Should Rich People Take Free Stuff - picture of woman looking concerned with box of clothes

Should Rich People Take Free Stuff?

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Just the other day, a friend of mine emailed to see if I was interested in a few boxes of girl’s clothes.  Of course, I was totally interested.  Duh.  After all, buying used stuff is one of my favorite ways to save money….especially on stuff for my kids.

But, when I got to her house, she said she didn’t want anything for the clothes.

“I don’t want any money,” she said.  “I just want to get rid of it since we’re moving.”

That made sense.  After all, their house was on the market and they were in the midst of packing up everything they own.  Still, I felt bad.  I didn’t need these clothes, and there are plenty of people out there who do.

Disclaimer: When I talk about “rich people” in the context of this post, I’m not talking about filthy rich with diamonds dripping, fake boobs, and a new Ferrari.  I’m simply talking about middle or upper middle class people who have their financial lives together.  Got it?

Giving the Gift of Guilt

I got home with the two giant boxes of clothing and couldn’t believe my eyes.  They were literally filled with hundreds of dollars of clothing in excellent condition.  Name brand jeans, trendy little tops, and winter coats….and so much of it.  I instantly felt guilty for taking the clothes without paying for them.  I mean, my friend was moving.  Didn’t she need the money?  I’m sure she could have used it to pay for movers, right?  Or maybe to buy something for her new house or apartment.

And what about everyone else?  The box of free clothing I received is awesome, but I can certainly afford to buy clothes for my kids on my own.  Meanwhile, kids everywhere go without winter clothes, gloves, and shoes.  Or they wear hand-me-downs that don’t fit simply because that is all that they have.

Other people’s kids.  Kids whose parents either don’t have the money or the connections.

Should Rich People Take Free Stuff?

These free clothes really got me thinking about whether or not it’s fair for rich people to take free stuff when so many people are in need.  It also made me realize just how stacked the deck is for people who are already well off.  After all, “rich people” are more likely to know the kind of people who will randomly give you $1,000 worth of name brand children’s clothing for nothing.  And, fair or not, those kinds of perks are what helps other well-off people get ahead and stay ahead.

Should rich people take free stuff?  Honestly, I think it’s up to the individual.  I certainly appreciated the boxes of clothing my friend gave me and I will definitely put them to good use.  I’ve also appreciated the hundreds of dollars of clothing my sister has given me over the years as her daughter has outgrown them.  But, if I’m being honest, I have to admit that all of the freebies I’ve received over the years are part of the reason we’ve been able to get ahead.

At the same time, something doesn’t feel right about being on the receiving end of someone’s generosity at this point in my life.  Something about the entire experience just made me feel dirty and greedy.  I hope to explore those feelings more in the future and look for new ways to pay it forward.  I’m fortunate to be able to afford clothing for my children, but I know that isn’t the case for everyone.

Should rich people take free stuff?  Do you ever feel guilty when someone gives you something you don’t really deserve?

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67 Comments

  1. If I were rich I would just donate the free stuff to an orphanage where children can more benefit from it. Or I would just get the free stuff I don’t need and look for means to share it with those people in great need of it.

  2. I see where you are coming from here. But if I were you I wouldn’t feel too badly about taking the clothes- it’s not like you were going around asking people for them- they were offered to you. If you hadn’t taken them, someone else would have. If it helps you feel better you could do something nice for your friend in return. I usually find that the people who give things like that away do it because they genuinely want to, but I’m sure a nice gesture of thanks would be appreciated.

    1. I agree with you. I also think some people give stuff away because they just do not have the time to deal with it- whether that’s a trip to Goodwill or whatever. Some people just need stuff gone as quickly as possible. I think that may have been the case here.

  3. I don’t think there’s anything wrong here. Just because you can afford nice clothes yourself doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to a wonderful gift from your friend. Like you said – pay it forward in the future and just accept your good fortune now.

  4. I think it is okay since they were offered directly to you and you weren’t specifically asking for them. My suggestion would be to sort of balance it out and set your mind at ease, would be to donate your children’s clothing that they have outgrown but is still in excellent condition to a family or organization that gives to those who cannot afford it.

    1. We have donated a ton of kids clothing and toys. We have sold some too as well.

  5. I love free stuff! haha! Personally, I really love it. As long as you share some of it or in someway pay it forward, then I think there’s nothing wrong with it 🙂

  6. Well, I have taken clothes hand-me-downs when offered, and happily. And I re-hand-me-down, along with all the other clothing and paraphernalia we’ve accumulated over time after our kids grow out of them. I would feel guilty re-selling hand-me-downs, but have no problem giving them to other people (sometimes students or secretaries, sometimes junior colleagues).

    We also give money to a number of charitable causes, and some of that money is money we would have spent on brand new children’s clothing that we don’t really need because there’s so much used children’s clothing out there.

    1. There really is a lot of used kids clothing out there. I think that every time I go to garage sales!

  7. Interesting thought. We do take hand-me-downs from friends, but, it’s usually a situation where they need us to pick it up from their house because they don’t want to/can’t move it themselves. I wouldn’t take things that would otherwise go to charity. In most our of instances, the stuff was destined straight for the trash. I suppose I think it just depends on the circumstance.

  8. I think it’s an excellent point.

    As consummate consumers of free stuff (as per our proud Frugal Weirdo status), it ‘s something I’ve often thought about.

    The other side of the coin is that _so_ much stuff doesn’t get reused… it goes straight to the dump! Between anyone using something and it going to the landfill, I’ll take reuse any day.

    I also think it’s good to let other folks have a fair crack at free stuff. For example, someone in my office was giving away a free queen sized metal bed, with slats. It’s only a couple years old and in great condition.

    I work in an office with 30 other people, many of them younger and less financially certain that I am. And we don’t neeeed another bed at the moment, though it would be nice to have for guests.

    So I told my coworker that I’d be happy to take the bed if no one else claimed it. One week later, we’re the happy owners of a new-to-us bed. And my coworker didn’t have to wrestle it down 3 flights of narrow stairs. She’s happy, we’re happy, and the rest of the office had a fair chance.

    We’re not always going fine win/win/wins like that, but we do try.

    We also give away a lot of stuff. Both to goodwill, and just setting it on the side of the road. I think it all works out in the end.

    1. Nice job on the new-to-you bed! Sometimes it helps to just be willing to pick something up. You probably did her a favor in her eyes.

  9. I think it’s good that you’re questioning your feelings about it as it obviously bothered you. IMO, what you didn’t is not wrong. Someone offered it to you things that they no longer needed or wanted. Now you have a choice to do the same or similar. You can take things from the box that you and the family will use and decide to donate the rest to a charity that can help others less fortunate.

  10. I think if you turn around and sell them for a profit then there’s something a bit sketchy about it, but your friend gave you a gift because they didn’t want it any more and wanted to see it go to someone she cared for and knew would appreciate it. If you’re having middle class guilt, just pay it forward when your girls outgrow the clothes and donate them.

    1. Definitely not selling them. Didn’t mention that and didn’t consider it.

  11. Of course you should happily take the clothes! Once your daughters are done with them, you just donate them or pay it forward/give it to someone else, same with your sisters clothes. As for your friend who gave you the clothes, any time you have something (extra tickets to something, freebie from a promo, etc) you think she would enjoy pass them on to her or take her out for lunch some time.

  12. I always thought of kids clothes as making the rounds among friends. I would get clothes from someone whose daughter outgrew them. My brother’s clothes went to a neighbor (who had younger boys) when he outgrew them. So we were the “takers” of girls clothes from one friend (and yes passed them on when I outgrew them) but were the “givers” of clothes to another friend, so it all evened out in the grand scheme of things.

    1. That is true for us too. Some clothes just make the rounds! I’ve had clothes that have gone through 4 or 5 families before they got to my kids.

  13. Also, what if you “paid” for the clothes by maybe letting your friend’s kids have a sleep over at your house the day she moves, so they are not in the way and have a fun time 🙂

    1. Too late on that one I think! Good idea though =)

  14. I suppose it’s a little different, but we take free things from my hubby’s family all the time. In fact, I practically do not have to buy clothes for my girls because of their generosity. Of course, since they are so far away, they feel like this is how they stay involved since they can’t babysit or do anything like that.

    I recently had a coworker let me buy her daughter’s clothes for $.25 an item. Wow. So, yeah, I bought some clothes then…

    I have struggled with what to do with the baby’s outgrown clothers. I sure could use a little extra money, so consignment is an option. But I have never, ever sold clothes before. I have always donated them.

    1. Are you done having kids? If not, maybe you could save them!

  15. In “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind” T. Harv Eker talks about the importance of being a receiver. I think it’s absolutely okay (and encouraged) for you, or others in similar financial situations to accept gifts / free stuff. By accepting free things, you’re allowing the other person to give, which is an incredible feeling. I think practicing being a receiver is one of the best things you can do for yourself. I know I have trouble with it, too. But I think about when I give, and I’m so happy when people accept and allow me to do so.

  16. We have often clothes swapped with friends when our kids were younger. I had mixed feeling just this past weekend, but kind of the opposite end. I donated 2 bags of clothes to goodwill, but in the back of my mind keep thinking I should be trying to sell them to a consignment shop or maybe we had enough stuff for a yard sale. It felt like I was giving money away, but I didn’t really need it. What that wrong?

    1. Of course it’s not wrong. We do a combo of selling and giving away. If I’m having a garage sale, I’ll usually throw some of the nicer clothes in. I also put them on craigslist from time to time. Usually it’s clothes that I’ve purchased second hand and I then use that money to buy more clothes second hand. Sometimes we just take stuff to Goodwill or give it to someone with kids.

  17. Interesting. I think if ever become rich, things like this will be the reason why. Almost all of my clothes “shopping” is through acquiring the discards of my friends. Not spending that money will be the reason I someday have money of my own.

  18. You can always pay it forward if you continue to feel guilty. Once your kids have outgrown them, or there are items you don’t want to keep, take them to Goodwill or pass the clothes on to a family you know that needs them. The woman offered these to you so she must have thought you would get good use out of them. Perhaps the prior owner would have taken them to Goodwill, but it is possible the clothes would have been thrown out and that would be a huge waste. I have no guilt whatsoever about taking something offered for free.

    1. I hate it when people throw stuff away! Especially good stuff!

  19. I think it’s great. Keeps stuff out of the landfills. Reduces our need for new things which require energy and waste to create. I would say that you could just “pay it forward” and donate your old childrens clothes to someone else. Keep the cycle going!

  20. Hey why not? Wealthy people are wealthy because they are smart with their money….and that includes finding the best deals, and taking advantage of getting things as cheaply as possible.

  21. Don’t feel guilty at all. You are open to taking free stuff and will make good decisions on what to do with the items ie donate/keep/etc… I know a lot of “poor” people who could use the free items, but have the mentality of “I’m going to use free/used because that’s gross/disgusting/I’d rather buy new.”

    You are simply saving the landfill and making the most of your resources which are behaviors congruent with becoming “rich.”

  22. I think you absolutely should take the stuff! They called you and offered – jump on it. If you want to give back, bring the clothes when the girls grow out of them to a place that serves the needy – what a huge blessing that will be for somebody!

  23. I would look at it more from the perspective of reusing items and being a mindful consumer. It seems so wasteful to buy brand new kids clothes, so you’re definitely doing a good thing. If you donate it once you’re done with it, all the better!

  24. I wouldn’t feel bad. If you do, just make a donation to a charity in lieu of what you would have paid your friend. What I do sometimes feel bad about are the expensive clothes and gifts my Mom buys for my daughter. I’m pretty sure she can afford them, but maybe at this point, it’s become habit and she feels like she has to? She also now has two other grandkids and does the same for them. I appreciate it, but we really don’t need it. She gets her feelings hurt if we decline, so I just bite my tongue and let my kid wear whatever fits. The rest we sell on eBay.

  25. My brother’s friend has a job that includes receiving lots of good clothes for free, and she has given me bags and bags of clothes. I don’t feel any guilt for receiving them however. I think it’s because we’re living a little tight, with high child care costs. So for me, any help is much appreciated. I also know the value of community supporting one another, and when my kids outgrow these clothes, they will be given away as well. And I do the same with many of the things I don’t need any more—I give them away (or try to sell them, again, to help us out financially).

  26. This is something that really drives me nuts. I remember watching the Newlyweds with Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey and she had boxes of free clothes that designers had sent her and I thought that it was unfair that she had the money to buy those clothes and yet she was getting more for free. I would much rather see a box like that go to Goodwill than a celebrity. I understand that it’s a marketing cost for the designer, it just doesn’t seem right, though.

  27. Tara @ Streets Ahead Living says:

    If anything, take the donation of clothing and then make a financial contribution to a worthy, local charity, like a food bank, a homeless shelter, or a similar social services organization that you believe in. Charities, especially local, small ones, always need money and would appreciate any contribution you make! Think of the money you saved and make that kind of contribution if you feel so inclined (or whatever you feel comfortable giving).

    I also want to add that you shouldn’t feel guilty. I’m sure you give away clothing to those who need it. The fact that you’re even remotely self-aware about waste and are already someone who tries to recycle clothing and toys (your posts on buying used toys for your kids, for instance) make you a step ahead of most people. It’s always important for us as a people to be aware of our good fortune so we never take it for granted.

  28. I think that’s part of having great friends and family. As a couple people have mentioned I think it’s a great opportunity to give away some of the items you don’t use to a clothing drive/charity/others in need.

  29. I wouldn’t feel guilty. She wanted to give them and wouldn’t accept any money. That’s not your fault for being on the receiving end of her generosity.

  30. Nah! It was given to you. No reason to feel guilty..You could always pay it forward by donating your kids older stuff to Goodwill or something.

  31. Generally speaking, I don’t seek out free stuff because I can afford to pay for it and know others can’t. However, if someone wants to give me some nice hand-me downs for the girls I also don’t refuse them either. We love to give and if someone decides to give to us, we will accept. If we decide we don’t need what was given, we donate the items. I understand how it can feel uncomfortable because like you, we can afford to buy our girls new clothes. In this situation, it sounds like your friend just needed to unload some clothes she found while packing up her home. Your payment is giving those clothes a good home.

  32. Ben Luthi says:

    I don’t see any problem with it as long as you’re willing to pay it forward, whether now or later. It’s all about the attitude. If it’s ME ME ME all the time, you should feel bad. But if you receive gratefully and can somehow turn that feeling into an opportunity to give to someone else, I see no problem 🙂

  33. I definitely take advantage of when friends are moving and offer up some stuff, but I do have to say that it seems to always come back full-circle. Back when we were poor, any hand-me-downs were greatly appreciated. These days, we are the ones giving things away and hoping others benefit from us.

  34. What about making a donation to a charity that gets kids things like clothes.

    I don’t think you should necessarily feel guilty. (And you can always donate the stuff after your kids are done with it, right?) Even people with their financial lives in order are lucky enough to have friends or family who save them money.

    But until you can pass along the clothes yourself, why not make that donation? Or take the money and shop sales (because frugal folks rock at that) to buy up some warm clothes to donate.

  35. I don’t think you should feel guilty at all. You will be using them, so it’s not like you are just hoarding things you don’t need just to spite others 🙂

  36. My mom loves to organize, so she often has helped out well-to-do friends with just an absolute ton of stuff. Her friends are always so glad to have it off their hands. I think paying it forward is a great way to handle it.

    As a general philosophy, however, I think I’m ok with it. I’m hoping to do good by my family, and then when we’re financially independent, spend my time to do good things in the world. Any money saved will be used for a good purpose.

  37. If you are worried about taking free stuff that poor people could use then you probably ought to worry about buying it cheap and used when poor people could be buying it.

    we can certainly afford a lot of things that I buy cheaper used, or find for free or whatever. It is one of the reasons we are doing as well as we are.

    I have always given stuff away rather than selling it because I just want to get the stuff out of here. I seriously over the years have paid much more for things than I should because I had so much clutter I couldn’t find the same item that I had already bought 1 or 2 times before. Now I don’t want to mess with selling it. I need to just get rid of it for my sanity and my pocketbook. And sometimes I give clothes to specific friends rather than charities because of my love for their families.

    All that said, I do think we should be aware or others that don’t have things. It’s important to observe what is going on around us and meet their needs. But do it because you want to, because of a love for them or people in general, not because you feel guilty or obligated to. If your neighbor is getting a heart transplant use the money you saved from the clothes to help them pay medical bills. If a coworker just lost her husband in a crash help her with funeral expenses. If your company matches charitable giving, donate to that charity. Don’t feel you need to spend dollar for dollar of your savings. Give what your heart tells you to give.

  38. When I think rich, I think “American”. Most Americans are rich by worldly standards and therefore shouldn’t be taking all of the free things they are given all the time. However, if it’s something given to them by another individual, as a type of blessing, I think it’s OK. I just get a little fired up over certain…”programs” that are in place to pay for stuff people can afford to buy themselves. Rant over. lol

  39. Those clothes were a gift between friends. I would also guess that your friend donates to charity and occasionally helps people less fortunate than her. I think you ask a great question but maybe the money you save on buying the kiddos clothes is money that can be put to use in a different way that could help your family or another family. Also, “poor” families have been statistically proven to give to charity/family/ and friends at substantially higher rates than the rich. I think that the spirit behind the giving and receiving is key.

  40. I would send your friend a thank you card with a couple restaurant gift cards enclosed. Just say they are for the move when she/he definitely will not feel like cooking.

    You also feel funny about accepting her gift because you may be making more money than they are, perhaps?? In any event, I like your idea of paying it forward by making regular donations to homeless shelters, food banks, etc.. If you have a Sleep Train store in Indiana, they collect gifts for kids in foster care. We have a local org. here (Foster a Dream) and they allow the community to contribute toward the kids’ needs: sports fees, senior prom, senior pics etc.. They also have a small thrift store and accept clothing donations. Look for those kinds of opportunities to be generous. Foster kids are a cause near and dear to our heart: we had a foster child with us during his high school years. He was such a sweetheart, but a true lost soul. Happy to say he is a thriving adult (41 this year, yikes!) They may not show it, but those kids truly appreciate any time and effort spent on/with them.

  41. I wouldn’t feel guilty since it’s more of a gift. I’m sure your friend appreciates you taking it off her hands and I’m sure your girls will love the clothes, whether they need it or not. In other situations though, where the rich are hoarding “free stuff” when other needy people could use it (ie certain government programs), then I might have a problem with that.

  42. I have no problem with it. After all, they probably didn’t get rich by paying full price for everything! But seriously, I think regardless of how much someone makes there is always a use for free stuff. Worst case scenario the wealthy person puts it on the curb for free for someone else. Actually worst case scenario it gets thrown out….

  43. I had a similar windfall a couple of years ago when a friend moved and called me up to ask if my daughter needed any children’s books. I said, “sure, we’ll take ’em!” Turns out she had more than just a box full – she lined her driveway with boxes and boxes of books and encouraged her friends to stop by and take whatever they wanted, for free. I took 7 bags of books home and barely made a dent! Another friend who took advantage of the offer went in with me on a gift card to a favorite restaurant for our benefactor. Whatever was left on the driveway went to charity. It does help my family get ahead, but we make an effort to help others when we can now, and we’ll be in a better position to help out in terms of donating time when we are FI.

  44. As someone mentioned above, nothing wrong with receiving a gift if your income is high so long as you pay it forward to someone else in the future

  45. I find the most rich people tend to be very cheap or frugal on the little things that don’t really matter. I have learned that is one of the reasons why they continue to be rich. I don’t see anything wrong with a rich person taking free stuff, as long as they give back in the process.

  46. I think that your feelings of guilt are an indication of very good character. It’s good that you recognize your privilege and that your mind goes to others who are less fortunate. But I also think your guilt is misplaced. This person is your friend, and no doubt it is a relief for her to unload the clothes where she knows they’ll be used and appreciated. Your idea of paying it forward is great. I would just hope that you’d do so from a position of gratitude rather than guilt.

  47. MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    Nothing to feel bad about! You do and will pass on your loved but not needed items. It balances out. I think maybe you’re feeling bad for HER. Like she gave you something so generous and you feel you did nothing to return the favor. If you want to do something nice for her do it. Maybe get them a gift card for a place that can deliver dinner to them once they get to their new home. It will help with their stress (just as you did by taking excess items off their plates to keep from having to move them). There are a lot of services out their that can deliver meal components or groceries! It’s also a nice housewarming!

  48. I think accepting free gifts and things is definitely okay! I take free stuff all the time if it’s offered or extra and I think it definitely helps my over all bottom line if I allow it and save that money I would have spent other wise. For instance, I haven’t had to buy anything facial items in a year because I was able to scoop up some samples and products from special events and goody bags! I give back, donate money when appropriate and items and always help out others. It’s the circle of life and being positive!

  49. I enjoyed this post. I am pregnant and my best friend has given me tons of maternity clothes and stuff from her kids, saving me tons of money. My sister has as well. And friends who have received “too many” used things from their family members have passed things on to us. I felt a bit guilty at first, but was out with my sister the other day and she was using a purse that I had passed on to her used. It was great for me to see her enjoy something that I could no longer use. I think that when you pass things on to folks who can otherwise afford them you do it because you want to see your old items be enjoyed by a friend or a family member and you want to help them. Poor people need help to, but it is nice to share your bounty with people that you are close to as well.

    1. I agree with you. When you trade things around a lot, everyone benefits.

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