Would You Give a Secondhand Gift?

Dec 19, 2021 | Conscious Consuming, Reducing Waste

Would you give a secondhand gift? How would you feel about receiving a secondhand gift? With Christmas next week, it is an ideal time to think about alternatives to our consumer culture.

I love secondhand or thrift shopping. I am always hunting for a bargain but more than anything it is about sustainability. It is part of my footprint project to try to source as many of the things we need secondhand. When it comes to gift-giving, however, there is somewhat of a taboo around used goods.

I think it is time to break this taboo. Our planet can’t sustain our consumption at its current rate and we all know Christmas is a time of high levels of consumption. Here are some of my arguments in favour of giving secondhand gifts.

The Arguments for Giving Secondhand Gifts

Used Doesn’t Have to Mean Cheap

When you look at the price of antiques and paintings by old masters, it is clear that secondhand doesn’t necessarily mean cheap! These ‘secondhand’ things are quite acceptable. Look for quality and it doesn’t matter if the item is new or used.

The Chance to Give More

Finding a secondhand item at a lower price than it would be new could mean being able to give someone the perfect gift that would otherwise be out of your budget. I’d suggest that it is the value of the item to the person receiving it, rather than its cost, that is important.

Cost vs Value

Along the same lines, the cost of something doesn’t equate to its value. Imagine if I were to give you the gift of a night’s babysitting once a month for a year. This would not cost me anything besides my time but the value to you, if you have young children, may be very great. I’d venture to say the gift of time (of which we all have a finite amount) is a most generous gift. It isn’t being cheap to not spend money.

Thoughtfulness Is Number One

Regardless of the ‘newness’ of a gift, it is the thought that went into the gift that is what is usually most appreciated. A new, even if expensive, gift that is not to someone’s taste is rarely appreciated. A gift chosen with the receiver’s needs, preferences and desires in mind, given with love, is the best.

Practicalities of Giving Secondhand

Be Open About It

While little kids won’t notice whether something is new or secondhand, I don’t think we need hide the fact. In fact, I think we need to be open about and proud of giving secondhand. If we are to break this taboo we need to start a conversation about it. We need to discuss the reasons why it is a good thing to do. This is what is required in order to normalise secondhand gift-giving.

Present It Well

Of course, when giving something secondhand, present it in the best possible way you can. It must be clean of course but also the more beautifully it is presented, the more special it will be.

Some secondhand gifts I have given. Image by Family Footprint Project

Secondhand Gift Ideas

In the past, I have given, and been given, many secondhand gifts. For our wedding, my sisters gave us my deceased parents’ canteen of cutlery which had been a wedding gift to them. It was a very touching gift.

For my husband’s 50th birthday, we found a 1970s vintage bar that was perfect for my cocktail making partner. I’ve also given him cocktail glasses I found secondhand.

I often find secondhand books for my children for their Christmas stockings too.

Here are some things that make great secondhand gifts:

  • Books, as mentioned (I’ve found ones that are practically new!)
  • Toys (quality ones wear well and last for years yet kids grow up so fast)
  • Vintage Items and Antiques
  • Quality homewares
  • Console Games
  • Musical instruments
  • Accessories such as scarves and jewellery
  • Collectables (if the recipient is a collector or has a particular interest)

What do you think of these ideas? Would you give a secondhand gift? I’d love to hear your thoughts and your experience with secondhand gift giving.

See one of my earlier blog posts for more ideas on having a more sustainable Christmas.