Re-Gifting Successfully -- Tips To Help You Re-gift With Style

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Re-Gifting Successfully -- Tips To Help You Re-gift With Style and Save Money from etiquette expert Melissa Leonard.
According to Melissa Leonard, author of Gift Giving for Mommies, re-gifting is perfectly acceptable as long as we do it with class, observing some basic rules of re-gifting etiquette.

The term “re-gifting” debuted on Seinfeld in a 1995 episode in which Elaine gave her dentist a label maker who in turn presented it as a gift to Jerry. Passing along the gift we previously received can either make us appear classy or downright cheap, depending on our skill and know how.

The bottom line is as long as the act of passing along a gift represents your respect, generosity, and affection there is really nothing wrong with re-gifting. You have met the criteria for re-gifting etiquette and you have done it with class. However, you have some challenges to arriving at these criteria for classy re-gifting.


Re-gifting (recycling a gift) was once a well-kept secret that is now out in the open due to the many re-gifting blunders that have become the brunt of many jokes. The last thing we want is to become known for being a cheapskate when what we really want to accomplish is a means to show our generosity and thoughtfulness.

If done carelessly, you’ll have a recipe for disaster. Hurt feelings, loss of friends, and grudges are among the whirlwind of causes for unwanted drama. To avoid the re-gifting pitfalls unwrap the art of gift giving from the receiver’s perspective, examining what to do and not to do, to tell or not to tell, and to fix or not to fix any negative reaction.


To Do or Not to Do

What to do or not to do in giving recycled gifts can be tricky. Some make re-gifting an art form. Considering we live in an age in which recycling anything is applauded, we have the green light to do it.

So, what are the rules? For one, never leave evidence of your re-gifting. Why? It shows you were careless, and that is disrespectful. Once you have someone in mind that needs the gift that you plan to recycle, remove all cards, original wrapping paper, or any small traces of tape that once secured the wrapping. Respecting the receiver of your gift is evident when the gift is unused, in “like-new condition,” and useful to the receiver.

The acceptable re-gift is still in its original box and you stored it with care. You wrapped it lovingly with gorgeous paper. You presented it with a thoughtful “new” card. The effort reveals your respect for the receiver.


To Tell or Not to Tell

To tell or not to tell depends on the circumstance. Should you confess to your best friend that the sweater you are presenting to her for her birthday is a re-gift because you break into a rash from the material? In this instance telling is saving when you are able to reveal your generosity. You certainly do not want to give the receiver the false impression that you bought the item, spent weeks searching for it, went to a lot of trouble selecting it, and almost got a speeding ticket rushing to get it into the receiver’s hands. Later, you slip out that you salvaged the gift from your storage of unwanted presents that you’ve been collecting over the last couple of years, just waiting for the right receiver.

You can likely see that it is best to consider that silence is golden in the art of gift-giving or that honesty is the best policy. However, it isn’t what you do, it’s how you do it. The key is to be sincere. You might offer, “I received this beautiful scarf a while back and as I already had one, I have been saving it for your birthday. I knew you would love it. It matches your favorite coat.”

Another approach might be, “On my birthday, I got duplicates of this fabulous cookbook. Knowing what a diva you are in the kitchen, I knew you too would love this book and its recipes.” The idea is to present the gift with a caring heart. You have just revealed your generosity toward the receiver.


To Fix or Not to Fix

To fix or not to fix a foiled presentation may present another set of quandaries. Whether it’s a good idea to take some kind of remedial action to correct a bad situation can be a complicated matter.

There is a lot to think about once your recycled gift fizzles. Honesty may or may not be the best policy, but first unravel what it was exactly about your gift that caused the riff. Obviously, your presentation was not a good one or maybe the gift was offensive beyond explanation. Was it wrapped in a more expensive product’s box? Was the gift taped closed with duct tape? Was the wrapping paper obviously recycled? How skilled are you in making apologies? How do we go about fixing the fizzled reception of our recycled gift? Should we even bother?

The only solution here is to reveal our affection. You might try a bit of humor. You might respond, “I realized this is the kind of cleaning product someone who actually cleans would enjoy.”

By putting a positive spin on the recycling of the gift, you will hopefully avoid hurt feelings, especially if it is a friend involved. Lying is hardly ever the best policy, whereas confessing may help you save face. We cannot expect another to understand our way of thinking, but we can modestly and sincerely explain our good motives behind the gift. Honesty can reveal your affection toward the receiver.

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