washingtonpost.com
Give It Again, Sam

By Michelle Singletary
Thursday, November 29, 2007

I can't let the holiday season go by without talking about regifting.

To regift is to give someone something you were given but didn't want or couldn't use. I've been a regifter for years, long before it became hip -- and controversial. I learned to regift from my grandmother, Big Mama, who raised my brothers and sisters and me.

There were many Christmases when Big Mama would place oranges, apples, tangerines and nuts on the different piles of presents she arranged for my siblings and me. She added the fruit and nuts to make our stacks seem larger.

It was tough for Big Mama on her low salary to buy a lot of gifts for the five of us. As we got older, we never let on that we knew the fruit and nuts had been regifted from the holiday bowls set out on the living room table.

We never complained because we knew her intent.

I get lots of letters and e-mails from people complaining about a regifted item. Often the notes tell more about the writer and his or her lack of gratitude. No matter how trifling you think the gift is, it's a gift nonetheless.

"If you are on the receiving end of a regift, really take comfort in knowing that most people are regifting with good intentions," says Kim McGrigg, spokeswoman for Money Management International, a credit-counseling organization that surveys why people regift.

Sixty-two percent of respondents in this year's survey said they regift because they know the present is something the recipient would really like.

As more people struggle with their finances, regifting is increasing. Money Management found that 42 percent of respondents said they would regift this year to save money. That's up from 33 percent in 2005.

In an effort to get people talking about the financial strains of holiday shopping, the organization launched a Web site devoted to regifting, http://www.regiftable.com.

"It was a fun way to get people thinking about their gifting options other than spending more than they can afford," McGrigg said.

The site features regifting do's and don'ts. There's also a link ( http://www.regiftable.com/Lyrics.aspx) to "Regifting for the Holidays," a catchy ditty by the band The Alice Project.

I found myself bopping to the Beatles-like tune and these lyrics depicting a cash-strapped holiday shopper: "As I sat looking in my room, my eyes spied a sweater from Aunt Sue. The idea hit me like a boot to the head. Gonna give that sweater to my cousin Ted."

With a sense of humor, the chorus goes, "I'm regifting for the holidays. I'm packing up all that crap, adding new wrap and giving it back to you."

Of course, you wouldn't give something you thought was junk. But to illustrate the good and bad of regifting, Money Management is running a contest looking for the best regifting tales. Entries are due by Dec. 31.

First place will get you a $500 Amazon gift card and a "Regifting Robin" bobblehead, specially created by the agency. In total, Money Management is giving away $1,235 in prizes, including Amazon gift cards. Winners are selected by Web site visitors who vote for their favorite regifting story.

In one entry this year, a contestant said she and her husband received as a wedding present a "hideous serving platter" from one of her husband's clients. The couple regifted the platter to a friend, who took it to an "Antiques Roadshow."

"It was then we realized we had given away a small fortune," she wrote.

Turns out the platter was made by a famous Italian glassware designer. Its estimated value: $2,000.

Just proves one person's trashed gift is another's treasure.

If you don't want to be someone else's regifting horror story, try some of my favorite regifting ideas:

¿ Regift an unused gift card. It's easy to regift this item since it's just plastic money. However, before you pass along your gift card, be sure to double-check the value and that the card is still usable.

¿ Do you have any DVDs or music CDs you haven't opened? Perhaps you got a DVD last holiday that was a duplicate of one you already owned. Well, here's a chance to pass it along to someone who might enjoy the movie. This works especially well for children's DVDs. If you know someone with a little one who doesn't have a classic movie, give away your duplicate. The DVD has to be in the original cellophane, however.

¿ Books are great regifts as long as they don't have any greasy finger stains on the pages. If you've finished the latest bestseller and you know a friend or family member eager to read the same book, why not give it away unless you want to keep it on your bookshelf?

Some of you will still disdain this practice, but regifting can be done right if you give with the best intentions and receive with a gracious heart.

¿ On the air: Michelle Singletary discusses personal finance Tuesdays on NPR's "Day to Day" program and online athttp://www.npr.org.She also has a new personal finance call-in show that airs Sundays on XM Satellite Radio, Channel 169 "The Power," from 8 to 10 p.m.

¿ By mail: Readers can write to her at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

¿ By e-mail:singletarym@washpost.com.

Comments and questions are welcome, but because of the volume of mail, personal responses are not always possible. Please note that comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company