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How to regift… and get away with it

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Posted by Mary Ward

Christmas has come and gone, and chances are you are sitting in a house full of presents that you didn’t need and, frankly, didn’t really want. But, what should you do with the mug set you can’t fit in your cupboard, or the bottle of wine you won’t drink?

Once a serious taboo, regifting is now common during the post-Christmas period (sorry, January birthdays). One in four Australian households did it at Christmas time, and many decide to continue that regifting spirit into the New Year.

At its best, regifting is a cost-effective and environmentally friendly process that results in two happy (re)gifters and one happy recipient. At its worst, it leaves you with an offended original gifter, an embarrassed regifter, and a recipient who doesn’t know how they are supposed to use a carpet shampooer in their tiled apartment.

Here’s how to regift like a pro.

1. Keep a list of original gifters

When regifting, there is one thing you absolutely want to avoid: giving the present back to the original gifter.

Keep presents that are ripe for the regift in a box, and attach a Post-it note on each, listing the person who gave it to you, when they gave it to you, and any other relevant facts (if someone else received the same item etc.).

2. Know your social circles

While having a list of original gifters will stop you from handing that tea cosy straight back to Aunt Margaret at her birthday two weeks after Christmas, it must be combined with an ASIO-level knowledge of the original gifter’s social circle.

In many ways, accidentally giving the present to a friend of the original gifter is worse than accidentally giving it to the original gifter. Because, not only are you embarrassed when the original gifter goes to the recipient’s house and sees some oddly familiar bookends on their shelf, but you put the recipient in the awkward position of having to explain what has happened (when they have probably only just discovered the regifting occurred themselves).

Know who knows who, and regift as far away from the original gifter as humanly possible.
Your anthropological study of friendship circles in your suburb/workplace/football club doesn’t guarantee success. (How do you know your gift wasn’t regifted? How do you know the recipient will not regift to someone else?) But it’s a precaution you should always take.

3. Move quickly

A quick game’s a good game when it comes to passing on your presents. Not only are new presents less likely to have been broken rolling around in a drawer, or covered in dust, they are also more likely to be useful. No one needs an expired gift card, or a cassette player.

4. Be thorough

While you should aim for a swift regift, don’t let your pace stop you from doing a proper job. New wrapping paper is a must, as is undertaking some necessary checks. These include making sure that:

  1. There is no nametag on the present
  2. The present is not monogrammed
  3. The present was not homemade


The first is an easy fix. But the second and third mean that the present is (*gasp*) un-regiftable.

5. Match the gift to the recipient

Be honest: is this a bad gift for you or is it just a bad gift full stop? Regifting isn’t a council pick-up; you are giving someone a present. This means the gift you give needs to be something they will like.

6. Exchange for a different gift

If you have a gift you don’t want, but don’t think anyone else would want either, see if you can return it to the store to exchange for a different gift. Then you can pass on your new gift to a loving home, while also ridding yourself of your old gift. Win-win.

Oh, and the chance of anyone finding out is drastically reduced because you are technically giving a brand new gift. Win-win-win.

7. Don’t forget about the original gifter

Let’s assume you don’t actually want to offend the original gifter, because, in most cases of regifting, you don’t. (Hey - we said most!) Often, you simply have a gift destined for the bin, and you want to give it a happy home.

The best litmus test for this is your conscience. If you don’t think you could tell Uncle Rick why his life-size R2-D2 isn’t in the pool room without lying about a home invasion, you probably shouldn’t regift it. Ditto for the historic, but unsightly, family heirloom your grandparents wanted you to have.

Consider giving your unwanted present to charity, or just biting the bullet and putting that porcelain leprechaun on the shelf for when nanna comes over and expects to see it. Remember: it’s the thought that counts!

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