot of use.” or something like that.

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