7 Ways to Start Your Own Clothing Bank

Save money on your clothing budget by sharing gently-used pieces with friends.


Save money by starting your own clothing bank. Stock your lending circle with business suits, school uniforms, baby clothes and other second-hand garments from friends, neighbors and relatives. A no-fee clothing swap is a great way to recycle clothing, share costs and update your wardrobe with free garments. (See also: 16 ways to make your clothes last longer.)

[In pictures: 10 Ways to Improve Your Finances in 2011.]

Here are seven steps for creating a low-maintenance, do-it-yourself swap-mart.

Recruit members

Make a list of potential bank members. Consider friends, co-workers and members of your neighborhood, church, synagogue, school or other community organizations. The list should include future donors, recipients and volunteers. Network and spread the word about the clothing bank.

Create a wish list

From the roster of members, generate a list of sizes, ages and tastes of participants. Take note of special needs, such as requests for soccer gear or school uniforms.

Establish leadership

Name a point person to handle organizational duties and divvy up assignments. Tasks include storing donated items and updating inventory and membership lists. Create a small committee of volunteers to handle collection, sorting and distribution of merchandise.

Make a schedule

Designate bank operating hours and procedures for accepting and distributing merchandise. Determine if deposits will be accepted on a weekly or monthly basis.

Iron out distribution

Determine operating rules. Clothing can be delivered anonymously to participants or the bank committee can establish hours when participating families can receive shipments of clothing. Unused clothing can be donated to a thrift store or sold at group yard sale.

[In Pictures: 12 Money Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes]

Consider a party

Casual procedures are ideal for clothing banks that involve a small circle of friends, neighbors, colleagues or relatives. A monthly clothes-swapping party, with a potluck buffet, can produce an evening or afternoon of fun. Circulate bags of clothing around the gathering. Participants can pick, pass on a bag or make a contribution.

Hit the closet

It’s possible to extend the life of your business or evening wardrobe by creating an informal exchange network with friends and associates. Cocktail dresses, business suits, accessories and tuxedos can be swapped and updated for fresh looks. Seasonal items, including maternity outfits and clothing for newborns and toddlers, are also ideal for swapping.

Sharon Harvey-Rosenberg is a special financial news contributor for Wise Bread. She is the author of "Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money” and a contributing author to ”10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.”