6 Ways To Make The Best Out Of Hand-Me-Downs

hand me down children's clothes

Parenting is full of a lot of responsibilities. We are tasked with the care of small humans and have to worry about everything from what they’re eating to what they’re wearing — all with a household budget in mind.

As a parent of multiple children, I know there’s nothing like the money-saving essential called the “hand-me-down.” After all, why splurge for a new jacket for your youngest when your oldest has outgrown his old one? But while hand-me-downs are a great way to stay within your budget, it’s also important to ensure that each child still feels special and valued—not like they’re always getting the short end of the stick. We’ve got tips and tricks to make your hand-me-downs fresh, versatile and fun for all.

Invest in High-Quality, Gender Neutral Items from the Get-Go

This may seem like a given, but if you’re thoughtful of your purchases from first child to last, you’ll get the most wear out the kids’ clothes you buy. There are key items to get that will work for either gender:

  • Grab black, grey and denim leggings for your babies and toddlers.
  • Pick up solid-color tees for the kids. Snag that casual, cool denim jacket for spring and fall.
  • Consider whether the jeans you buy would work for either a son or a daughter.

These are foundational items that you can build upon with other clothes and accessories. Buy high-quality pieces from trusted brands that will survive multiple years of daily wear and laundering. To save a little extra money, look to consignment shops and online thrift stores, where you can find name brand and designer clothing at a fraction of the original price.

Personalize with Accessories

How do you spice up your hand-me-downs so that each child feels like an individual, not just the recipient of used goods? You help them choose small items that make them feel special and represent their tastes! Help them find the perfect backpack that’s theirs and theirs alone. Take them shopping for a hat or pair of shoes that speaks to them. These are all items, that if thoughtfully purchased, can really add personality to existing clothing and make your children feel unique.

When You Do Buy New, Make It Mindful

There will be instances when you’ll have to buy new (or new to you) for the kids. For example, sometimes the kids’ sizing won’t match the season, so you won’t be able to reuse that newborn coat from your first child if your new baby will be in bigger sizes by the time winter rolls around.

When buying a new item, consider the possibilities for future children or who you may pass it on to, whether it be family or friends. When you’re purchasing new items for your children, let’s say a dress for a special occasion or a favorite character tee, make sure to talk about it being a unique experience so that you can teach your children to value their things and put thought into their own choices. Who knows, it might stick!

Talk About Memories

It’s inevitable that your kids might groan about having to wear clothes that once belonged to their siblings. In order to make the experience a little more bearable for all involved, talk about a memory that you’ve associated with that item. Do you remember buying that t-shirt on a family vacation? Mention how you’d love to create a new adventure for that tee to go on. If a particular sun hat has made the rounds, talk about how it’s the coolest hat that every kid needs to wear to earn their family stripes. We just want our lives to be fun and as effortless as possible, so helping your kids associate clothes with memories made—and in the making—can make all the difference.

Keep It Fun & Crafty

Try your hand at a family craft night. It’s a fun, kid-friendly activity that can also freshen up those hand-me-downs. Not only are you breathing new life into a used item, you’re finding a group activity that might just be a super fun and successful family night! Try grabbing alphabet stencils and helping your kids personalize items like t-shirts and sweatshirts. Or, you can dip dye or tie dye stained clothing that may not have been wearable otherwise. Be creative and open to suggestions from your children—they might surprise you with their ideas! In addition to fun alterations, don’t be afraid to have items hemmed and repaired, rather than buying new. We even recommend trying it yourself!

Utilize Your Own Closet

If your kids are teens or tweens rather than toddlers, consider letting them “shop” from your closet when they need something new. Vintage ‘80s and ‘90s style is all the rage, so they may find a new favorite dress or pair of jeans that’s left over from your college years. Or, take them consignment shopping (either in person at a local shop or by browsing an online thrift store) to pick out something new-to-them at a budget-friendly price. This is a great strategy for finding formal dresses for school dances and other special occasions.

Don’t be afraid to mix it up and encourage your kids to embrace the idea of sharing clothes. It helps instill in them an appreciation for conserving resources and even introduces the concept of shopping and secondhand. Now that you have some ideas on keeping hand-me-downs fresh for your family, you can feel empowered to make each of your children feel cherished regardless of what clothes they are wearing.

As a mom of two, Amanda Light provides great tips on how to save money women’s and kid’s clothes.  She writes for her blog, Prim and Propah, and for thredUP.com, an online/offline consignment store where you can find a large selection of previously loved women’s and kid’s dresses. 

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