Tips for giving second-hand gifts from the right people
Would you be ready to give your partner a second-hand sweater this holiday season? How about a used board game for your niece?
Over the past few years, an increasing number of Americans, especially Gen Z, have started giving second-hand gifts during the holidays, in large part because it’s better for the planet. Research from online thrift stores ThredUp and GlobalData found that more than half of consumers are considering alternatives to buying gifts from traditional retailers, including thrift stores. And 66% of people (and 72% of Gen Z) are open to receiving second-hand gifts. But the vast majority did not want to try. The National Retail Federation expects consumers to lose $ 859 billion this holiday season – the highest amount on record – and the vast majority will be in new merchandise.
It makes sense that many of us aren’t comfortable giving used gifts. Christmas gifts in the United States are riddled with all kinds of unspoken rules, cultivated in part by the retail industry. But thanks to such insatiable purchasing habits, we are swallowing up the earth’s resources 1.7 times faster than it can regenerate, while leading to global warming and pollution. Giving people used gifts helps reduce some of this destruction, by preventing items from going to landfill and reducing the extraction of natural resources.
If you are thinking about taking the plunge, this might be the year to do it. Supply chain disruptions mean some brands are running low on stocks. And inflation translates into higher prices in many stores.
Giving second-hand gifts doesn’t have to be boring or unglamorous; those who do it regularly say it can be even more fun and satisfying for both the giver and the receiver. I spoke with three people who have been giving second-hand gifts for years and shared their strategies for making it a meaningful experience.
Beating marketers at their own game
Liza Moiseeva, 33, is the co-founder of Brightly, an organization that promotes conscious consumerism, which often means buying nothing. As an environmentally conscious person, she wants to break the taboo on second-hand gifts. âWhen you think about it, this taboo really comes from businesses and merchants who feel pressured to sell you new products every holiday season,â she says. âSo it’s important to push back.
On Instagram, Brightly encourages people to shop at thrift or vintage stores. Moiseeva admits that she took time to save herself, as it wasn’t something she did a lot growing up. But she has come to understand – and subvert – some of the strategies that scare people away. On the one hand, she realized that while big companies have huge budgets to showcase products to make them look pretty, thrift stores usually just fill their shelves with merchandise. Retailers also use tons of packaging to make mediocre products irresistible.
Buyers need to be imaginative and think about what the products will look like in a different context. âI have found some really nice items like bowls or a brand new spice rack sitting next to other things that aren’t as pretty,â she says. . “The key is to wrap these gifts in a thoughtful way, so that they look beautiful to the recipient.” Packing something well doesn’t have to be resource-intensive, either. You can wrap things in brown paper decorated with pretty bows (ideally saved from previous gifts you’ve received) or use a piece of fabric, drawing inspiration from Japanese art from furoshiki.
If you find large thrift stores overwhelming, Moiseeva suggests finding smaller consignment stores or vintage stores that focus on careful conservation of their products and pleasing presentation. These stores can be more expensive sometimes, but you can find nice products that are always cheaper than buying new.
Reflection all year round
Kathryn Gatewood, 18, started giving exclusive second-hand or gift giving gifts three years ago, in large part because she was concerned about its impact on the environment. And because they usually only cost a fraction of the cost of traditional purchases, it also saves her college money.
For Gatewood, the trick to giving great second-hand gifts is to be extremely attentive to the needs and wants of your recipients. For example, it occurred to her that her boyfriend’s family loved to cook, but they had never had a place to rest their spatulas and ladles. So she found a beautiful spoon rest in a vintage store. She also keeps a shopping list on her Notes app to keep track of ideas. âSometimes right before you go to bed a great gift idea comes to mind,â she says.
She is also a big fan of regifting. Minimalist in terms of beauty products, she reserves the soaps and lotions she receives for her mother who adores them. This year, she received a box of flavored popcorn as a gift from a white elephant at work which she gives to her dad, who loves popcorn. âIf someone gives me a gift, I always try to give them a chance,â she said. “But while it’s clear that I won’t be using it, I think it’s almost more thoughtful to give it to someone else who will truly cherish it.”
Breaking the second-hand taboo
Ciara Fitts, 29, knows what it’s like to receive second-hand gifts. Growing up with a single mother and older cousins, she often received birthday or Christmas presents that were thrift stores or gifts. Fitts thinks there is something beautiful about it. âAs long as the gift is lovingly given and someone spends time choosing it, I always appreciate it,â she says.
Now that she is married and is trying to live a sustainable lifestyle, she continues the family tradition of giving occasion gifts. She knows the thrift stores in her area and tends to buy gifts there for friends and family. For those further afield, she does her shopping at online thrift stores like ThredUp. And above all, she does not hide that these gifts are not new.
Some people like to hide the fact that the gift was second-hand. But if you want to be part of the effort to standardize second-hand gifts, you can follow Fitts’ lead and be open about where you got it. Fitts likes to tell the recipient the story of the gift: why she chose it, where she got it, and maybe even why second-hand gifts are superior. âThere shouldn’t be a taboo around second-hand gifts,â she says. âBut there is nothing to be ashamed of in that. We should all do it.