Buying Gifts, Second-Hand

Buying Gifts, Second-Hand

When you mention the idea of second-hand gifts the knee-jerk reaction is that you're talking about giving (and receiving) half-used bath sets or heavily worn clothing, or you're gifting something to someone they don't want. The reality is, second-hand often simply means an unwanted item, possibly used, possibly not. An item that perhaps someone has purchased and later changed their mind about, or an item gifted to someone who doesn’t want it. Buying second-hand does not have to mean buying used.

There is a lot of unwanted stuff in the world; stuff that has never been taken out of the box, never had the tags cut off, and never been worn or used. Then there’s a whole lot more things that have been lightly used and then discarded. These are the type of gifts I'm talking about when I talk about buying gifts second-hand. Not grubby clothing, dog-eared books, or half-used beauty products. If you want to buy those, you can keep them for yourself.

Buying Gifts, Second-Hand

I asked how people felt about second-hand gifts on Instagram. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many people answer yes, they’d be happy to receive (and give) pre-owned gifts. There were, however, a hefty percentage that thought it to be distasteful, which is what I expected. We’re encouraged to believe that gifts equal love and what sort of love are we showing if we gift the most important people in our lives second-hand goods?

I’m not suggesting gifting well-loved items or half-used gift sets to your friends and family. What I am suggesting is that perhaps with so many unwanted belongings being discarded at such an alarming rate, that maybe there’s some gifting gold to be found among them. Buying gifts second-hand often means you can afford to gift the higher ticket items on your loved ones wishlist, without draining your budget.

A little common sense goes a long way when deciding whether it's appropriate to gift something that's been previously owned. A book that's been read once or twice? A shirt with the tags still on? An aromatherapy set that's never been taken out of the box? All these things would make perfect gifts, for the right person. A well-loved out-of-season stuffed Santa Claus? Not so much.

Buying Gifts, Second-Hand

Over the festive period, and in the run up to my year of second-hand challenge, I made a conscious effort to look for second-hand alternatives (where appropriate) for the items I wanted to gift people. I went in armed with a list of gift ideas, things they told me they wanted and ones I thought they would like, and scoured the internet looking for them. eBay is an absolute goldmine of unread (yet pre-owned) books, unwanted backpacks, unused fountain pens, and little extras I knew my friends and family would enjoy.

Along the way I discovered that there are a lot of barely touched, lightly used, like-new unwanted possessions being sold for a lot less than the retail price, sometimes even being given away for free. The only difference with these items is that they may no longer have the tags nor will they arrive in the original box. That isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a deal-breaker when it comes to re-gifting items.

Firstly, if you pick wisely, no one is going to suspect the gift you’re giving them is anything other than brand-new. They’re unlikely to ask you either (especially not if they’re British!); and secondly, everything you buy - even new things - have been touched by many many hands before they get to you. People pick things up in the shop, take them out the box, plug them in, try them on. Some of these items may have been purchased, taken home, used and returned before you purchased them - multiple times maybe. Buying things second-hand really shouldn’t be a cause for alarm.

Tips For Buying Second-Hand Gifts

  • have a list of gift ideas so you can look for specific items you know people want
  • seek out pre-owned yet unused items for more significant gifts
  • look for gifts in their original packaging
  • freshen up with a new box or wrapping
  • clean items thoroughly before gifting
  • things people expect to be old (collector’s editions, books, antiques, collectibles, classic toys, etc.) make excellent gifts
  • other good second-hand gift ideas: toys, games, bikes, sports equipment, linen and tableware
  • regift items you already own, such as a well-read book (it's a thoughtful gift so long as you tell the person you're gifting it to)

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