Secondhand Gift Giving is Trending, Would You Give Used?

September 5, 2013 — By

Secondhand gift giving is the new green trend.  With so much great, gently used merchandise available for a fraction of the new price, we can easily reduce the stress of gift giving on our planet and our wallets.

“Isn’t that tacky; can I really give a used gift?” you ask.  Actually, many families have begun specifying that they will accept and even prefer to receive eco-conscious, pre-loved items rather than brand new.  Those who cherish classic styles and vintage charm are even more drawn to the idea of reused treasures.  As Emrys Westacott of the Los Angeles Times explains, “…there is an alternative perspective, one informed by the thought that neither we the people nor the nation need so much more new stuff, and that the path to happiness may not lie in ever-increasing amounts of making, getting and spending.”

That being said, do some investigating to make sure your recipient is okay with it. As Melanie Penola of Lifehacker points out, “Gift-giving is all about the other person, so the propriety of giving a used gift is really in the eye of the recipient. For the right person, even old shoes could be appropriate.”

For many, the appeal of reducing their environmental impact draws them towards giving and receiving secondhand gifts.  Secondhand merchandise requires little, to no new resources and minimal transportation, while keeping all kinds of perfectly usable products out of the landfill.  Purchasing secondhand from consignment stores and individual seller listings also keeps money circulating in the buyer’s local community by supporting local businesses, consignors, and sellers, rather than the corporate headquarters of a big box store.

Giving and receiving secondhand gifts also saves money for both gift givers and receivers.  Since secondhand prices are often 30-70% off retail prices, gift givers are able to give more while spending less.  For example, a new $40 baby gadget would be a bit too much for a gift giver wanting to spend $30 for an upcoming baby shower.  The exact same gadget in gently used condition is $20, leaving the gift giver an extra $5 to buy the adorable secondhand baby outfit on a nearby clothing rack and another $5 to save for another day.

Another area of the secondhand market is “luxury consignment,” which can bring out of reach designer fashion to a more affordable level.  Labels Luxury Accessories Consignment Boutique shares on their website that, “7,500 clients, including the ‘who’s who’ of San Francisco, Contra Costa County, Piedmont and Berkeley are recouping a portion of their wardrobe budget by consigning designer items that no longer work for them.”  Labels sell this merchandise for about a quarter of the retail price.  That Gucci handbag your mother has always wanted may not be so far out of reach.

One thing to keep in mind as you shop is that safety of secondhand gifts is a common concern.  Before buying or giving a secondhand gift, make sure the instructions and all of the item’s parts are included.  If either of these is missing, call the manufacturer or check online, where many manufacturers offer downloadable product instructions and options for buying replacement parts.  If you’ve purchased the item at a business that uses WeMakeItSafer’s safety tools, the item can be transferred from their account to yours for seamless, ongoing recall monitoring.  If not, add items to your WeMakeItSafer account to check for past recalls and to be alerted of future recalls (also remember that everything that has ever been recalled was once new, so do the same with new items, too).

Let us know what you think.  Would you be open to giving or receiving a secondhand gift?  What are the exceptions, if any?  For example, is it okay for some occasions but not others?  Okay for dishes and gadgets, but not socks and underwear (um, yeah, probably want to stay away from those).  Let us know what you think.  Tell us about the secondhand items you have given or received as gifts.


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Felicity is the founder of Encore Baby Registry, a free website where expectant parents can create gift registries that include new, secondhand, hand-me-down, homemade, and non-material gifts.  Encore Baby Registry embraces the idea that gifts don’t have to come zip-tied and shrink wrapped and that expectant parents can simultaneously be eco-friendly, save money, and get the gear they need.

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