Second-Hand Gifts

by Michael Smith

Is buying second-hand gifts is a great way to keep those holiday costs down? Is it acceptable? Is it unacceptable? Is it just plain tacky?

I, for one, do it and think it's fine . . . but one has to put a lot of thought into how one does it. That antique or collectible that would fit perfectly into Aunt Hilda's collection is a go. But that puzzle with the missing pieces? That just is not going to happen and it cannot.

Anything that is broken or chipped, has pieces missing or such like, obviously, is not suitable as a gift, and not just on occasions such as Christmas and such like.

However, in any other cases, I surely think that second-hand should be an option that should deserve consideration.

Personally I never have (much of) a problem with receiving second-hand gifts – in fact I get quite a number of things given to me that way – though there are some things that are not suitable, in the same way as I would not buy them from any second-hand store myself.

Maybe you can encourage your family to embrace a 'second-hand gift exchange'. There are many perfect gently-used or never used things at goodwill, charity shops, garage sales, etc. that just would make the perfect gifts.

Being frugal, whether as regards to gifts or in other ways, does not need to mean being cheap. The way I see it is that it helps the environment by giving this or that item a new lease of life, living with me if someone gives it to me, or the other way round. It means this particular item did not have to be made again just for me to have it; it was there already and someone else had “outgrown” it.

Gifting second-hand only works either if the items really look new and maybe even are – and you can find such things often in charity shops here – with the tags still on them and have the boxes to go with them too, or if they are collectibles or such like. It is different, maybe, for small children.

The other option, in my opinion, is to make gifts – handmade gifts are great – for people rather than buying them, whether second-hand or not. When I was a child handmade gifts were the norm for the winter celebrations, and also on other occasions.

The other thing was when I was a child was hand-me-downs, in clothes as much as in other things, or things that came from thrift stores or such. But that was more or less in general, that is to say not necessarily a gift for the winter holidays or for birthday or such. Then, in general, it was hand made, whether clothes or something else.

Personally, I have no problem either giving or receiving second-hand gifts. This is especially the case with books. I frequent used bookstores and love giving my friends and family a book I think they will enjoy.

I try to never give someone a gift just because I got it at a great price. It needs to be something that person would really enjoy.

I must say that I am rather perplexed by folks who would turn up their noses at a second-hand gift. Besides showing poor manners, it shows an amazing lack of perspective. The world is running low on raw materials. Living like we are all entitled to every brand new thing we want is leading us toward ruin. Christmas has become just an opportunity for businesses to make money. Perhaps instead of shopping we would be better off spending time with loved ones.

I know that the same, as regards second-hand gifts, is true with hand-made. There are people, and especially children of today, that will turn their noses up on that.

I remember to this day when, as a young one of about six or so I got my first pocketknife – I have had a small sheath knife before that but I always had wanted a small pocketknife. This was a second-hand knife that was in great condition and I loved it. I still have it today.

The same was true – though alas I no longer have it – of a slingshot that an Uncle made for me at about the same age. Aside from the fact it was a real nice catapult I loved it because it, to me, showed the person's love for me having made it for me; especially for me.

Unfortunately adults and children, and especially children, today have the entirely wrong conception of things.

You see them in the stores, the children that is, and it goes I want that and I want that and I want that – ad infinitum – and the parents will say yes to every request and, even if they have to go into debt for this, they are stupid enough to buy their kids everything they ask for. We are creating a generation of people who are never going to be satisfied.

Do not hesitate to give a used gift this year. Just take a look at the current economic crisis. You will be sharing with those you love a way that they can save money and live a better, more frugal lifestyle. This is a good way to get conversations going about everything you do that is frugal. The knowledge they gain from this may well be the greatest gift of all this year.

© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008