3 Reasons Hand-Me-Downs are Not Just for Kids

by Travis Pizel · 19 comments

hand me downs

As a kid I hated hand-me-downs. You know, the clothes, toys, or shoes that your older siblings would get brand new, but you’d receive after they outgrew them?

Every pair of jeans seemed to have a whole in the knee, every shirt had something on the front that I would have never picked out, and every toy was beaten up and faded. Don’t get me wrong, I received my share of new things, but there was also a steady stream of hand-me-downs from my older brother. I just didn’t understand why my parents wouldn’t buy all new stuff for me.

As an adult, my view of hand-me-downs has completely changed. I’m constantly scanning the side of the road for items with a “TAKE ME” sign propped up next to them. I’m the guy whose ears perk up when someone mentions they’re trying to declutter their home.

As a grown up, my love for hand-me-downs stems from the simple fact that the price is usually free. And no one is ever too old for free stuff, right? 

Here are a couple of my favorite not-so-brand-new items that I’ve gotten my hands on in the last few years. Who says adults can’t use hand-me-downs too?

hand me downs1. The Perfect Grill

The charcoal grill I used at least twice a week for over 5 years was shot. But I loved the grill so much that I put off buying a new one as long as possible. I just couldn’t find one that I liked enough to replace it.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the exact same grill, only in much better condition, sitting next to a mailbox free to whomever wanted to load it up and take it home. This hand-me-down grill was perfect, and lasted close to 3 years.

2. The $20 Computer

At the age of ten my son became extremely interested in making stop-motion videos with his Star Wars Lego sets. He would attach a webcam to our laptop and disappear into the basement for hours.

The problem was, that computer was also the one I used to connect to both my home and work emails. For this reason, I wanted to get him a computer of his own, but we just couldn’t afford it at the time.

One of our neighbors mentioned they had a computer that stopped working, and asked if I would look at it. It was a simple fix of just replacing the hard drive, which I did by purchasing a used one from a local computer repair store for $20. But by the time I got it back up and running, they bought a new computer, and told me I could keep their old one!

For $20, (the price of the new hard drive) I had a nearly new computer my son could use as much as he wanted.

3. The New-to-Me Snow Blower

I’ve lived in Minnesota all my life, and have seen snow storms that make me wonder why I haven’t moved somewhere warmer. Every year I say to myself, “This is the last year I shovel my driveway by hand.” But every year I decide I don’t want to shell out $800 or more for a heavy duty blower.

A few weeks ago my father called me and informed me that he was buying a new snow blower. My father is over seventy years old, and the current snow blower is just too heavy for him.

He told me if I wanted the old one, I could have it. Of course, I took it without hesitation! I’m already familiar with it, because it’s the snow blower I used when I was in high school. This blower is 28 years old but still runs perfectly, and I was glad to have a new-to-me tool to help clear my driveway.

Hand-Me-Downs Are for Adults Too

Each of the items on this list was a hand-me-down, and something I used to the fullest extent. They weren’t new, shiny, or the latest and greatest. But they filled a need without emptying my wallet, which makes any used item worth the price — free!

It’s important to keep your eyes open and be on the lookout for great hand-me-down items. You never know when the perfect match will cross your path.

What was the last item you received as a hand-me-down? Do you think your example of using hand-me-downs will help your kids understand this important lesson?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Arminius says:

    After my 4 years in the Navy , I went to the Culinary Institute of America for a 1 year course . I decided I could use a suit for rare occasions . Went to a used clothing store in New Haven , Conn. and bought a suit that looked like new , dirt cheap. In all my long life , I have never bought a new car , it was always a LOW mileage car , 14,000 to 19,000 miles Max. My last car, a 2008 Lincoln Town Car had 13,900 miles on it [ bought it in March 2009 ] for $ 23,900.00 , I saved over $ 21,000.00 . Had I bought it 6 months earlier , it would have cost me $ 45,000.00. I now have 61,200 miles on it and it still runs and looks like new . Will trade it in this fall. Over the years , the money I saved was invested and I made money on my money .
    Albert Einstein once said , ” There is no force more powerful in the world than Compound Interest. It is the 8 th wonder of the world.”
    You can buy used [ but high quality ] furniture for about 1/4 of the cost if new . Even the wealthy proudly buy used furniture but it labeled ” antique ” [ but it is still used ]

  • Ashley says:

    I love hand me downs! I have friends and family that give me clothes or home stuff when they are done with them. It is just such a nice gesture and a blessing too. I definitely hope that my love to give and receive hand me downs will affect my children. I want my children to know that they don’t always need new things, and that if they are done with them, they should either sell them or give them to someone for free – not hoard them.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      There’s always someone that can make use of items that you’re done with….sometimes it takes a little effort, but it’s worth it!

  • Cindy says:

    A few weeks ago I was approached by a co-worker who had lost a lot of weight. She asked if I wanted to have some clothes that were too big for her. She gave me two huge garbage bags full of beautiful name brand clothes. Some with price tags still on. Now when I have someplace fancy to be I don’t have to go shopping. Heck yeah, give me hand me downs.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      Gotta love hand-me-downs with the tags still on……it’s almost like hitting the lottery, isn’t it Cindy?

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

    Yes! Totally agree. I’m all about hand-me-downs, free roadside finds, thrift stores, and Craigslist. There’s just no reason to buy most things new. Vastly cheaper and more entertaining to find it used! The most recent thing I received as a hand-me-down was a cardigan sweater from a co-worker. Woo hoo!

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      I had a friend of mine that was moving to a different state, and didn’t want to move all his clothes. My closet got a LOT of new clothes as a result…..nice job on the cardigan! Thanks for reading, Mrs. Frugalwoods!

  • Money Beagle says:

    My parents have given me some stuff that they no longer needed that has worked great for us. Two things on your list actually were things we got from them: A snowblower when my parents decided to have someone come do their snow, and a grill (20+ years old) when they wanted one with a few new features.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      Very cool, Money Beagle. We’ll have to compare notes sometime on how our hand-me-down snowblowers are working for us later this winter. 🙂

  • Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom says:

    When I put down the hand me downs in the last couple months it’s pretty startling: clothes, a computer and a car. It’s amazing how people want to help out when you let them. It helps that I’m part of my local Buy Nothing Project on Facebook.

  • Joseph Hogue says:

    Love hand-me-downs but so hard to find as an adult.

    I have a few friends that always ‘have’ to get the new tech gadgets when they come out. I usually drop the hint a month or so in advance that my phone/laptop/etc is on the fritz. Sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. Doesn’t always score free gadgets but I’ll get them at big discounts and I know the previous owner hasn’t abused it.

    Ask me a few years ago about getting clothes at the Salvation Army and I would have given you the same reaction most would give. Checked it out once though and you can find some really nice stuff in really good shape. Shirts and polo shirts go for as low as $3 each. Takes a little looking sometimes but you’ll usually find a couple of good items.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      That’s exactly how our family got our first iPhone. A neighbor of ours bought the latest and greatest, and her old one was just collecting dust on their desk…we inquired about it, and she sold it to us for super cheap!

  • moneystepper says:

    Yeah, absolutely. I’m always incredibly excited to get a “hand-me-down” from friends or family who are just throwing away a product.

    Recently, my friend gave me a laptop bag that they no longer wanted. Its a little bit worn, but its a top class leather bag and its definitely got a few years left in it yet!

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      Leather always lasts longer than people think it will…it’s heavy duty stuff! Plus, I like to think of “worn” as simply character. 🙂

  • Brian @ Debt Discipline says:

    I’m a big fan of hand-me-downs no matter what your age. My last one was a electric leaf blower. Still working well and didn’t cost me a penny!

    • Travis Pizel says:

      NICE! I actually was on the other end of the hand-me-down for lawn equipment. I owned a hedge trimmer that I used all the time in our first home. But our current home has no hedge, and I have no use for a hedge trimmer. My neighbor, on the other hand, does. he saw me moving it one day and asked about it….I just handed it to him. He’s still using it!

  • Jonathan says:

    Hand me downs are most definitely for adults too!!! With two older brothers I love to get their high-quality clothing as it saves me a fortune. My wife to also shares clothes here sisters after they’ve finished with them almost always there in good condition.

    It’s a great way to be frugal antistick within your budget without falling into the trap of buying everything you see.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      It’s crazy how much clothes can cost….if you can find a way to get some for free from your siblings, more power to you! Thanks for sharing, Jonathan!

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