Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Baby on a Budget Guest Post: Hand-Me-Downs

When I was pregnant with Lucia, I was fortunate to be gifted a hand-me-down swing and bouncer from a friend with two young children.  These were two big ticket items and I felt very fortunate to receive them.  Even better, they were in great shape!  It wasn't until then that I realized how quickly babies grow out of their baby gear (not to mention baby clothes) - so quickly that they don't have time to wear them out.  If you are wanting to save money on your little one, hand-me-downs are one of the best ways to do so.  Below, Karen writes some really great advice about learning the value of hand-me-downs (and shows off some adorable pictures of her youngest, Katie, in hand-me-downs).


Eleven years ago I was pregnant with my first child.  Taken in by the aura of new baby products, I simply had to have everything new for our new baby.  I had been offered hand-me-downs of almost all the essential baby gear [bassinet, crib, swing, baby bedding, infant car seat, electric breast pump] by my cousin, but I was stubborn and wanted new items.  It didn't help that my mom and several other relatives also weighed in that I should have new baby items for my first baby.  I won't say that I wasn't happy to have all new baby gear and clothing for our first child, but financially it was a big mistake.  After buying a new home and feathering our nest with all new baby gear (Most baby items were gifted to us, but we purchased a lot of things, too.) we were in a bad situation money wise.  If I could go back eleven years in time and talk to my past self, I would assure her that saying yes to hand-me-downs, even ones you don't want or think you will need, is a good thing.

 Katie in hand-me-downs
Very shortly after becoming a new mother I discovered that hand-me-downs were actually not all that bad.  My best friend brought some of her daughters' baby clothes to me without asking if I wanted to borrow them when Madeline, my oldest, was just a few weeks old.  I really didn't want to use hand-me-downs for my baby, but we didn't have a lot of money to spare for baby clothes and my friend had blessed us with several very large trash bags full of barely worn clothing from her two older girls.  For Madeline's first year we had loads of hand-me-down clothes that were adorable.  If I had been more practical, I would have only used hand-me-down clothes and those items that were gifted to us and left it at that.

With our second daughter I really began to see how silly it was of me to not accept hand-me-downs of toys and baby gear that only gets used for a short period of time.  With the exception of some clothing, everything we used for our daughter Ellie was a hand-me-down.  After all, when you use something new for your first child those same items essentially become hand-me-downs for all the rest.  It was with Ellie that I fully came to embrace and appreciate the value of hand-me-downs.

sitting in a hand-me-down high chair wearing hand-me-downs
After Ellie was born we didn't think we'd be adding any more children to our family.  We decided after much thought that we would give away all of our baby stuff.  If down the line we found ourselves expecting again we figured we would just buy the things we needed.

Remembering how difficult it was to buy everything new when we were starting out with our first child, I began to give friends and acquaintances who were expecting our baby items.  I didn't want to part with most of it, so I felt tremendously better about giving it to people I knew who could use it than I did about selling it in a yard sale to strangers.  I couldn't bear the thought of selling it and so we chose to bless people with what we had to offer.   I found peace in knowing that I was helping others get ready for their babies.  What I didn't expect was the outpouring of gratitude that we received after giving people hand-me-downs.  I had not only gained space in my home, but I had made several families very happy.  The absolute bonus for me was seeing the babies use our daughters' old things.  So much better than storing items in an attic or selling it to a stranger.

wearing hand-me-downs
Fast forward several years to when a still, small, voice nudged me and made me realize our family wasn't complete.  Remembering that I gave almost everything baby related away, I agonized over whether expanding our family was practical.  Buying all new items seemed crazy.  "What if our next baby is the last?"  I wondered.  My husband once again reiterated that buying all new items wasn't a problem, but the nagging cheapskate in me dug in her heels and said no.  I had a list of must have items which I broke into items I could buy second hand and items which needed to be new (such as car seats and the crib mattress).  I was going to approach having a baby like we couldn't afford to have one even if that wasn't really the case.

Once we had finally conceived our third child, I spent the first trimester bargain hunting and doing price comparisons.  We hadn't told anyone about our baby on the way.  I had a friend who we had given some baby items to several years back that I told the summer before we conceived that we were looking to grow our family.  Since they weren't planning to have any more children, I was bold and asked if she would keep me in mind for hand-me-downs.  After we announced that I was pregnant, I was overwhelmed that several families had hand-me-downs for us.  Two families that we know had little girls born in the fall the year before our youngest was due.  They showered us with not only loads of adorable baby outfits, but also baby gear like high chairs, and bouncy seats.  There is even someone who I have never met that has been giving my best friend, our baby's godmother, her little girl's outgrown clothes.

closet full of almost all hand-me-downs
Katie, our youngest, is outfitted almost entirely in hand-me-down clothing.  We've been so blessed by the generous outpouring of hand-me-downs that I frequently cannot justify keeping the brand new clothes that I buy for her.  I joke to my husband all of the time that all I have to do is buy a few adorable new outfits for the baby and within a day or two several bags or boxes of hand-me-downs will materialize containing outfits very similar to the ones I just purchased. From where I stand, the only downside to accepting hand-me-downs is it virtually eliminates the need, but not the desire, to shop for adorable baby clothes and that's really not much of a downside at all.

My former self would bristle at the thought of accepting all these second hand items.  She would point out the dings and scratches on some of the baby gear, or the tell tale signs that the clothes have been used.  I would tell her that those things give the items character.  The clothes will only be worn for a few months, and while baby clothes may pill will use, but they really don't wear out.  And while receiving these items is certainly a blessing, I know that our accepting and using these previously loved items is also a blessing to those who have given them.

For me, I think the greatest thing about hand-me-downs is how they have come full circle for us.  Many of the items we gave to friends have found their way back to us.  Favorite outfits have been returned to us along with many more that are new to us. Big pieces of baby gear have been sent back to us no worse for wear along with some updated pieces.  Whether you're the recipient or the giver, when it comes to hand-me-downs it's an all around blessing.

Karen is a Catholic stay at home mom to three little girls who make every day an adventure.  When she finds a spare moment amid the craziness she writes about their adventures on her blog Karen in Mommyland.

Please check out the other posts (including other great guest posts) in my Baby on a Budget series. If you liked this post, you may want to read about Encore Baby Registry, an online registry that allows you to register for new and hand-me-down items! 

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