Would You Feel Guilty Profiting From Hand-Me-Downs?


The other day I wrote about my trip to the local consignment shop. In that post I mentioned consigning a few articles of clothing that were given to me by a former coworker. In response I received the following comment:

Just curious but do you feel guilty for taking something someone gave you for free and then turning around and selling it and keeping the money? I got mad at my brother for selling stuff I had given him since he didn’t tell me and kept the money. The original reason I gave him the items is because I thought he could use them to save him money. If I had known he was just going to sell them I would have sold them myself. Not trying to say what you did was wrong, just curious if you have any thoughts on that.

Here is my response to that inquiry:

The short answer is no. I do not feel guilty. Here’s why… My friend had twin boys. She knows that I cannot possibly use all of the clothing she gives me every season. One time I received thirty pairs of toddler pants. Another time I received twenty pairs of shoes. I wouldn’t even have the space in the dresser to store all of these things if I wanted to.

Second, every time I pick up hand-me-downs I specifically ask her if she wants any of them back. Every time she tells me ‘no. if you don’t need it pass it on to someone else.’ Up until now I’ve done that by donating to friends, family and our local donation center.

Third, I take my friend out to lunch every time I pick up clothes from her. The pitiful amount of money I earned from her hand-me-downs at consignment wouldn’t even cover the number of lunches I’ve paid for over the last three years. I earned $18 for all the stuff I took in. Three quarters of that was stuff that I had purchased myself. Of course, if the items I received were worth hundreds of dollars it might be a different story.

My advice and two cents… If you want stuff back after you lend it to someone let them know. My brother gave me two expensive items: a baby carrier and an expensive toy. He asked me to return them after my son was finished using/playing with them. For everything else he said keep it, pass it on, whatever. I think you definitely need to set firm expectations of what you expect when you ‘give things away.’ In the future if you give your brother things I would definitely suggest asking for them back if he isn’t going to use them.

I’m curious what the readers of this blog think. Would you feel guilty selling someone that was handed down to you? Do you think you should let the original owner know it might be worth money and offer to return it so they could sell it themselves?

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11 thoughts on “Would You Feel Guilty Profiting From Hand-Me-Downs?”

  1. Noooooope, no guilt here. I am clear with people that I plan to give or sell what I can’t use or when I’m done with it. One friend has passed on tons of boy stuff – when I only had a girl. A lot of It got consigned (I had to do a lot of work to get it in good enough condition to sell it). Another friend gave me a bunch of her son’s outgrown stuff and let me know she wanted it back. No problem.

    once you give someone something, it’s theirs to do with as they please. Maybe the money he made from selling the stuff was more helpful than the money he could have saved by using it.

    • Maybe the key is letting the ‘givers’ know how you intend to use the items they gave. It sounds like you tell them up front that you plan to sell anything they give you. That gives them the opportunity to say, “I want it back!” I always think the ‘giver’ should state their desire, but it makes perfect sense that the ‘taker’ should also state their intentions. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I’m the original commenter. I gave my brother nice furniture (Multiple pieces) because I knew he had just bought a house and didn’t have much and I was moving. I guess I should have specifically said “if you don’t plan on using this then I will give it to another family member to have” the items were worth more than I could sell them for. He sold the stuff because he saw it as a way to make money and then my mom told him not to tell me he sold it. So she obviously knew I would be upset. I no longer give him stuff as I learned my lesson. My family is known for giving stuff to each other and then when someone doesn’t want something they give it to another family member. The same item can be passed around multiple times. It’s how everyone (except my brother) operates which is why I expected the same with this situation.

    • It sounds like you don’t have a great relationship with your brother which is a shame. If he knew he wasn’t going to use something big like furniture, (which I’m sure took time to lug and move), then he certainly should have told you. That’s a whole lot different than throwing a couple of bags of clothing into the back of your car and driving home.

      I guess it comes down to expectations on both sides of the give-and-take equation. I suppose it’s good to state what you want to ensure the other person understands your intentions in case they don’t tell you what they plan to do with the items you provided.

      It sounds like you learned your lesson and probably won’t be ‘lending’ him anything else anytime soon!

  3. I would not sell it but that is me. I would pass it ion when I was done using it or give it back if they wanted it (but I typically do not take anything the original owner wants back–just in case I mess it up).

    • Thanks for the comment. I don’t typically borrow anything that someone might want back either. Babies are messy and you just can’t guarantee it will get returned in the same condition!

  4. I have never thought of it because if I give something away, I don’t care what the person does with it. I don’t know anyone who tries to get more than they need with the intention of selling it. Most people use it and then pass it on via donation but if they want to sell it, I don’t care. For larger expensive items or anything I want back, I make it clear before I give it to the person.
    Incidentally, I seemed to have made money on more free hand-me-downs than on stuff I paid for. I don’t really keep track and donate a lot or price very low which adds to my non-guilt.

    • Thanks for the comment. I have given away car loads of clothing, toys and other household items to charity so I must agree that selling a handful of items for a small chunk of change would definitely not make me feel guilty. It’s an interesting point though. Maybe if you tried to sell everything you received you’d feel strange about it, but if it’s a small portion of the overall stuff you’ve been given that it hardly seems like something you should worry about.

  5. I have a three year old son as well. Everyone generously gave us sacks of used baby clothes and gear when he was born. I have purchased outfits for high holidays for him and that is it. We were certainly financially able to buy all of his clothes, but it has been a huge help to get all of these hand-me-downs. I would rather save the money for his college than spend it on onesies, you know?

    No one wanted anything back, but I would not have felt right selling it. It was all given to me. If I had bought it, I would have been fine selling it. I passed it all on to people with younger babies. Or sometimes same age babies, like when we were given enough 2T khaki shorts to outfit a small daycare. The people I gave his old baby things to struggle financially a great deal, which is a big reason that I gave it to them. I just wanted to help them out. So if they end up selling the stuff, I would be happy for them.

  6. Thanks for the comment. I totally agree that we didn’t financially need the hand-me-downs we were given, though it was certainly nice to receive them. I can’t even big to imagine how much money we saved this way!

    Like you I have given away car loads of baby stuff over the years and in the big scheme of things the tiny pile of clothes and toys I considered selling were a drop in the bucket. I also realized that even when I donate the items they are not given away for free. The donation center processes them and then puts them back on the floor with tags so that even those in need still have to pay for them. Of course, they don’t pay as much as a second-hand store, but in the end there is an exchange of money.

    My favorite way of donating, is to give to friends and family. That way no one pays and it feels like everyone wins!


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