How to buy thoughtful and unique secondhand gifts your family and friends will love this Christmas

Written by Amy Beecham

Switch up your gifting for Christmas 2021 and consider pre-loved presents. Here’s how to find secondhand gems your family and friends will love.

Though many of us dread the thought of it, shopping for our loved ones’ gifts is always a huge part of the build up to Christmas.

But as we become increasingly environmentally conscious and want to save money in a time of ever-rising living costs, more and more people are being drawn away from the bright lights of the shopping centre and online spending sprees.

Data from pre-loved selling app Vinted suggests that more than half (53%) of Brits surveyed say they intend to buy a mixture of new and second-hand gifts for this year’s festive season, with one in six people saying they intend to buy solely secondhand festive gifts.

“Gifting a pre-loved item isn’t just a great option to find a unique or even a vintage gift, but is also a cost-effective and practical way to share our conscious values with our loved ones,” says Natacha Blanchard, consumer lead at Vinted. “And who knows, you might even encourage them to play their own part towards a more circular and sharing economy.”

Eva, 23, from York, says that she started buying secondhand gifts a few years ago when she became more conscious about overconsumption at Christmas.

“I started to think more about gifts people would like rather than falling into the trap of random spending for the sake of it being Christmas,” she tells Stylist. “With secondhand presents, the fact that you’ve gone out your way to find something unique really does mean a lot. I’ve gifted gorgeous cut glasses to my mum, which I found in an antique shop, and bought vintage handbags for friends.”

Similarly, Becky, 24, from Shropshire, says that she was curious to adopt the same approach for buying second hand gifts for loved ones as she did with her own consumption of clothing. “I began to realise that buying people gifts that they probably didn’t want, or need was a waste of time, money, and resources,” she explains. “Many of the presents I bought for family and friends previously were not really thought through. It was virtually panic-buying, a sort of what-can-I-get-last-minute-and-cheap, rather than considering what my family would actually want, appreciate and make use of.”

However, the idea of gifting secondhand carries a lot of stigma, and can be thought of as “cheap” or tatty. “Secondhand does not mean second-best or old, and it is important to remind ourselves that this also counts for gifts,” Blanchard reassures. “Opting for a pre-loved or secondhand item doesn’t diminish the spirit of gifting. If done right it actually can be more meaningful and it is such an easy way of making your gifts for your loved ones genuinely personal and thoughtful.”

“All my secondhand gifts have been received very well, however I do select carefully who I give secondhand to as some people might not love it as much as others,” Eva explains.

Becky agrees that the reception of her pre-loved gifts has been mostly positive. “Realistically, I know my sister would prefer new things. I think it’s because she’s grown accustomed to the feel and temporary buzz newness offers and I get it. But the gifts I buy for her now are heartfelt and unique.”

“I think changing someone’s mind about something that maybe they already have a fixed preconceived idea about is always going to be a challenge,” she continues, “but one I’m happy to take on for the sake of people and the planet.”

The benefits of shopping secondhand at Christmas

Alongside the obvious environmental benefits, for Becky, the idea that pre-loved items have a past is exciting. “I love to think about it and I try to share this love in my gift-giving. Who wore this shirt before? Did they go on their first date in this dress? Did they pass a big test wearing these trousers?” she shares.

“It’s also about reminding people that secondhand doesn’t mean a load of rubbish, it means reusing items and that with all the processes that have gone into making them they deserve a long life. The items have been loved before and they can be loved again. If we accept this approach along these lines, buying secondhand keeps the items out of landfills.”

However, Becky says that even though shopping secondhand is cheaper, it doesn’t mean she buys more. “I just buy what I think my family will love. I buy one item for each of them safe in the knowledge that they will cherish them.”

How to buy secondhand Christmas presents

If you’re considering sustainable giving this Christmas, Blanchard has some advice. “Start looking for gifts on time so there is enough room to find that one unique gem. There’s no time too early to get a bargain so you won’t need to wait for stores’ end of year sales. This also means no queuing up stressfully at stores with fellow last-minute shoppers,” she says.

Becky agrees that you need a bit of planning and foresight to avoid that unthinking last-minute rush. “Just give yourself time and have fun with it.

“A good piece of advice therefore is to have some idea of what your family or friends are looking for. I understand that sometimes Christmas presents need to come with an element of surprise, so make mental notes when they are chatting about their wants and needs. Think about the usual colours they wear and the type of ‘fit’ they like.”

“You also need to bear in mind any delivery times that might occur if you’re buying online as it might not be as fast as online retailers because it could be coming from an individual,” adds Eva.

Some of the easiest items to purchase second-hand include scarves, accessories like handbags, books and homeware items. Blanchard shares that there are currently 10,000 vases in the home category for sale on Vinted in the UK, with 80,000 scarves across the men and women categories also listed. Clearly, there are plenty of options when it comes to selecting the perfect pre-loved present.

And you don’t have to stop there. Consider scarves and fabric as a beautiful yet zero-waste Christmas wrapping option. “I once purchased a secondhand leather purse for my mum and wrapped it in a silk scarf I got from the same charity shop. It was like an extra present, as well as being sustainable and looking nice under the tree,” Becky explains.

Happy gifting.

Images: Getty

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