MONEY

Reuse, Recycle…and Regift?

You’re down to the wire, and your wallet is aching from holiday outlays, when — oops! — you remember you still haven’t gotten anything for your kids’ heroic soccer coach, or the girl down the block who babysits for you.

But hey! You just got some very attractive coasters at the office Santa Swap. Plus an unexpected bottle of bubbly from a pal. And a V-neck sweater from Mom in a shade you think might be mauve. Why not regift them?

After all, isn’t regifting just another holiday tradition at this point? It’s been celebrated on Seinfeld. And recycling a gift seems perfectly appropriate for the green, waste-not-want-not mood of the age.

As someone who has explored regifting pros and cons for years, I thought I’d distill some of my collected wisdom.

For starters, let’s acknowledge that the fundamental problem with regifting is that it’s dishonest. You’re conducting a charade. You’re presenting an object, which someone once gave to you, as a legitimate, here-I-picked-this-out-and-paid-for-it present — which it isn’t.

That doesn’t make it wrong, exactly. If you’ve gotten a gift that you can’t use — and one that someone else would enjoy — why not pass it on?

But your act of holiday deception has to be carried out with great care — and, ideally, some sincerity.

If the babysitter will hate Mom’s mauve sweater, you can’t give her that as a regift. That’s cheap and tacky. Ditto for the coasters. A 14-year-old doesn’t need coasters. That’s a dopey, desperate move.

If the soccer coach would actually look good in mauve and could use a sweater (and your mother isn’t likely to attend the kids’ soccer games in cold weather), voila! — a potentially successful regift. (Just get the babysitter an iTunes card, OK?)

This may sound obvious, but all regifts must be:

  • new (no hand-me-downs, at all, whatsoever, ever)
  • in the original packaging, with tags attached
  • from a store that still exists
  • un-monogrammed
  • without any indication it was meant for you (remove gift cards, please)

For additional tips and stories, check out Regiftable.com.

Some experts advise being frank about anything you’re re-giving, and telling the recipient that you got item X and can’t use it, but you truly thought they’d like it.

While this might fly from the “it’s the thought that counts” angle, you have to consider whom you’re regifting to, and what the backlash factor could be. Some folks won’t care, and will appreciate both the thought and the gesture.

Others will look at the regift in the worst possible light, and put you on their own regift list for all eternity. And you don’t need any more coasters or mauve sweaters in your future, do you? Let us know how you feel about regifting in the poll below.

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