The process of choosing the “perfect gift” can be exhausting, especially during the holidays when you have multiple recipients, each with different tastes and lifestyles.
You can spend hours scouring for something thoughtful or blow your cash when you find a present you’re sure will impress. And then there’s regifting: Can you do it?
Fortunately, scientists actually study this stuff and new research says you can throw away some of your old gifting assumptions. Here are the new rules for gift giving.
Myth: Regifting is socially unacceptable.
Fact: Many people believe it’s perfectly fine to regift. In a survey of 2,000 people from American Express, 58% said it was OK to regift sometimes, while a whopping 79% said it was perfectly acceptable during the holidays. In another survey by Patron, participants said that co-workers, followed by family members are the most frequent recipients of the regifted items.
Did grandma give you an avocado peeler that you’ll never use? Go ahead and give it to your avocado-junkie co-worker.
Myth: People will be offended if you regift.
Fact: Really, they don’t care. The giver will be less insulted than the regifter expects, research suggests. “Givers believed that the act of gift giving passed title to the gift on to receivers, so that receivers were free to decide what to do with the gift,” one study found.
The acceptability of regifting can also depend on the gift. It’s safe to say that giving away a Target gift card is more acceptable than recycling a hand-knit sweater from Aunt Sally.
Myth: Expensive gifts are better.
Fact: As the Beatles famously said, “Can’t Buy Me Love.” While gift givers think more expensive gifts will be appreciated more, in fact most recipients don’t really take price into account when determining how much they like a gift, according to a study that looked at the correlation between appreciation and gift price. This revelation could be a shocker for those who think a high price is synonymous with thoughtfulness.
Myth: You should be able to find the perfect gift without asking for help.
Fact: Well, the thought really does count. But your loved ones may be happier with gifts that they explicitly ask for, according to a study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. In the study, participants were asked to recall gifts they liked, without considering how much thought actually went into the item.
I’m sure many of us can relate. Last year, my mother complained of sore feet so I decided to get her a fancy at-home foot spa. I thought it would bring her relief after long hours standing at her job, but I didn’t specifically ask her if that’s what she wanted. She complimented me on the gift when she unwrapped it, but the box sits unopened in her closet. So maybe this is one for both the gift giver and receiver: It’s just fine to ask people what they want or need before shopping.
Bottom line: Ask people what they want. There’s no need to blow a paycheck on a gift–it’s highly likely the giver won’t care. And give away your own gifts, guilt-free (Um, unless the giver put an insane amount of thought and effort into crafting something personally made for you. Just put that one in the closet!)