The Ethics And Economics Of Used Baby Clothes

by Kelly · 12 comments

in A Frugal Family

Clothes are expensive- baby clothes even more so. It’s easy, even for seasoned bargain hunters like myself, to lose all sense of self-restraint and throw ourselves on adorable garments like these. And babies grow quickly, darned them, and even the most darling of outfits won’t fit forever. Unless you live in extreme isolation, or are fundamentally opposed to letting something used touch your little darling’s skin, hand-me-downs and secondhand clothes are a great way to lighten the financial load.

When your firstborn outgrows an outfit, you sigh sentimentally as you tuck it away, washed and folded, to await the arrival of baby number two. After the spare outgrows it, you might do as I did, and get it out of the house as quickly as possible, sure that no little feet were ever to pitter-patter in the house again. Or, maybe you tuck the outfit away again, to await the arrival of baby number three, number four, number five…

I am lucky to have wonderful friends who, conveniently have the correct gendered and aged children to be able to pass their hand-me-downs to my kids. A friend with three boys passes down all her boy stuff. When I was pregnant with my third child, a girl after two boys, I had almost no baby clothes. I had given nearly all of them away! A friend from work gave me four enormous boxes of her daughter’s outgrown clothes; in fact I had so many that I was able to share with another friend of mine. Sometimes I’m curious to know just how many babies have worn the pajamas I just put on my daughter. Three? Four? Ten? Hand-me-downs are definitely the gift that keep on giving.

What happens afterwards though, especially if you are finished (or believe you are finished) having children? The way I see it there are three choices: sell the item (on Ebay, or to a consignment shop), give it away (to a friend or to a thrift store) or trash it.

As someone who is environmentally aware, at least moderately so, I abhor throwing usable goods into the trash. I’ll Freecycle something, or even leave it out on the curb, before I throw it away. However, is it right to make money off of something given to you?

A lot of my alternative income comes from things I sell: on Etsy, on Ebay, or at the consignment store. However I don’t feel right selling clothes that have been passed down to me. I don’t want to make money off of other people’s generosity, nor to I consider myself to be in such dire financial straits that I have the need to do so. therefore I only sell clothes that I myself have bought, usually from a thrift store or a consignment shop; very occasionally I will sell something bought new for me as a gift, but only after my kids have worn it multiple times. Otherwise, they get passed down to the next person in the chain. At the moment, that place belongs to my Chinese teacher. I have two big bags of clothes for her, it’s her turn now!

How do you get outgrown baby clothes out of the house? Where do they go? Do you ever sell them? And what do you do with clothes that were gifts?


1 Kelly April 30, 2008

No they didn’t, darn it! I’m not quite sure what to do with them either…

2 thrrrnbush April 30, 2008

I have been fortunate to be the recipient of a great wealth of hand-me-downs and have almost always known someone who needed them just as my family didn't. I've had a few sentimental pieces that I held onto, mostly made (or dyed) by family. Some of them I shed to my best friend, but it was too late to pass on the newborn size stuff then. The sentimental items are the exception. Generally, I pass to friends and in rare and desperate times to the thrift store. Sometimes I just need the clutter gone now and if I can't arrange an exchange conveniently, away it goes. However, if I had a functional selling account on ebay or etsy I don't think that there would be anything unethical about selling my good fortune. When I give something away its with the intention that the recipient get whatever use they need from it. So did the booties fit Kate?

3 Mrs. Micah April 30, 2008

My mom got a lot of hand-me-downs from my aunts when we were babies. The baby ones she gave back to my uncle’s daughters (but not her nieces) for their babies. The other kid clothes she gave to goodwill and the like when we were done with them because they were already 11 years out of style and it would be crazy to give them to kids 15 years younger than the clothes.

4 Charity April 30, 2008

I was in the position of getting everything out of the house after baby #3, and now am expecting #4! Sigh. I do have a few sentimental things I’ve held onto, and have been blessed with masses of handmedowns from friends, and through Freecycle. Plus, by baby #4, you realize how little you actually need for a baby, unlike when you have your first.

One place I make much use of is our local children’s consignment store. I sell outgrown things there, and use the credit generated to buy new (to us) things as needed. They only take and sell like-new items, so the rest I pass on to friends or Freecycle. I almost never throw anything away. I’m not sure if I could earn more selling the nice items on ebay, but to me the convenience of having it all done there, and being able to spend my credit there, is well worth it. I also go to a lot of garage sales during the season here, both for my children’s wardrobe, and also to pick up any saleable items for the consignment store. I will sometimes find a brand name clothing item for 25 cents, that I can sell for a couple of dollars. I figure it all adds up!

5 Kelly May 1, 2008

Charity, I often buy stuff at the local thrift store just to sell at the consignment shop too. I often double my money… but of course we're talking €1 and €2s!

6 Shan May 4, 2008

Hand me downs from my oldest are packed away for the youngest. As for the youngest I pass it along to my neighbour who’s sister had a little girl not too long ago. I used to sell on ebay, but I just don’t have the time or patience for it anymore. We do have a consignment shop not far from here, but to be honest, knowing how expensive clothes are I rather pass them on. My Mom works at a children’s clothing store so I get my kids clothes at a decent discount already.

7 Dana Seilhan May 5, 2008

Let me preface this with a disclaimer that I have not tried this site yet, but…

I think I will try it, if only because I’m tired of chunks of my money going to PayPal, and because I can get lots of other kid stuff with my Zwaggle points for only the cost of shipping–and not even that if there are other Zwagglers who live near you.

8 Mama Bear May 7, 2008

My cousins and I are all in the throes of baby making and have been passing around all of our collected baby ‘gear’ for a few years now.

I love hand me downs – it’s like shopping for free!

9 DivaJean May 7, 2008

I have a circle of friends that exchanges kid clothes. The main rule of our group is that no one sells anything. On eBay, at garage sales– ALL verboten! It would shift the spirit of what we are trying to do, which is, keep our children clothed inexpensively.

What is allowed- if no one in the group needs the size/gender clothes or is inclined to save it until their kid will fit them- the clothes may be donated to a clothing closet or organization accepting clothes– and NOT take tax breaks from the donation either.

I think since we have our rules of conduct identified, its easier to stay on the up and up.

10 Kelly May 7, 2008

@DivaJean,That's a great solution if you have the right number/ages of kids near you. I do this very informally, but we don't have the rules you do!

11 Monroe on a Budget May 21, 2009

My daughter is 19 years old and some of her baby / toddler shirts are still circulating among her cousins!

My sisters get a big laugh when I recognize a shirt or outfit that one of their children are wearing.

<abbr>Monroe on a Budget´s last blog post..Here’s what I got at Meijer today</abbr>

12 Morgan December 25, 2009

I kept all of my daughters clothes that she has grown out of. I did however throw out anything that had a stain or was damaged. I think it is rude to donate something with stains on it!! Just toss it! A select few things will stay with me forever, like her 1st outfit, her hosptial gown(she was a preemie and spent her first 2 years in and out of the hospital) but most of them are in the huge totes we have! I'm working on filling tote #4 right now! My son (5 months) were almost all hand-me-downs. In our group of friends, there is an 18 month old boy whose clothes go to the next 9 month old boy, who passes them to our son. They are also being kept for the next couple having a boy. It is a blessing to all of us!

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