How to Regift a Present

Received a present that you don't particularly like? While Kate Spade says that re-gifting is one of the most delicate etiquette topics around, re-gifting is occurring all around the world to pass on those unwanted, not liked, and unneeded gifts that can't be returned to the store.[1] While some view re-gifting with abhorrence, others see this as the acceptable manner for ensuring that at least someone ends up with the gift they really want! Here are some suggestions for re-gifting successfully.


  1. Image titled Regift a Present Step 1
    Decide which gifts you cannot use or do not like. While your dislike of a gift might be an immediate reaction on receiving a gift, sometimes it's a good idea to give yourself a little time to see if can grow on you or not. If not, then it's possibly a candidate for re-gifting. Common reasons for not wanting a gift include not liking it, not fitting into clothing items, not being able to use an item (for example, earrings when your ears are not pierced), receiving a nice enough item but in a color that doesn't suit you or your decor, something that you consider doesn't meet with your values (for example, a leather belt when you're a vegan), and so forth.
  2. Image titled Regift a Present Step 2
    Consider the potential for re-gifting. Re-gifting should not be used in all cases and some of the times when re-gifting is not appropriate include when the giver will call often and notice the lack of the gift, when the gift is not something you'd give to someone else in your circle of friends and acquaintances, or when the gift has clearly had a lot of time invested in it and it really is the "thought that counts". Keep in mind the feelings of the original gift-giver;[2] this doesn't mean you have to wear or use the item, just have it on hand to show occasionally until enough time passes safely for you to send it to charity or the back of the closet. And be super careful when re-gifting tech or similar items that date or go out of stock after a season; the gift recipient might try to return it to the store or need to get it fixed, only to discover it has long been superseded. Items may be suitable for re-gifting when:
    • The giver won't be aware that you've passed on the gift. For example:
      • They live far away
      • They simply don't keep a tally of what they've given you or anyone
      • Your house is a big cavernous place that swallows up "stuff"
      • It's something that gets used up: for example, chocolates, candles, or soaps.
    • The gift is in good condition, doesn't have a use-by date (give those unwanted chocolates to someone else in the family!), and in many cases, still has its original packaging.
    • Is something you're proud to give to someone else. Re-gifting is still giving with care.
  3. Image titled Regift a Present Step 3
    Store the gifts that you intend to re-gift. Management of gifts used for re-gifting is important, in order to avoid giving it back to the recipient or people close to the recipient, and to avoid duplication. The following suggestions are intended to help your re-gift storage management:
    • Write down the name of the person who gave you the gift on a slip of paper. This is so you don't forget who gave it to you.
    • Keep the wrapping - you can reuse that too but use it on different gifts just to be on the safe side.
    • Also include names of anyone who may have seen the present and how you know them if you're especially forgetful.
    • Go over the gift with great care to remove any gift card evidence. If you accidentally leave a gift card attached to the gift, it'll be fairly embarrassing for both giver and recipient.
    • Make a list of the gifts you are storing on your computer. That way, you can quickly bring it up and check it when you're looking for a gift for someone.
    • Store all unwanted presents in a box or cupboard out of sight and where they will be safe from moisture, prying hands, and any other possible harm.
  4. Image titled Regift a Present Step 4
    Get the gift out when you need it. Reasons for using a re-gifted gift might include when you're out of ideas for a present, low on cash or don't have time to buy a present. However, the main (and very good) reason is when you know that the recipient will really appreciate the specific gift and that it is something that you would normally purchase for this person. If it's something so left-field and not inclined to this person's tastes, they may well get suspicious that you're just passing along the stuff you didn't want.
  5. Image titled Regift a Present Step 5
    Personalize the gift in some way if possible. For example, wrap a piece of ribbon around it to make it look different, or add decorative elements that you'd normally attach to a gift. And be sure to wrap the gift beautifully, as well-wrapped gifts make a huge difference to how well it is received.
  6. Image titled Regift a Present Step 6
    Find a suitable card. Hand make a card if possible, or get an expensive looking one, to make up for the uninteresting present.
    • Write a highly personal and sentimental card, so the person remembers the card and not the present.
  7. Image titled Regift a Present Step 7
    Give the recipient their present. Act perfectly normal; the item still has value and has been cared for in the interim, so provided you're not handing on dodgy things to people you're not terribly fond of, you've got nothing to worry about. If you're re-gifting an item because you don't like the recipient, it can be kinder on both of you (and more honest) to just not give one another gifts at all.
    • Be ready to step in and offer to return the gift if you get the impression that they don't like it. This will avoid a lot of difficult questions about receipts, the store in question, etc. To avoid probing, try to know in advance whether the recipient is the type to want to return it to the store themselves.


  • Always use a different wrapping.
  • Regift presents as soon as possible, liquids tend to alter over time and cardboard takes on a yellowish tinge. Perfumes and cosmetics go stale, and many items become unfashionable the longer you wait.
  • Never tell the recipient of a present that it has been regifted. The person will probably be mortally offended.
  • Regifting works especially well with generic presents such as candles, bath sets and vases.
  • Chances are if you didn't like the present neither will the person you are giving it to if your tastes are similar. Extend your ideas of who might be a perfect recipient for it or consider donating the gift to charity if there really is nobody else you can ever give the item to.
  • Another alternative would be to sell the unwanted present at a pawn shop if you really needed the money, or to simply give it to people you know will appreciate it, like the neighbor's kids.
  • Try to guess how much the present you have received costs. You don't want to be giving someone a $200 vase for the office Kris Kringle.
  • In certain circumstances, you can re-gift items to people who know you received the same item. These would be circumstances in which the item is relatively easy to find, and you might have liked it so much that you wanted to get it for them, too. This would be items like chocolates, books, or games.
  • Don't regift items that have been personalized or that are unique. For example, items that have been engraved are clearly not suitable for re-gifting (unless the recipient has the same name or initials as you, or your name is a word that one could conceivably get engraved on something, like Hope or Joy).


  • Some relatives may ask what you have done with their present, especially if it is something you are meant to display. If this happens... you are in trouble. In this case, it's best to err on the side of pretending you like the item and keeping it for at least a few years until one day, a totally unforeseen brush with the cat caused the item's demise...
  • Clothing sizes that don't fit you and cannot be returned to the store (for example, it was sent to you by an overseas relative) can cause problems with re-gifting if the recipient also does not fit into it or dislikes the color. Sometimes it's just easier to say you received something that didn't fit you and ask your friend if they'd appreciate it rather than donating it.
  • Make sure the people involved are not connected in any way when re-gifting. Otherwise, word will get around.
  • People may be insulted if you give them a generic gift, especially if they are close to you. In this case re-gifting is a bad idea unless it is an absolute emergency. You would probably be better off giving them a belated present or taking them out to dinner.
  • Never re-gift items you've worn, even only once. That is charity, not gift-giving and it's icky recycling to boot. Ask the recipient if they'd like to have the item as a cast-off or hand-me-down in a general way rather than giving it to them as a gift.

Things You'll Need

  • Storage space and storage gear like boxes and bags
  • Notepaper and pen
  • Computer record (optional but easier to work through quickly)

Sources and Citations

  1. Kate Spade, Manners, p. 4, (2004), ISBN 0-7432-5066-4
  2. Kate Spade, Manners, p. 4, (2004), ISBN 0-7432-5066-4

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Etiquette | Gift Wrapping