4 secrets to secondhand gift giving

Have you ever tried to give a secondhand gift but worried that you’d appear tacky or cheap? I personally love giving secondhand items because it allows me to give something that’s worth more than what I could comfortably purchase new. Today I want to share my four secrets for how to give a secondhand gift that is appropriate and tasteful.

1. Don’t try to pass off secondhand stuff as new.

I recently gifted a secondhand play kitchen to my toddler niece. It was previously my daughter’s, but she outgrew it a few years ago. I knew my niece would absolutely love it and use it frequently.


However, I also made sure to honestly explain up front to my sister where the gift originated. This is important because it helps avoid any awkwardness while the gift is examined (the recipient will know it’s not new). And no one will wonder if you were trying to fool them into believing you spent more than you did. You could try saying something like, “I was perusing the thrift store looking for furniture to redo and I saw this and knew it would be absolutely perfect for ______________.”

2. Make sure an item is clean and in “like new” condition.

I always thoroughly inspect a secondhand item for signs of wear and only give stuff that is in “like new” condition. Clean is key, too! I made sure to give the play kitchen a really good scrubbing, so it appeared as if it came right off a store shelf.

3. Add something new.

This is my secret sauce for taking a secondhand item from appropriate to totally awesome! For example, I ordered a new apron for my niece to go along with the secondhand play kitchen. The apron only cost me $2 on eBay, but it increased the value and thoughtfulness of the gift exponentially. Adding something new to a secondhand gift conveys that your motive was to give the perfect gift, not just save a buck.


4. Personalize it.

This removes any shred of “secondhand” from a secondhand gift, elevating it to uber thoughtful, personal and meaningful. For example, I added to my niece’s play kitchen a container to corral all the (clean) secondhand play dishes and cooking items. Then I simply slapped on a chalkboard tag labeled “Rosie’s Kitchen.” Done.  


Have you ever gifted a secondhand item? What was the result?

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10 Responses

  1. Sylvia says:

    Great ideas. Thanks.

  2. teresa says:

    Oh gee! If I didn’t give secondhand my friends wouldn’t receive any gifts at all! :0 They love appreciate and use everything I give, but I also know their personal aesthetic. My step-mom is my major caveat as she’s always ready with the backhanded compliment. For her only perfection will do….but I know that when shopping for her. Oddly enough, she kept insisting one of my gifts was Used, when it was probably the only new thing I gave her! She’s plays bridge, so I’ve been finding lovely emboidered vintage bridge clothes and napkins. She seems to like and use those.

  3. Dawn Rene says:

    I love getting things that someone has rummaged around looking for or that they no longer have a place for. There is “life” in something that someone has used. It has so much meaning to me and more thought then running to a store, looking for a gift. Shop thrift, flea markets, antique stores, anything vintage or consignment. I live in Atlanta and we have so much of it and I love shopping in all of them!

  4. Michelle says:

    Great ideas Susan! I will use these!

  5. Kristin says:

    If rather get a second hand gift that is given with love and thought than something given new because it was on sale or easy. It really is the thought that counts.

  6. Cindy says:

    I shop flea markets and antique malls all the time. I certainly don’t mind someone giving me something I would have bought second hand anyway.

  7. Angie W says:

    Love this article – awesome ideas and tips.

    My question – where did you get that big leaf wall hanging in the first picture? I’ve seen those before but don’t know where to get them. Thanks!

    • Susan says:

      Oh wow, Angie. I got that wall tapestry many years ago at a furniture store. It was on deep clearance because the rod in the top was broken. I think I paid $15 for it. I put paint stir sticks in the top to act as a rod and keep the piece looking straight, lol. Not sure where you could pick one up now … Good luck with the hunt and thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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