5 Things That Are Okay To Regift, According to Etiquette Experts—And 5 Things You Never Should

published Dec 8, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

‘Tis the season for gifting, and with all of the economic and health-related challenges people are facing this year, <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="regifting%20will%20likely%20be%20more%20popular%20than%20ever%20this%20holiday%20season.%C2%A0</p>%0A%0A%0A%0A<p>%E2%80%9CWith%20so%20many%20Americans%20having%20experienced%20job%20loss%20and%20financial%20hardship%20during%20this%20year%20of%20pandemic,%20considerate%20regifting%20can%20provide%20a%20way%20of%20reining%20in%20one%E2%80%99s%20budget%20for%20presents%20while%20still%20delighting%20our%20loved%20ones%20with%20something%20they%20will%20appreciate,%E2%80%9D%20etiquette%20columnist%20and%20podcaster%20Thomas%20P.%20Farley%20of<a%20href=" https: target="_blank"> Mister Manners tells Apartment Therapy. “Factor in the trepidation so many individuals have about heading to a mall or department store until a vaccine is widely available, and being able to ‘shop’ in your own home may provide added peace of mind.”

But regifting comes with its own rules. While it’s tempting to offload an unwanted present onto a loved one, it’s important to remember that not all items are equally regiftable. “Regifting should not be looked at as an opportunity to clear out one’s closet of useless junk,” Farley explains. “It should be viewed as a way of bringing joy to the face of someone who can use and who will truly appreciate the gift far more than you.”

Curious what kinds of items are okay to regift, and which ones you should probably keep for yourself? From candles, to kitchen gadgets, baked goods and more, here are five things that etiquette experts say are perfectly fine to regift, and five items you never should.

1. DO: Brand-New Kitchenwares

If you’ve been gifted with a cool new kitchen gadget that you simply don’t want or need, Elaine Swann, etiquette expert and founder of The Swann School of Protocol suggests giving it to someone who could actually use it. “As long as they’re brand new, small kitchenware items and appliances, like bottle openers, coffee makers, and garlic presses, are okay to regift, because they are functional and for the most part, impersonal,” she says.  

2. DON’T: Handmade Items

No matter how interesting and unique the item may be, experts say that regifting a handmade item given to you by the maker is a big no-no. “Whether it’s a hand knitted scarf, crocheted blanket, or a painting, anything that’s made specifically for you is far too personal to regift,” Swann says. “If you don’t particularly love the item, think of a way to repurpose it or find a special place to put it away—it will likely have sentimental value even if you can’t use it.”

3. DO: Bottles of Wine

An unopened bottle of wine or champagne can make a great regift, as long as you present it correctly. “Double check to make sure there’s not a tag or sticker on it about you, such as wishing you a happy birthday or new year,” Anne Chertoff, Chief Operating Officer at Beaumont Etiquette, advises.

4. DON’T: Swag Bag Items

Depending on your career and social circle, you might receive freebies and gift bags from companies and events from time to time. While these items are often handy and well-designed, Swann says they are not appropriate to regift. “Unless it’s a swag bag from Oprah, anything with a company logo on it is too promotional and impersonal to give someone,” she explains. “It’s also blatantly free.”

5. DO: Functional Housewares

As long as it’s practical and not overly stylized, Chertoff says that simple home decor items and bath products are good to regift. “You can regift anything for the home that you think another person would like, including candles, vases, and unopened lotions, soaps, and body scrubs,” she says. “Picture frames are also great to regift because you can personalize it with a photo that the person would enjoy.”

6. DON’T: Sentimental Hand-Me-Downs

If you’ve ever been gifted a used item with sentimental value, such as a family heirloom or beloved piece of jewelry from a friend, Chertoff says regifting it is off-limits. “These gifts are irreplaceable and may hurt the feelings of the original gift giver if it is discovered that you gave it away,” she notes.

7. DO: Practical Outerwear Pieces

While certain clothing items, particularly handmade ones and pieces picked out specifically for you, should never be regifted, Farley says that functional outerwear accessories, such as gloves, scarves, and ear warmers, can make wonderful regifts. “Ensure that the item is unused, looks new, and is in season,” he advises. “Bonus points if it’s returnable.”

Credit: Angela Chung

8. DON’T: Baked Goods

Since homemade food items have a shelf life, Chertoff says regifting them is never a good idea. “You also don’t want to be put on the spot about sharing the recipe,” she adds. “If you want to regift baked goods that you’ve received, bring them with you to the office or drop them off at a friends or family members (where the original gift giver won’t be) and share with colleagues and loved ones instead.”

9. DO: White Elephant Gifts

If you’re invited to participate in a white elephant-style gift exchange in the future, Chertoff says you can regift an item you’ve received in the past, instead of purchasing a new one. “As long as it fits the theme or budget assigned, white elephant parties are an ideal place to unload unwanted gifts and avoid being wasteful during the holidays.”

10. DON’T: Regift in the Same Social Circle

It might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s imperative to not regift an item to anyone that’s in the same friend group or family as the person who gave the gift to you. “For example, if a family member gives you a bottle of wine, it’s safe to give it to a coworker,” Swann says. If you plan to regift more than one present this year, Chertoff recommends keeping a list of who gave you what to avoid any awkward gift exchanges. “You don’t want to accidentally regift something back to the original gift giver,” she explains.