Is it ok to give second hand gifts? (Answered)


Whether you want to give a second hand gift because it’s a great way to help the environment, or whether it’s because you’re looking to cut back on your spending, there should be nothing stopping you from doing so. But is it ok to give second hand gifts?

When it comes to giving presents, it really is the thought that counts. The purpose of a gift is to show someone that you’re thinking of them and that you are celebrating them. Whether it’s a birthday, Christmas or Mother’s Day gift. So it really doesn’t matter whether that gift is new or second hand.

In fact, a second hand gift could be even more thoughtful than a traditional shop bought present. You often have to search high and low for the perfect present, but usually you’ll end up with something totally unique.

Is it ok to give second hand gifts?

Let’s take a look at some of the reasoning behind giving second hand gifts, and whether there are any situations where it is best to buy something brand new. (Spoiler- there’s not many situations where that would be the case!)

The benefits of giving second hand gifts

Let’s first establish one thing- second hand does not equal second best. In fact, antiques, collectables, and vintage items are all second hand, but they are perhaps seen as more desirable than something that is described as ‘used.’

Why is that?

Perhaps the word ‘used’ underlines the fact that an item has been used by another person before. It can understandably be a little off putting. The word used implies that the item is worn out or past its best- to counteract this we can say second hand or preloved.

(However, if you’ll buy a house or a car that has been used before? Other items are no different!)

There are so many benefits of giving second hand gifts, let’s take a look at some of them.

A truly unique gift

When you buy something that has had a past life, it has character. Buying something with some age to it means that the recipient of the gift is unlikely to already own the item. It means that the item is truly unique.

Vintage clothing, homeware and accessories are a lovely option when it comes to buying a second hand gift for a loved one. You can usually find something perfectly suited to their tastes which they won’t have been able to pick up elsewhere.

Antique and vintage items are often made in high quality materials (which you can not often find in modern-day items!), making them long lasting, durable, and luxurious.

Saving money

Whether you opt for an antique or modern second hand, there is certainly money to be saved when buying a second hand present. It’s a brilliant way to cut down on the cost of the holidays (such as Christmas) and alleviate any financial pressures around the holiday season.

No one should be going into debt to give gifts to their loved ones. Family and friends are likely to feel the same, and are unlikely to want you to get further into debt, or add to the financial strain just to buy them a present!

Remember too, that if you are feeling the pinch, there is nothing wrong in suggesting an alternative to a gift. For example, could you bake your friend a birthday cake instead?

Helping the environment

When you buy something pre-loved, it’s already existing in the world. Energy and resources do not have to go into making it again. You’re saving an item from landfill and also not contributing to demand for more new things in stores.

If you’re already shopping second hand for yourself for environmental and ethical reasons, there’s no reason why the way you give presents can’t line up with these same principles and fit in with your eco friendly lifestyle.

You might also be interested in reading: Second Hand Furniture in London

Second hand gifting: Instagram survey results

Let’s take a look at the results from a recent Instagram survey I conducted. I asked followers about their attitude to second hand gifting. Of the 122 respondents, 93 said they would give second hand gifts, and 29 said they would not.

I asked the respondents to elaborate on any rules that they had for second hand gifting. Here are some of the replies:

“I’d gift preloved books. Would probably not gift preloved clothes, unless they still had labels.”

“If the person will like it and it’s in good condition, why not?”

“I stick to brand new with tags, books or homeware if they don’t buy preloved themselves!”

“I gift unused or sealed items. You also have to know they’ll like it!”

“My rule is that I only buy second hand if it’s a collectible item you can’t buy new.”

And lastly, a fun story…  “My ex sister-in-law gifted me some chocolates last year with a tag from when it was gifted to me!”

As you can see, there are differing attitudes to gifting second hand. If in doubt, you could stick with items which are brand new with tags, sealed, or in perfect condition.

The rules of giving second hand presents

Really, anything goes when it comes to gifting second hand presents, but there are a few other rules that you might want to stick by or consider before you take the plunge.

  • Is the item in good condition?
  • Does the recipient shop second hand themselves?
  • Would you be happy to receive the item as a gift?
  • Could you ask the recipient if they are happy to agree to a second hand Christmas/birthday/event this year?
  • Is it the right size? (You can’t always return second hand items and the recipient won’t be able to exchange it!)

These rules aren’t hard and fast- but they might help ease you into giving second hand gifts for your loved ones. Remember- second hand does not equal second best.

If the recipient of your gift does not shop second hand themselves, and perhaps you know that they will be spending more on a brand new gift for you, do consider whether gifting second hand is the right avenue for this person. If you’d still like to go ahead with a second hand gift, perhaps source something which is in brand new packaging or still has the tags included.

Where can you buy second hand gifts?

You can find second hand gifts all over the place. There are plenty of opportunities to find second hand gifts in person in the likes of charity shops and vintage shops. Equally, you could also find great pre-loved presents online on eBay, Depop and Vinted.

Charity shops

Charity shops are no longer the jumble sale experience of times gone by. Many charity shops are now set up as boutique stores with designer items, nearly new pieces, and gorgeous books, homeware and accessories.

No matter where you live in the country, you can certainly find a hidden gem on any high street. If you’re London based, check out these guides to the biggest charity shops in London, and the best charity shop crawls in London.

Second hand shopping online

And if you struggle to get to the charity shops? There are plenty of online options. Oxfam has an online charity shop filled with second hand gift ideas. Shelter also has a fantastic online offering. Perfect if there’s not a Shelter store local to your home.

You can also head to Preloved, which is a second hand website with an abundance of retro furniture, jewellery and home ware items.

Etsy is another great option for vintage homeware, clothing, jewellery and accessories. Etsy showcases shop owners from all over the world, and so with a little extra postage, you have access to a global network of second hand pieces! It’s impossible not to find something preloved on Etsy.


eBay has a brilliant app which makes shopping online super simple. Within the app, you can turn on alerts for ‘saved searches’ which means that if you are looking for something specific, you can get an alert sent directly to your email address when a matching item gets listed on the site.

Depop and Vinted

Depop and Vinted are both fashion-forward apps where you can buy second hand, preloved clothing, shoes and accessories. Vinted also lists a limited amount of homeware too. Here you can often find current season clothing at a discount, alongside fashion-forward vintage items.

Is it ok to re-gift unwanted presents?

Yes! If you’re not keen on a present that you have been given, there is no reason not to regift it if it is not suitable for you. Make sure that you really do think that the other person will like it, and also make sure that you keep a note of who gave you the gift in the first place!

If you can’t think of anyone who would love the gift, you could donate it to a foodbank at Christmas time (many foodbanks look for gift donations at Christmas), or alternatively donate it to a charity shop or raffle to make sure that it gets used and loved by someone else.

Top tips for second hand gifting

We need to reimagine the way that we view second hand or preloved items. If something has been used by someone else, it doesn’t mean that the item does not hold value. It’s totally ok to give second hand presents, and the gifts may even be more unique and special because of it!

  • Plan ahead. If you want to give mostly second hand gifts this year, time is your best friend. By planning ahead, you will be able to seek out the perfect presents for your recipients. Shopping second hand does not always lend itself to last minute gifts.
  • Think outside the box. Does your local jewellery shop have a second hand or vintage section? You could find a beautiful item for a huge discount. Check out this post on second hand engagement rings for some inspiration.
  • Ask your friends to give you second hand gifts. If you’re new to second hand gifting, this might help normalize the idea and make it the norm among your loved ones. They won’t be surprised when you give them a second hand gift in return!
  • Check the quality of items before
  • Don’t disregard online shopping marketplaces such as Depop, eBay and Vinted. Remember to also check out sites such as Gumtree, Shpock and Facebook Marketplace for larger items, and items such as children’s toys, furniture and games.

Remember to follow @thriftylondoner on Instagram for the latest on all things thrifty.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *