Barbara Bitela has a box reserved for vanilla-scented lotions, necklaces and white wine. They're the gifts people give her that the California resident has no use for – she doesn't like the smell of vanilla, she finds wearing jewelry around her neck uncomfortable and she rarely drinks white wine.
But Bitela doesn't let the gifts go to waste. When she's in a hurry and needs to find someone a Christmas or birthday gift, the box is the first place she looks.
Bitela is an avid regifter – someone who gives away presents that someone else gave to her. Bitela is such a fan of the practice that she wrote a book about it: "The Art of Regifting."
"Like many families, during the Christmas season, we get so many things we can't use, don't want or can't stand to have around the house," Bitela writes, "that we have resorted to this precious activity."
Given the recession and the financial pressures facing many consumers this year, when it comes to holiday gift-giving, more people might decide to follow Bitela's lead.
"I think people will be looking this year to be more creative on their gift giving because of all the issues that we have right now in the economy. People are just more welcome to ideas and ways that they can actually cut back in the holidays," said Tanisha Warner of Money Management International, a credit counseling agency. Two years ago, Money Management created Regiftable.com, a Web site dedicated exclusively to regifting.
"We're always looking for ways to give people tips during the holidays to save money. This was just one of the angles we wanted to use," Warner said.
Juan DeCaprio, 24, said he planned to regift for the first time this year because he's worried about losing his job. The Southern California man will give his mother, father and girlfriend presents that he receives from others, he said.
"I'm just trying to save as much as possible," DeCaprio said, "in case I'm next on the layoff list."
The recession notwithstanding, not everyone's in favor of regifting. Critics say that regifting, especially when done carelessly, is tasteless.
"I don't think just because the economy's bad, it gives you a reprieve to regift," said Lizzie Post of the Emily Post Institute. "Do homemade gifts, cut back on your list and let people know that you can't afford to gift this year."
Bitela said that one of her primary reasons for regifting is convenience – it saves her the hassle of driving to a store and waiting on line to return an unwanted item.
But she also said there's nothing wrong with saving money by regifting, as long as you make sure that the gift is "passworthy," which Bitela defines as "that which is worthy of being passed and the item should make a favorable impression."
"It's not really about the price tag but the generosity in your heart when you step up to the plate, take the time to wrap it, put someone's name on it, smile and present it," Bitela said.
Planning to regift? Here are some tips on how to do it right, courtesy of Bitela, Post and Regiftable.com:
Out with the old, out with the used: Regifted items must be unused and, unless they're antiques or heirlooms, fairly new. A Regiftable rule of thumb: "If you have to dust it off, it is not regiftable."
Give the people what they want: If you're regifting an item, it should be something you think the other party would actually want.