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6 Rules to Regifting, According to the Etiquette Experts

And here's what to do if you get caught in your regifting.

gift wrap opener
Photography by: Kate Mathis

Holiday shopping accounts for nearly 30 percent of all retails sales annually, according to the National Retail Foundation. Black Friday also tends to be one of the busiest and most stressful shopping days of the year. But consider this: You can lower your shopping bill and cut down on some of that holiday stress by regifting items you never wanted. "Regifting is perfectly okay," says Jacqueline Whitmore, etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach. "Etiquette experts used to advise against it, but the practice of regifting is very common now." But before you regift that votive candle or cashmere sweater, make sure to follow this etiquette checklist and lower your chances of committing a holiday faux-pas that would put you on Santa's naughty list.



1. DO remember who originally gave you the gift


Think about it: You decided that the adorable cat figurines you never used would make a wonderful present for your Aunt Diana, only to find out that she had been the one to give them to you in the first place! Sure, it had been two years ago but she remembers that she sent those cat figurines to you after you had your first child. What are you doing giving it back to her? If you aren't sure who gifted the item to you first (and the list of possibilities happens to be rather lengthy), then it's best to set it aside for now. Another rule of thumb to follow: "Don't regift in the same social circle," Whitmore says. "If a family member gave you the gift, then you shouldn't give another family member that gift. Give it to a friend who isn't in your family circle."



2. DON'T regift anything that is broken or noticeably used


Maybe you have no intentions of using that deluxe face cream anymore, and maybe you only used it once. That doesn't matter. Certain items like makeup, lotions, or anything that is consumable in some form should not be regifted if they've been opened or used. The same goes for any items which have been through obvious wear and tear (or have been in your house nearly as long as you have). "Make sure all of the seals are intact," Whitmore says. "You should only regift items that haven't been opened and are still in their packaging."


3. DO take out the evidence that this was a gift you'd received from someone else

The worst thing you can do is regift something that has a note from another friend and is still addressed to you. It would be obvious that you're regifting an item you don't want, while also indicating that you didn't care enough to make sure the gift was personalized from you. "You'll want to look through the gift bag and the packaging and take out any cards or notes," says Whitmore. "Remove all evidence that you're regifting something that someone else had given to you."


[DON'T MISS: Everything You Need to Know About Gifts and Gift-Giving]

4. DON'T lie about the gift's origins


Are you regifting last year's unwanted presents to clear out the clutter in your house? It's dishonest to tell your friends that you purchased that gift just for them when it's not the truth. While gift-giving shouldn't be a contest as to who spent more money and when, it does matter that you put real thought into your gift. "If you get caught in regifting, honesty is the best policy," says Whitmore. "You should be upfront about it."



5. DO make sure the gift suits the recipient


Regifting should include as much forethought and consideration as going to the mall and shopping would. You wouldn't give that Santa candle to your best friend, right? You know it's not her thing, so it would be thoughtless to give it to her just to get it out of your house. Only regift those items that make sense for those you intend to give it; otherwise, find another way to get it out of your house. "You want to tailor the gift to the receiver's personality," says Whitmore. "Never give a gift just to be giving something. Your gift should still be something that you know they would appreciate."



6. DON'T regift anything past its expiration date 


Someone from work gave you a food gift basket. Most of the items in that basket don't interest you, and you put it away for storage. It's never been opened. Should you give that food basket to your cousin Lily who loves trail bologna and mustard? Not so fast. "Check the expiration date," Whitmore says. "This is especially important for food items. You don't want to regift anything that has expired."


And if you have any uncertainty, just ask Martha: