The “Hand Me Down” Chain

A few years ago, the boys across the street gave a glove to my oldest son. It was a small baseball glove, one that they’d outgrown because it didn’t fit their hand well. It’s a pretty tiny glove. Anyway, recently, my oldest son has decided that this glove doesn’t fit him, so he’s passed it on to his youngest brother.

My children also have an older cousin that has constantly passed along clothes and other items to them as he’s outgrown them. My two oldest children will wear the items, and then they’ll pass the items down to their younger sibling. Lately, he’s been outgrowing some of the items, so we’ve taken the ones that are still in reasonably good shape, bundled them up, and passed them along to one of his younger cousins.

The girls that live next door to us had one of those little battery-powered cars that children sometimes have. The youngest girl had simply outgrown it, so she passed the vehicle along to our daughter, who happily spent two years driving up and down the sidewalk in that car. Now she’s a bit too big for it, so it’s become the possession of her younger sibling.

If you have children, the “hand me down” chain is an incredibly valuable one to tap into. It can result in tons of free clothes and toys for your children.

The best way to get this approach started is to simply maintain and strengthen relationships with family and friends with children older than your own.

If you’re thinking of having children and you are close to people who have recently had babies or have young children, dive in. Help them a bit with child care and other household tasks. Do some free babysitting every once in a while. Take their children to a park and give them a few hours of peace. Continue to spend time with friends even after they have children and their interests and attitudes change a bit.

In other words, be a good friend and family member. In almost every case I can think of, this has been the origin of hand-me-downs for my own children. We’ve either been friends with or close family to couples with children older than our own.

Here’s the big secret: once your children start to get older, you eventually have lots of clothes that you have no use for. Our littlest one can no longer wear clothes smaller than 2T, and his 2T clothes are going to outgrow him soon. He’s also outgrown quite a few toys – he simply doesn’t pull out some of the “baby” toys any more.

For now, we’ve been storing this stuff in the garage with the eventual goal of putting it out in a yard sale. In reality, we’d be thrilled to pull this stuff out and give it to a friend or a family member who has a baby or a toddler at home. It solves a problem for us – space in the garage – and helps a friend at the same time.

Naturally, you’ll want to filter the items before you give them away. If the baby clothes are worn and frayed, it’s time to dispose of them, not give them to someone else. Focus on the items that are still in good shape, items that you would not object in any way receiving as a hand-me-down yourself.

Use the same approach with toys. Toys with teeth marks and pieces missing are generally not the best choice for hand-me-downs (unless they can be repaired easily). Look for toys that are in reasonably good shape and discard the damaged items.

Another tip: people are more likely to continue giving you hand-me-downs if they see you continuing the chain. If you’re the recipient of hand-me-downs and then have an opportunity to pay it forward, do so. If I find myself eventually handing down an item that was handed down to me, I usually tell the person who handed it down and they’re always thrilled about it. I know I would be – I would be extremely glad to know that multiple other families are getting use out of those clothes and toys and I’d be more likely to continue handing down to those people.

Being part of a hand-me-down chain has rewards far beyond the value of the toys and clothes. Hand-me-downs can be a part of a growing or continuing friendship and help strengthen bonds between people. That’s a double win.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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