I can't let the holiday season go by without talking about regifting.
To regift is to give someone something you didn't want or can'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 me and my brothers and sisters.
There were many Christmases where Big Mama would place oranges, apples, tangerines and nuts on the different piles of presents she arranged for me and my siblings. She added the fruit and nuts to make our stacks seem larger.
It was tough for Big Mama on her low-wage 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, spokesperson 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 knew the present was 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 be regifting 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, www.regiftable.com.
Of course, you wouldn't give something you thought was junk. But to illustrate the good and bad of regifting, MMI is running a contest looking for the best regift tales. Entries are due by Dec. 31.
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 by 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 unused gift cards. 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 own. 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 best-seller 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.