Welcome to the holidays, the time of year when you suddenly have a hundred people to buy for … a hundred and one, if you count the teacher’s assistant in your child’s classroom. To whittle your list down as quickly and cheaply as possible, you may feel compelled to dash to your local discount emporium (TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Home Goods, etc) and knock everyone out in one go.
Not so fast, though. The prices at these stores may be low, but the stigma of receiving bargain gifts can be high. I once purchased a fancy bottle of olive oil from a discount store as a gift for my relative. When I got home, I tried my best to peel and scrape off the notoriously difficult price sticker stuck to the bottle before I wrapped it up. When she opened it, she looked so excited to receive a fancy, expensive, European bottle of olive oil. But when she turned it over, her face dropped. Despite my best efforts, the gluey outlines of the sticker still remained. She knew I bought the oil at a bargain store. Suddenly the fancy oil didn’t seem so fancy…or even necessarily within it’s sell-by date. At least that’s what her face registered. I felt so embarrassed.
Moral of the story? If you’re going to give presents from TJ Maxx, go out of your way to remove not only the horrible price sticker but the glue residue as well, which can only be achieved by rubbing the thing in Goo Gone, nail polish remover and/or rubbing alcohol. Once it’s off, there’s no way to know the gift didn’t come from a fancy pants culinary store.
Here are some more cautionary tales and tidbits from discount shoppers and chronic re-gifters (and their unwitting recipients):
1. If you’re going to regift, don’t do it in the same social circles
“After giving my mom the sweater her sister bought for me, and then watching my mom open said sweater in front of her sister, I realized I really need to start labeling all the gifts I don’t want. Now, I attach a note indicating who it was from and when and stash it in my present pantry until it’s time to go ‘shopping’ again.”
2. Definitely don’t re-gift to the person who gave it to you!
“For Christmas one year, I made my boss a plate of dark chocolate truffles and a bracelet/necklace set that I made from pretty glass beads and silk ribbon with clasps, and everything. For my birthday a year later, my boss took me and a few coworkers out for lunch and gave me a pouch of costume jewelry including the bracelet I had made for her. I rode back to the office with a coworker, who said to me, ‘Our boss is kinda weird, isn’t she?’ I told her she didn’t know the half of it.”
3. Wrap the heck out of it
“My rule of thumb: the cheaper the item, the fancier the presentation. I bought a bunch of scented candles on clearance for $2 each for all the peripheral people on my list, then wrapped them in tissue and placed them in pretty boxes topped with a bow. It made a huge difference: cheap candles turned expensive.”
4. Attach a note
“I re-gift all the time, even though I feel kind of chintzy about it. I get over it by attaching a nice note indicating how special the recipient is to me and also a bit about why I’m gifiting what I am. It forces me to be thoughtful about what I’m doing, which is the whole point of the giving gifts in the first place.
5. Hold onto the original packaging
“Call me crazy, but I was a little suspicious when I opened up my neighbor’s gift and it was a pair of stretched out yoga pants with no tags. I’m pretty sure they came from her own drawer.”
6. Watch out for Xs and slashes
“I always hit up the outlet mall during the holidays where I can score Michael Kors and Lacoste for cheap. But I always check the inside of the garment because a lot outlets will slash or mark up the original tagging to indicate that it’s a second run item. Some people on my list don’t care about receiving second run merch, but some do, and I don’t want to offend anyone by giving them a polo shirt with a big black X on the tag.”
7. Check TWICE for price tags
“I got a designer candle at Marshall’s and took off the price tag before giving it to a friend… I thought. Until she unwrapped it and I saw a SECOND price tag on the bottom. Fail.”
8. It bears repeating: REMOVE the price sticker
“The woman who would later become my mother-in-law gave me a serving dish with a not-quite-scraped-off sticker from Ross Dress For Less on the back. Is it more of a slam if it comes from someone who will become your family?! Should I have taken it to mean that I was like a discount-store bride, just like this serving dish?”
Bottom line, great gifts don’t have to cost a lot … but they should never feel cheap.More On