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Re-gifting, it keeps on giving

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You’ve already counted the thought and sent the obligatory thank-you note. But what should you do with the unwanted electric toothbrush or desk trinket you received as a holiday present? That dilemma used to be fraught with guilt, says Tanisha Warner, spokeswoman for Regiftable.com, a site run by the financial-advice nonprofit Money Management International. “More and more people are re-gifting now to save money,” said Warner. “It promotes recycling and can be done thoughtfully year-round.”

When not re-gifting, some unwanted gifts are so valuable that they could put money in your wallet or help you save on your taxes. So don’t hide the crystal vase until Mom visits. Choose to re-gift, sell or donate your unwanted holiday acquisitions.

Re-gifting

According to a Consumer Reports Shopping Poll, 36 percent of Americans will re-gift an unwanted present this year. “It’s not a new concept and is losing its stigma during this economy,” Warner said. “The key is to take the new recipient’s tastes and wants into consideration.”

Keep it sealed: Too many people re-gift half-used bottles of perfume. Prevent this faux pas by keeping gifts in original packaging.

Remove the Santa paper: If you’re lazy, you’ll end up giving Susan a box that reads “To Margaret, with love.” Rewrapping the present in new paper forces you to examine it for old cards. Warner says leaving evidence is the most common mistake people make when re-gifting.

Beware of the social network: Don’t re-gift in the same circle of friends. If the friend who gave you a hideous jacket sees your mutual friend wearing it, it’s bound to come up in conversation — and both friends will feel slighted.

Selling

eBay: New sellers often have a tough time competing for buyers on eBay, but now you can list up to 50 items a month free, paying commission only if the item sells. To help get you started, eBay has user-friendly guides.

SOCExchange: Similar to eBay, SOCexchange.com is a newly launched online auction site popular in Australia. It charges a flat 2 percent commission rate and caps commissions at $10 for all products you list. It’s taking no commission on items listed before Jan. 31, benefiting one-time sellers who want to get rid of holiday gifts.

Pawnshops: So the husband has terrible taste in jewelry. If you’re not going to wear it, why not exchange or sell it for cash at a pawnshop? Larger electronic items also make for great bartering chips, so make a trade for something you need or want. Before selling, however, be sure to check around and visit more than one pawnshop to find the best price for your item.

Donating

Charities such as Capital Hospice, Goodwill of Greater Washington and even the National Zoo will take some of the extra stuff you have lying around your house. Donating unwanted clothing, furniture and tools to charities not only helps others but also helps with lowering your taxes. “A sweater might not have a big impact on your taxes, but donating high-value items raises the stakes,” says Gil Charney, a principal tax analyst at H&R Block’s Tax Institute.

Know your charity: Make sure you’re donating to an organization that has tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service. For a complete list of where and what to donate, visit charitychoices.com.

Know your worth: The IRS allows you to deduct the fair-market value (or actual worth) of an item. Follow its guidelines and remember that if the item isn’t new, it depreciates.

You want the receipt: When was the item bought and how much did it cost? If you didn’t receive a receipt with a big-ticket gift, Charney recommends going to the store and taking a photo of the price tag. You’ll need to attach the price when doing your tax return.

A picture is worth your word: Take photos of donations in case the IRS asks you to prove the worth of your items.

THE BOTTOM LINE There’s no excuse not to make use of (or profit from) the vegetable chopper Grandmother gave you. Re-gifting saves money that you would otherwise spend. Selling the gift online or to a pawn shop will put cash in your pocket in the short term, however, donating a gift to charity, if properly accounted for, can have a significant impact on your taxes.

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