How to regift without feeling guilty

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I’m a lifelong, unapologetic regifter.

In case you don’t know: Regifting involves giving someone something you received as a gift. And it’s about this time of year when people revisit the etiquette around regifting.

What’s wrong with repurposing a gift that you didn’t want or that you can’t use?

But the never-ever regifting crowd thinks the practice is bad-mannered. They argue that it’s deceitful, tacky or miserly. Some believe that you have to spend money for it to truly be a gift.

“Regifting is a wonderful thing,” Mary from Crofton, Md., emailed. “I love the saying, ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.’ Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean someone else won’t love it. Regift, recycle, whatever you want to call it. Just don’t hoard stuff you’ll never use.”

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I agree with Mary. I see nothing wrong with regifting. It’s a win-win. You get to save money and still give something you think someone else may appreciate. This point is key.

How many candle sets with a bath loofah do you have collecting dust in your closet because that’s not your thing? Could a friend who loves lighting candles for a hot bath be delighted to add another scent to his or her collection?

How about this as a good reason to regift? Climate change. Think about all the stuff we receive that we don’t want, a lot of it ending up in a landfill. It makes sense to recycle through regifting. Done right, regifting can be a responsible answer to excess.

Here’s a revisit of my rules for regifting.

Don’t regift used items.

The item should be new. Maybe you received a book you already have, for instance, or a second blender. Maybe you received a gift card to a store you never shop.

The exception to this rule might be a family heirloom or something you may want to pass on for sentimental reasons. In this case, you might want to disclose that you are giving away a special item you think the person might love.

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If you truly think a person will like the regift, take the time to wrap it nicely. Or buy a nice gift bag. Make sure the item has all its original parts and accessories.

And be mindful of any gift tags that might still be attached.

Label gifts for regifting.

You must keep track of who gave you the gift. I mean it.

Don’t practice regifting if you aren’t going to be careful. Nothing gives regifting a black eye more than stories of people getting back gifts that they have given to the recipients.

Also, don’t regift something someone made special for you.

Don’t be a brand pretender.

Don’t put an item in a box from a high-end store to make it appear that you have spent a lot of money. That’s just wrong and not in the good spirit of regifting.

And what if the person asks for a gift receipt? If you don’t heed my advice and you’re cornered, then come clean, immediately.

Don’t regift to an objector.

There are people who hate regifting and think it’s thoughtless.

I once gave a relative a nice shirt that I purchased, thinking she would like it. She thought it was a regift and complained to others in the family. (Don’t follow her example, especially if there’s a possibility you are wrong, as this person was.)

If you suspect someone might be offended if they receive a regifted item, don’t do it. Regifting shouldn’t lead to hurt feelings. So proceed with caution if you are a regifter.

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I was amused by this comment from a reader: “When it comes to Christmastime (and birthdays) I have been giving my wife, son, daughter and grandkids money for gifts. I would have no problem if they all decided to regift back to me!”

Don’t ask, don’t tell.

If you’re going to regift and your intention is to give something the person would truly like, don’t volunteer its origin out of some misplaced guilt. But if you are pushed, then be honest. If you suspect that you are on the receiving end of a regift, don’t ask. Don’t embarrass the person. Be gracious.

Back when I was dating my husband, we surprised his mother by stopping by her place before Christmas. We wanted to drop off her gifts because we were spending the holiday with my family. After we gave her our presents, one from him and another from me, she disappeared for a bit and returned with a nicely wrapped present for my husband and something for me.

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When I opened my gift, which appeared rushed wrapped, there were two wooden dolls dressed in Mexican costumes. I had never expressed an interest in doll collections and was frankly perplexed as to why she thought I might like them. I suspected I was on the receiving end of a regift because she didn’t want to give her son something and have me leave empty-handed.

About six months after that, before our wedding, my husband’s mother was murdered during an attempted robbery. I kept the dolls because it was the last present my soon-to-be mother-in-law had given me. Years later, I gave the dolls to our eldest daughter, telling her that they came from the grandmother she never had a chance to know. Our daughter, who collected dolls, added them to her collection.

A gift that once appeared to be an afterthought turned out to be a treasure.

B.O.M. — The best of Michelle Singletary on personal finance

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My mortgage payoff story: My husband and I paid off the house in the spring of 2023 thanks to making extra payments and taking advantage of a mortgage recast. Even though it lowered my perfect 850 credit score and my column about it sparked some serious debate with readers, it was one of the best financial decisions I’ve made.

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