Ethical Frugality Week: Regifting

This is the final entry in a weeklong series of articles on the ethics of frugality. How far can you take things without crossing an ethical line or diving into seriously socially unacceptable waters? I’ll be recounting some of my own stories – and some stories from readers – along the way.

“Mindy” writes in:

My husband and I received a panini press as a wedding gift from his aunt. After opening it and looking at it, it appeared as though the press had actually been used already. There seemed to be a thin film of grease on the plates of the press and the packing was pretty messed up. My husband argued that his aunt probably did it because she thought we would actually like it and she already had one on hand. I thought it was really rude and kind of gross. Please don’t tell me you think this is an acceptable way to save money.

The first question raised here is whether a re-gift is appropriate at all. If someone gives you a gift, is it appropriate to keep it and then gift it to someone else? If it is, is it appropriate to use the item before re-gifting it? In other words, is it appropriate to gift someone a used item?

Let’s break it down into the three separate arguments.

Regifts are tactless. Someone gave you a gift because they thought you would appreciate it. If you simply use it as a way to get out of having to buy a gift for someone else, you’re taking the care and thought someone put into the item for you originally and tossing it out the door. If you absolutely must refuse a gift, do it quietly and tactfully by returning it and not making an issue out of it. After all, if you found it useless, why would someone else find it to be a great gift?

Regifts are fine if they’re never used. Sometimes we wind up with duplicate or redundant items or gifts that simply don’t match some aspect of our lives. That doesn’t necessarily mean the item isn’t useful or isn’t a good gift – it just doesn’t match your situation. In that case, regifting is a great way to take that item and breathe new life into it by passing it on to someone who will find value in it.

Used regifts are fine. Sometimes, you have an item in your home that’s superceded by something else. For example, perhaps you get a knife set and find that you mostly just use the chef’s knife (this often happens), then someone buys you a very expensive chef’s knife. That knife set now sits there unused, but it’s a perfectly good knife set, perfect for a friend or family member. So why not wrap it up and give it to them as a gift?

My take? I’m with the middle road on this one. I have no problem with regifts as long as the regift is an item that you received that you genuinely have no use for but can genuinely see that someone else might have a use for. In this case, it does honor the original gift, as someone thought of you and purchased an item that you would actually use – and you do use something already that fills that niche in your life – so you’re passing the gift along to someone who also might genuinely use it. The thought and care and goodwill of the item is intact.

What about used items? If you have an item in your home that you no longer use and think someone else might use it, just give it to that person without the pretense of a gift-giving occasion. If you don’t have anyone to give it to, sell it in a yard sale situation or give it away to a goodwill store.

If you do choose to re-gift used items, you should be aware that the recipient will likely feel as Mindy does – that the gift was simply something you had lying around the house that you could box up to get out of any responsibility for having to think of or buy a gift. In other words, they may feel some serious disrespect.

One thing I think we can all agree on: it’s pretty foul to regift something that you’ve used and not bothered to properly clean. It’s practically the equivalent of dropping some leftover food into a box, wrapping it up, and presenting it as a great gift. If you fall on the side of re-gifting used things, at the very least, you really should clean them well.

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  1. lurker carl says:

    It all depends upon the item, the occassion, and people receiving it. Use tact!

  2. Kelly says:

    Got a funny regifting story. My sister received a salad spinner from a relative at her bridal shower. Well, apparently that gift giver didn’t check the box when she regifted it to my sister. There were TWO other bridal shower cards in the package! The first one said to Julie from Sarah…the second card said to P(our relative) from Julie. So Sarah gave it to Julie who gave it to P who then gave it to my sister.

    Moral of the story, if you are gonna regift something, be sure that there is no evidence of the regift in the form of shower cards left in the package!

  3. JoeTaxpayer says:

    There is another point to consider – an older Aunt or Grandmother has a different set of social norms that she’s expected to live up to. Who knows the rest of the story? Is she in tough times, financially or just eccentric?

    I agree for most people a ‘used’ regift is pretty tacky. A sealed, new one, not so much.

  4. Denise says:

    I agree that it is okay to regift as long as the gift is in perfect, never used condition. If something has been used, I would ask the person if they would like it, explain the condition, and give it to them but not as a gift. An exception might be made if you know someone well and know that they would appreciate an used item.

  5. T'Pol says:

    I think re-gifting is OK if you have not used the item and the packaging is original. Once I had received a set of tea cups. I like using mugs and I have about a gazillion mugs. So, I wrapped the set which was already in a box and gifted it to a friend of mine who was moving to a new apartment. I would not ever dream of gifting something I have used. Sometimes my mom, sis or a close friend may need a certain thing and if I have a used one which I am no longer using, I might offer them to take it saying it is used but, they can have it if they like it. By all means, this is not a gift.
    Recently I gave a 12-cup coffee maker to a friend who is running a bed and breakfast. The machine was a very nice one, which I have used may be 15-20 times and it was just taking up space. When she mentioned that she needed to buy a coffee-maker for the B&B, I offered her the machine I had which she happily accepted. I cleaned and shined the machine before giving it to her. To me this is not a gift, just a hand-me–down.

  6. Michelle says:

    I have no problem with regifting things that are new. Also, if money is tight, I will often save the gift cards I receive and use them to shop for gifts. But yeah, obviously used gifts are tacky. If something is used, I have no further use for it, and I think someone else would like it, then I would offer it to them at a time other than a gift-giving occasion. The exception would be if it’s something with sentimental value, or if it’s something of yours that the recipient has mentioned that they really love.

  7. Rosa says:

    It totally depends on the relationship and the family/friend group norm, but personally I don’t really want to be friends with people who demand brand-new expensive items for every gift-giving event. If I see something that seems like it would delight the person, sure – but the “you are a bad person if you don’t shell out $50 for my wedding” standard seems like it’s not about delight at all.

    It’s kind of assumed in my family that if you get a CD or a book as a gift, the giver has read/listened to it. Baby showers are opportunities to pass on the mountains of baby gear every family has, and kids birthday parties are the perfect time to pass on the toys your kids have outgrown – or pass on that 5th teddy bear Grandma just couldn’t bear not to buy, that has never even been played with.

    We buy new things for the kids on the angel tree, but we assume our friends/family probably have most of what they need – and certainly if we went to a wedding where the bride & groom registered for stuff like a panini press, I’d assume they didn’t really need more stuff, they’re just taking advantage of the occasion.

  8. It is this attitude about gifts that turns me off entirely to the gift giving process. It is also this attitude that leads to hyper consumption in our culture, this idea that in order for something to be good, it has to be new. I am opting out of the Christmas gift giving for the first time this year because it has turned into something I no longer wish to be a part of. We are trying to express our emotions for each other through material possessions and in the circumstance above, the person was far more concerned with whether or not the gift was new or used, not that the person gave them a gift which they thought would be appreciated or that the person actually took the time to consider them at all. We are too focused on the gifts and not the people.

  9. @ Rosa #7) Well put, I absolutely agree with you!

  10. Becky says:

    Some of my favorite gifts have been regifts–but my family knows that I have no problem with used (pre-loved) items. As an example, my sister gave me a rice cooker for Christmas last year that used to belong to her mother-in-law, who never used it. It’s much more expensive than anything she or I could afford, so it was a fantastic gift. And, it kept a nice appliance from being useless clutter or ending up in the garbage.

    That said, I would advise against giving used gifts unless you are completely certain that the recipient will appreciate them.

  11. Michelle says:

    one example of how used items can be good gifts is this:

    my boyfriend picked up some used video games for his sister for christmas because they used to play them as children. It will probably bring up old memories and be very fun.

  12. Evangeline says:

    Before regifting ask yourself this: ‘Would I want to receive this in its current condition and wrapping?’ Let your conscience be your guide. The ick factor is never a welcomed guest.

  13. bethany says:

    My ethics on this are very similar to leftovers. Don’t create an expectation for something new and then give a used gift or provide a leftover meal. On the other hand, I feel fine saying to a close friend “I have a bunch of left over soup, want to come over and have some?” or “I have a nice knife set I’m not using. As that something you could use?” But I think it’s best to be up-front about your situation in these kinds of cases, and not pretend to be filling another obligation with these low-cost gifts.

  14. Zella says:

    I will buy used items (like at the used CD store), but they generally go to my husband… who would have bought them there anyway.

    @Rosa: Don’t assume that your idea of frivolous means that people have everything they want already– I have friends who swear by their panini press and use it almost daily. They make fun of me similarly for my wonton press, and my best friend can’t understand why I need a kitchen at all, when there’s such a thing as takeout menus :)

  15. Dale says:

    I think it is important to consider a couple things about a used regift, or just a used gift in general. Is the item still available new? Does it carry some sort of sentimental value, like the used video games (@ #11 Michelle) or a family heirloom? Is it some sort of antique or collectible? I would happily take a great many items that fall in these categories that people may have lying around their attics collecting dust over some new things that may be affordable to them.
    In the instant case, assuming there are no mental limitation on the aunt, she at least should have cleaned the item in question. That is something anyone can do. Beyond that, it depends on circumstances of the giver and circumstances and interests of the receive and the quality of the item. If this were an item that normally costs several hundred dollars (unlikely for a panini press), then it was likely okay (clean).

  16. Chelsea says:

    I agree that it totally depends on the people and the situation. Within my family and my husband’s family it’s completely normal to give someone something you’ve used but don’t need anymore and know they want. But we are all open about it. For example, my mother in law has tons of great clothes and accessories that she hardly wears, and at Christmas time she will let my sister in law and I go through things she doesn’t want any more and take whatever we’d like. I get a way nicer purse than I’d ever buy myself and she gets to be generous with her things. It’s a win-win situation as far as I’m concerned.

  17. The biggest concern in gifting is how appropriate the gift is for the recipient. Just like if you were buying a new gift, you have to consider if this gift is appropriate for the person receiving it. For example, I don’t give decorative items to anyone unless they’ve made it clear what they like. My least favorite gifts are the kind that demand to be displayed, but are not things I would buy myself. My husband and I have a couple of these things from our wedding, and we still don’t know how to respectfully get rid of them. (They’re religious in nature, and while we are religious, we just don’t like these particular items for our home. It feels wrong to throw them out.)

    If you were going to go out and spend money on someone’s gift, you would be pretty careful to buy something that would please them. Make it the same if you are regifting. Will they be delighted with this item?

  18. Courtney says:

    Are they positive that the aunt had used it before giving it to them? When I read the story, I thought it was possible that someone else had bought it, used it and then returned it to the store – and that just happened to be the box the aunt picked up.

  19. Laurie says:

    I have actually bought a toaster from the store (and it did appear to still be sealed) taken it out and found crumbs on it from someone using it and taking it back.

    I wonder if this happened to the aunt? I don’t know that I would assume this was done on purpose!

    Laurie

  20. Rosa says:

    @Zella – I’ve had friends who got married who hadn’t lived together before, or were very young, or had lived abroad and moved back. They ask for things like cereal bowls, pots and pans, blankets, sheets, etc. I don’t mind ponying up for those things, even back when I was living on so little I had to go in with two or three friends to afford a microwave for a h.s. friend who got married.

    Now that I’m in my 30s, most of the weddings I am invited to are for people who don’t need anything because they’ve been living together for years, or have been married before, or are combining two entire fully-furnished households after years of independence. At what point does it become tacky to ask people you’re not very close to for fancy kitchen gear?

    At that point, I really resent being expected to give an expensive gift.

  21. Kim_Mango says:

    Steven (comment #8)is on point with his comment about gift giving. I have lost total interest in giving gifts.

    On Christmas mornings, my nephews, ages 10 and 13, rip through gifts without really remembering who gave what to them. Within a day or a month, they don’t even necessarily remember the gift. It really frustrates me.

    I hate taking the time of finding a parking place, fighting the crowds, finding the right gift that they asked for, and waiting in line to pay for the gift. I have gone to shopping online and then last year resorted to gift cards. Yuck.

    What I want to do for my friends and family is create a memory together.

    For example…

    I specifically remember the mother’s day where I took my mom to the Chicago shed aquarium and had lunch overlooking Lake Michigan. She remembers that too.

    I remember having 60 tacky looking plastic flamingos placed in the middle of the night on my father’s lawn for his 60th birthday. We still laugh about it.

    Coming up with an ‘experience gift’ takes work; especially if you don’t live in the same city. I just think that I want my friends and family to know that I love them. Isn’t that what gift giving is about anyway?

    Best,
    Kim

  22. Zella says:

    @Rosa: If you’re not very close to them, why do you feel that expectation weighing upon you? If I’m not close to someone, I wouldn’t go to their wedding.

    If I’m friends with someone who is getting married, I’m getting them a gift in honor of their celebration, no matter how little or how much they have. It’s an “I’m so happy for you” kind of thing. Some people who came to our wedding gave us gifts, some did not (we’d lived together four years at that time). The only thing that mattered was that they were there on that day.

  23. Shevy says:

    I would be incredibly grossed out if someone gave me a used panini press and presented it as a gift of a new item. For one thing, I keep kosher and giving me something that could have been used for non-kosher food could ruin many, many things in my kitchen if I didn’t realize it in time.

    On the other hand, I had a friend who moved away and offered my her expresso maker. Since I knew that she kept kosher, it was fine that it was used.

    So *please* folks, don’t use something and then return it to the store. That’s just wrong. Plus, it could affect someone with allergies too as well as someone who keeps kosher.

    What if you made a shrimp panini, returned the maker, and it was bought by someone who was deathly allergic to shellfish? They could die.

  24. Andrea says:

    I re0gift used items — CLEAN, and in great shape — when two things are true. One, the person to whom I am giving doesn’t mind or actively likes re-gifted items, and two, when it is something I genuinely don’t need and I know the person would love.

    The occasion matters, too. For Christmas, re-gifting is fine. For a wedding? It had better be in tip-top original form.

    Someone who would not appreciate a regift doesn’t get one.

  25. Ashley says:

    I think we have a couple of issues bleeding into these comments.

    As I understand it, regifting is a process of receiving a gift I have no need for. I recognize that someone I DO know will truly appreciate this item, and pass it on as a gift from me to the recipient. No harm/no foul. It works for me.

    Now, as for “used” items. Same goes. I purchase 99% of all my gifts for others from tag sales, auctions, and library book sales. I always keep the recipient in mind, all year long. Having practiced this for some 20 years, family and friends know what to expect from me. I don’t know if they are just being kind, but I do believe it when they say my gift-giving practices have proven to be the most cherished. Just a sampling of my 2009 Christmas shopping list already accomplished:

    A box of 35 true crime paperbacks, purchased at auction for $3.00. My friend Robin can’t get enouch of them!

    A set of 4 Wagner cast iron skillets in graduated sizes from the 1940′s, beautifully seasoned from the decades (no rust), for my brother, John, an aspiring chef. Price for all four? $5.00.

    A vintage (1972) Salton Yogurt Maker for my friend, Paula. Gently used, but clean as a whistle. Paula has an interest in “making-her-own” foods. Her son is allergic is cow milk, but she can now make yogurt with goat milk and control all the ingredients. Cost? $1.00.

    Hope you’re getting the picture here. Whether regifted or used, it if you have/find something the recipient will really appreciate, you have done well.

  26. Kate says:

    I was thinking along the same lines as Courtney and Laurie (#18 & 19). The item could very well have been returned used to the store and the aunt happened to pick up that box.
    If I get something that I don’t like but that I absolutely, positively know that someone else will love then I have no qualms about giving it to them as a gift. But I am careful to make sure that the person who gave it to me would not find out that I passed it on. And I don’t think that I have ever told anyone that I do that occasionally. I have no problem getting something as a gift that is just what I want, but has been used before but I would not do that with someone else unless I know that they don’t mind either (I have several friends who wouldn’t care if it was a gift that was perfect).
    I know several people who are very outspoken about their “regifting” drawers/closets/rooms. To be so negative about gifts, to me, is plain rude.

  27. Marsha says:

    Such good comments!

    My first thought at the scenario is that maybe the aunt has poor eyesight and didn’t realize the panini press wasn’t squeaky clean.

    Steven’s comment is an important one – that is, how nutty we get about giving and receiving gifts – and then how judgmental we get about gifts. Good food for thought.

  28. Rob says:

    Re gifting, no matter what shape, form, or middle road some people need to believe in to fool themselves, or simply lie to themselves, re gifting in any form is rude, thoughtless, and downright disrespectfull. Think what you may. Get a gift you dont need, dont want, cant use….give it to someone who needs it. If I new a person gave me a re gift, it just tells me about that person. Lazy, shallow, thoughtless.

  29. Vanessa says:

    Great article! A couple of comments…

    Re: #25 – it’s a great idea to keep your eyes sharp all year for a good deal of a gift. And if that item happens to be a hard to find, or vintage, item that you find in a used situation of some kind, and you know FOR SURE that the person would appreciate a gift from that setting, then fine. However, it is a very fine line between one person’s idea of a vintage treasure and another’s idea of yard sale trash. 1940′s dishes are vintage, and maybe even valuable. (Most) 1970′s things are generally regarded to be horribly tacky and all too fresh in recent memory.

    I have regifted only once. I received a fondue set when I already had one and I didn’t even use that one too much. I regifted the new one with beautiful new packaging and added in some special chocolate. I don’t think that’s too bad.

    On the other hand, I once received a wedding gift from my best friend’s mother. Inside, I saw a piece of paper with a name on it. I recognized a name of a guest from my best friend’s recent wedding shower. It was the kind of reminder piece of paper you tuck into a gift so not to forget who gave you this gift after the shower. The worst part is, the name was written in my handwriting, as I was the bridesmaid taking notes and making tags as my best friend opened gifts. All her shower gifts were stored as her mom’s house until my friend’s new place was ready. Whether the mom helped herself to the pile to give me a gift, or whether my friend was in on it, I’ll never know. She did get several similar or duplicate gifts… but it still hurts that her mom didn’t make the effort to get me a nice gift or a new gift, when my mother had given generous gifts to her.

    This was just over 3 years ago and my friend and I have drifted apart, for no reason and for a million reasons. I haven’t seen her in a year and she lives in my town.

  30. Amanda says:

    If I’m ever given a gift that I don’t end up using, or use but only once or twice and I want to give it away, I am always up front about it. I won’t give it has a wrapped up present. I will simply just give it away to someone who shows interest in it, or I will mention, hey I have this item that I got from someone but it’s no use to me, do you want it?

  31. Missi says:

    Here’s my favorite re-gifting story.

    I have a cousin who is adamant about keeping the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time by drawing names. So one year he drew my brother’s name. My brother opens the gift and it’s a George Foremann grill. He liked the gift and thought he’d actually use it. My brother later opened the box at home and found a card inside, written to my cousin saying, “Congratulations on your new home!”

    This makes me want to kill the gift giving tradition even faster. I’d love it if we could spend money on a family in need instead. Esp if we’re just giving recycled gifts.

  32. Wendy says:

    Afurther twist on the family gift exchange. Our friends do this but this year it will be a family re-gift exchange. Instead of purchasing for the person whose name is drawn, they will pass on something they already have and know that person will like.

  33. Rosa says:

    @Zella – I mostly don’t go to weddings, I got burned too many times by old “friends” who trolled through their memory banks and invited a ton of people (who all brought gifts) and then we never heard from them again – or, worse, people who use their weddings to evangelize whatever extremist religion they’ve joined since college.

    But my partner is from a big, big, big Catholic family, and has only lived in two neighborhoods his whole life – so suddenly I’m dragged to weddings of his cousins and high school friends. He’s taken over the gift process (since he knows I hate it) but it comes from *our* budget, and if I skip the wedding I hear about it from his various family members for months.

    You’re lucky to have friends who don’t feel horrible pressure to attend weddings and bring big gifts – I think Rob who made comment #28 is probably more typical. I’ve been very firmly invited to not only weddings but the breakfast the next day when all the gifts are opened in front of everyone.

  34. David says:

    In my humble opinion, re-gifting is only acceptable if the item is still brand spanking new.

    My only other rule regarding this is do not, under any circumstances, get caught doing it!

    Which is my basic reason for rule #1.

    People could avoid the whole process of re-gifting if the “gifters” out there would just give gift cards.

    Great post

  35. Kathleen says:

    I don’t think there are tacky gifts. The only tacky thing I was taught about gift-giving was *expecting* gifts (let alone of a certain standard) – what the giver gives is a matter for the giver.

    But in the interests of health and safety, all gifts should probably be clean!

  36. deRuiter says:

    What’s the lure of gift cards? Why FORCE someone to shop at a certain store and hand them an environmentally damaging plastic card to do so? A plastic card which, in many cases, has hidden fees to use, will have and “end by” date which the giver will miss, and is otherwise a limiting thing. You don’t need a piece of plastic to SYMBOLIZE a gift. Give cash in an envelope or give a check. Regifting tends to be pretty tacky, even if the gift is new, because of the massive number of poorly chosen gifts which are bought new in the first place. For Christmas, I invite each friend for dinner, either at home, or to a restaurant for lunch, and we visit for the holiday, have a lovely time, and then are not stuck with some unwanted, environmentally damaging, generally useless, thing. Americans have too much stuff, ever visit a yard sale in the suburbs? Look at the disdain with which children and adults treat the things, many of them gifts, which they own, selling them for pennies on the dollar, and hauling the rest to the curb after the sale. I BUY at yard sales, 95% of my needs are satisfied at garage sales, thrift shops, flea markets, upscale resale shops, because of the selection and the low prices. Do you friends really want all that stuff? Better to invite them for a meal and a visit and NOT give gifts. TELL EVERYONE WAY IN ADVANCE THAT GIFTING IS OUT OF HAND, YOU WON’T GIVE THEM A GIFT AND YOU WON’T TAKE ONE FROM THEM. Think of how relaxed everyone would be at Christmas if gifts were confined to children! You want to give gifts, fine, but over consumption has lead us into this financial morass, and we don’t appear to be heading out anytime too soon. An economic recovery with 20% (the real figure) out of work is not a recovery.

  37. Shevaun says:

    I think we have several issues here.

    First, is it acceptable to give used items? I think it is if the gift is something you are truly proud to be giving, that is, that you feel yourself and your love as a friend is represented well by the gift.

    Is it acceptable to regift things (give a new item that was previously given to you)? I think some items are sort of like polite placeholders. For example, it’s good manners to bring the hostess of a dinner party a small gift. But what if you are the date of the hostess’s friend, and you don’t know what the hostess likes? A scented candle would be a politely generic gift… and would likely be regifted. But that’s okay, because you fulfilled your duty of offering a little tidbit which says “hey, I know my manners and I appreciate you welcoming me into your home even though you don’t know me.”

    And then there’s the final issue: can you regive dirty things? I’d say no, but it returns to the issue of whether the item accurately reflects yourself and your care for the recipient. Giving a dirty gift might be a subtle way to end an unpleasant relationship (NPR recently had an interesting discussion of “frienemies”-the friend-enemies we keep in our lives because we don’t know how to get rid of the them).

    Just thoughts.

  38. reulte says:

    I re-gift occasionally but don’t have much call to these days because I have sent out a ‘wish list’ for the past decade. People know what I want for certain – there is no guesswork and there is nothing for me to re-gift anymore. Moreover, in my wish list I have what NOT to get me — cookies, candies, perfume, religious items. Maybe some people think this is tacky but I’ve had several people comment that they appreciate it. I suppose it depends upon your friends and family.

    Up until a day or so ago, I would have said ‘tacky’ about the re-gifted panini press, however, after reading about the switcheroo in EF: Lifetime Guarantees, I would assume the aunt had been caught in that situation and merely clean the item thoroughly without making mention of it.

    Re-gifting used items – well, that gets very problematical and depends upon so many factors such as what the item is, who it is going to, what the occasion is – that a general rule would be difficult to come up with. I think that really good used-item re-gifting (such as Ashley #25) requires a lot more thought and consideration that buying something new and most people (rightly!) consider their time more valuable than their money. However, good personal relationships are more valuable than time.

  39. reulte says:

    Correction — …I would have said ‘tacky’ about the DIRTY re-gifted panini press.

  40. Jo says:

    Regifting is fine when doing a “Chinese” gift exchange. But what is being exchanged needs to be something that is not considered of sentimental value from the giver. If an aunt gave my college-aged daughter a nice gold necklace with a pendant, but she wears silver, I would find it tacky for her to regift it during such a Christmas exchange. There is always a possibility her friend would see it worn on someone else and wonder why that is. That would make for an uncomfortable moment.

    Tact is definitely the operative word here. Clean is, too, if a small appliance or anything used for food is being regifted. Personally, it would bother me unless it was meant to be a “gag” gift.

    DISCLAIMER: My apologies in advance for mentioning the “Chinese” with gift exchange. Not having been to one in many years, I don’t know what the politically correct phrase is now. I did not intend, in any way or shape, to disparage the Chinese culture of how they celebrate the holidays.

  41. prufock says:

    Advice for the aunt: Next time, get them nothing. You’ll save money and maybe stop them from whining about it.

  42. Amy says:

    One year for my step-mom’s birthday in October I gave her three books (she’s a big reader). I had spent at least an hour at the bookstore reading the backs of tons of books to find three that I thought she would like. When I gave them to her, she said she had already read one of the three. No big deal, I gave her the receipt and assumed she would exchange it for a different book.

    Two months later on Christmas Day, I’m opening a gift from her and it’s the same book. Not just another copy of that book, but the exact same book. And she even admitted that it was the very same book I had given her for her birthday. I was horribly offended. I would much rather her have taken the book back and picked out a different one. It was her birthday gift after all.

    I guess my point is that if someone gives you a gift that you don’t need or want and you are able to return it – why not return it and get something you do need and/or want? As a gift giver I would much rather the person do that than regift the item to someone else.

    And if you are going to regift something, do not give it back to the person who gave it to you!

  43. DivaJean says:

    There are only one or two family members I give to that would have any problem whatsoever in receiving regifted items. Most of my family has progressed on to being thankful for what they get, regardless. We are a family of 6 on my income alone- other family members have two working parents &/or way less kids than we do. It is ludicrous for me to scrimp and save, buy my kids 2nd hand clothes, 2nd hand toys, bikes etc- then turn around and buy extended family brand spanking new stuff at much higher prices than we would consider for our own kids.

    My daughter (eldest- 10 yrs old) LOVES American Girl dolls. She knows that no way in the world are we able to afford $110 per doll- but she knows I plan ahead and get great eBay sales (under $40!) in the summer when no one else is looking. She is more than happy- ecstatic usually- on Christmas when she opens the box and gets a used doll. Sometimes I need to rewig and often I will need to sew nice clothes from my sewing scraps. This means more to her than any $110 doll would.

    My in laws are completely on board with us in this quest. They actually were the ones who also came up with making cloth gift bags for family giving- to stop wrapping paper waste too.

    My sister and her family- not so much. She and her husband work 4 jobs between them to keep their one son in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. They go to Disney and on big trips like you or I would go to the corner store. Yet they con’t seem to grasp why my family of 6 on one income can’t live the same life they do…

  44. Jenny says:

    My mil gave me a set of dishes that belonged to a recently deceased friend. I felt very uneasy getting such a “gift”. When I regift, it has to be new, in original packing and overwrap, and I also tell the person receiving it that it is a regift.

  45. Jenny says:

    Maybe Mindy should have mentioned to the relative that the appliance appeared to be used. I now remember that I once bought an answering machine. When I tried to use it, it had another person’s greeting and messages on it. The store replaced it, but that event makes me wonder if the aunt bought Mindy a used item and didn’t realize it.

  46. GayleRN says:

    I too have bought an item in new packaging only to discover that it had been used. I once bought a vacuum that was already chuck full of dirt and there was no way I was going to pay full price for a used item. Back to the store it went, although I am sure the store assumed I had been the one using it.

  47. Rosa says:

    The other thing I think is funny about this discussion is that the consensus seems to be regifting is only OK if you can plausibly lie about it – that’s about the opposite of ethical.

    (though I would agree that things ought to be clean, of course. And that it’s totally possible it was the store the aunt bought that gift at that passed off the dirty panini press as new.)

  48. Emily says:

    #36) about Gift cards – I get them for people who I’d like to give money to, but know they would spend it for things they need when I really want them to get something frivolous!

    About gifting, it seems to me that it’s a sad state when there are “rules” about gift giving. Gifts are things we give other people because we care about them, are thinking of them and believe it to be something they like. It seems rather selfish to assume the motivation of someone behind the gift.

    If you are fortunate enough to have people in your lives that care about you and want good things for you and want to be there for special events in your life, then the gift is just extra bonus. Be thankful. There are alot of people who would love to be in your shoes.

  49. kate says:

    @Emily, 48. Beautifully said, and I concur. The thing that means most

  50. Sharon says:

    It seems to me that there are a lot of people posting who are just too sensitive and emotionally fragile to ever make my gift list!

    Ye Gods, people, if someone thinks enough of you to give you a gift, be appreciative and grateful. The dishes from a deceased friend are a tribute to you: the person who gave them treasured the deceased friend and you both enough to share the old memories of meals with her friend with future memories of new meals with you.

    And why think evil of regifting? If you find gift cards from previous donations in your gift, I think it is funny. Why assume that the dirty pannini press was used by the donor and start thinking negative thoughts about them instead of assuming that Henry pulled his stunt of using something and returning it in a new box to the store? If you think so negatively of gifts, I hate to think how unhappy you must be in your everyday life.

  51. Patty says:

    Is she sure the ‘film’ is from used grease? My sandwich press had specific instructions to wash before use because of the teflon coating from processing leaves a residue.
    Or maybe its just one of Henry’s old ‘switcheroos’. (See comments to post on gaurantees)

  52. Sally says:

    Seems that some people should get off their high horses – the ones who are so virtuous that they will give “used” stuff as a gift for a b-day, holiday, wedding, etc. -without prefacing it as that. I am either going to purchase it new or give cash for a GIFT. If it is something used that I don’t need – I pass it on – but not pass it off as a gift.

    Better yet, I like getting together for a meal, movie, etc. Spending time with loved ones is nice.

  53. Christina says:

    For those that consider re-gifting to be gauche, wrong, whatever . . .

    Have you considered that you are allowing advertising and marketing firms to form your opinions for you? That it hasn’t been until the last 40 years that most gifts weren’t necessarily new (they were usually hand made and/or remodeled/repaired re-gifted items) and . . .

    That by NOT re-gifting you are conforming to consumerism, waste and landfill/environmental issues.

    I find it funny that many of the same “you are an idiot if you re-gift” are also the ones that think that anyone using anything but a bike or hybrid is a drain on our natural resources. What hypocrites.

  54. Nancy says:

    I regift all the time, if I can’t return or exchange something or sell or donate it to the thrift shop. I have to, otherwise my converted attic apartment would look like Costco.

    You see, the people who give me gifts give NO thought whatsoever into buying me something. Otherwise, why would you give someone who wears a size XS an XL sweatsuit set? A lobster cooking/seasoning kit when they’re allergic to lobster? Stuffed animals and knicknacks when they’ve seen your home and know you DON’T collect these things?

    I sound ungrateful. I’m not. I hate waste. Waste of their money, waste of my time.

    Hey, wait a minute – maybe I’m the recipient of regifts!!!

  55. dsz says:

    #23 Shevy @ 4:43 pm October 25th,
    I was with you until here:
    ‘What if you made a shrimp panini, returned the maker, and it was bought by someone who was deathly allergic to shellfish? They could die.’

    That’s quite a stretch,no? Especially since any item which comes in contact with food is/should be washed before first use.

    #25 Ashley-You found four Wagner skillets for $5? I’m soooo jealous! You have one lucky brother.

    #48 Emily about Gift cards – I get them for people who I’d like to give money to, but know they would spend it for things they need when I really want them to get something frivolous!

    I dunno, don’t you think there’s the possibility that the person might better appreciate what they need than something frivolous? True, a gift is a gift but if the person really has a need (groceries, gas for the car, utility bills), is it a kindness to get them iTunes? One common consensus here is to give (new or regift) with the individual’s preferences in mind. I would think if you’re close enough to give a gift at all, you’re close enough to give a gift they’d truly appreciate and if you KNOW they’d buy something they need, why force them into something frivolous? I think that’s how we end up with regifts in the first place-the giving of something the recipient can’t or won’t use.

    Love the references to Henry. Maybe ‘pulling a Henry’ will become a new TSD shorthand.

  56. Jenny says:

    #25 Shevy

    I would think that the onus would be on the store to not automatically put a returned item back in stock (especially one that had obviously been opened – for goodness’ sake, take it out and look at it!).

    As a vegetarian who keeps kosher, I can understand your concern. You say “So *please* folks, don’t use something and then return it to the store.” But what if I used something and it didn’t work properly? I wouldn’t hesitate to return it to the store. The store should be responsible for examining returned items (not that stores necessarily are…but that’s not the shopper’s fault!).

  57. Lenore says:

    I once received a Michael Bolton CD from a co-worker I had never discussed music with, and it made me wonder how many times it had been wrapped and slipped from one unimpressed hand to another. (Yes, Michael Bolton is the musical equivalent of fruitcake to me.) Still I was able to return it to Walmart sans receipt and get something I liked. Hard feelings? No, just a little suppressed laughter in my cubicle and eye rolling with my friends.

    There are two reasons for giving gifts: love or obligation. Gifts of love go to people we know well enough to be casual and candid. If it’s a regift we can say so, but we probably put more thought, money or effort into it than we would for an acquaintance. Gifts of obligation often arise from formal occasions like weddings or workplace exchanges. This is prime time for regifting because an impersonal item that didn’t fit our lifestyle may be perfect for someone we know little about.

    I think it’s important that regifts be clean regardless of recipient. Original packaging and a never-used appearance are essential for obgligatory occasions. I shy away from gift cards because of the hidden fees and expiration dates, and I don’t like giving cash either because it makes “this is what you’re worth to me” so crassly obvious.

    The most important thing to remember is that gifts are never to be expected and always to be appreciated–unless there is some obvious and intended insult. I have yet to receive a “thank you” from a wedding I attended this summer, so I won’t be giving the couple or their children any more gifts. It is far worse to be rude or ungrateful than to give the tackiest present.

  58. Ally says:

    I think that it is important to take into account the person receiving the gift, as well as the item itself. My brother often gives me CD’s or DVD’s for Christmas, and it is clear that they were previously owned. For a shower gift, a friend gave me a bunch of old cooking and food books that were obviously from a used bookstore. I have no problem with media that is being reused, and often there is a charm to getting an old book for a gift.

    On the other hand, other shower gifts I received included things like sheets, towels, and curtains. These are things that, in my opinion, the condition can deteriorate more quickly and it is nice to receive these things in new condition. If it is being received as a gift, I hope the person would get a new set of sheets, or re-gift something that had never been used, rather than giving old ones.

    I agree with the person who said there is a difference between re-gifting and hand-me-downs, the big difference is not trying to pass it off as brand new. There is nothing wrong with sharing, if someone else needs or could use the item. But it does not always have to come with the pretense that it was never used. As long as you are clear with your intentions (such as, I don’t use these anymore, and wondered if you might have a use for them), the person will probably be grateful for the item.

  59. tentaculistic says:

    See, I’m a bit of a bargain-hunting queen online, between Craigslist and eBay I can find some awesome stuff, and yes much of it is used. So I think that if you can put the right amount of thoughtfulness and appropriateness when buying for someone, it can work out ok. That said, there are some big-time no-no’s! I think there are a couple of rules about giving used, or regifted, gifts:
    -CLEAN! No exceptions! Spotlessly clean! (waffle batter stuck to the waffle iron? Urk)
    -No “ick” factor. Each item is different, so a used vintage teacup has a very different feel from used spandex leggings or a negligee, for instance. (in case you’re wondering – those last 2 items should not be given used!!)
    -No gift cards from someone else in the packaging.
    -Just *give* them the thing from your house that is now clutter, not as a formal present, but as a blessing (if they consider it a blessing).

  60. tentaculistic says:

    Oh, and Trent – I LOVE this ethical frugality series! It’s such a great topic, and really hits a key dichotomy between frugality and ethics – one that I think worries a lot of people, or makes them turned off by frugality.

  61. Matthew says:

    I regift all the time. I get lots of good corporate swag given to me, like Mont blanc pens, watches which I rewrap and pass on. They dont have logos on them so it looks just like an expensive gift.I also give my company polo shirts and baseball caps as gifts. They are very good quality and the logo is small. I typically regift more then 50% of my Christmas and birthday presents. I am a little picky! At Christmas time when I open gifts from my brother and sister in law, I have been known to say “Oh, my houseboy will love this”. I love regifting, to me it keeps the energy flowing. I have framed a lot of prints and when someone is moving, I take one off the wall, clean it and wash the glass, wrap it and give it as a “housewarming gift”. I like to do gift baskets and you can mix in a few “new” items with a couple of regifted ones. If the basket looks lush, no one will even notice half the gifts have been recycled. Just Give!

  62. I’m with Sally. Nothing wrong with regifting so long as it is announced as such upfront. We do a yankee swap in my neighborhood and regifting goofy gifts from last year is a tradition that brings much entertainment. Outside of a yankee swap, I don’t think regifting is for any type of special occasion.

    Regifting should be done only at those non-holiday times when you are given something you don’t want. Just give it to someone else for no reason other than you like the friend and the friend likes the item. Regifting on holidays is a little cheesy.

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