Clean out your closet, donate to charity

Your clothes (or purses, or shoes) can be like a gift that keeps giving!I don’t know about you, but I not-so-secretly love to clean out my closet. Seeing items from years ago can feel like going through an old photo album, or time capsule. The trip down memory lane can be especially fun if, like me, you’ve had some particularly hilarious “What-was-I-thinking?!” fashion moments.

Better yet, going through your closet can often mean more than a few good laughs: it can also be an opportunity to donate to charity, an opportunity to make money, or both.

There are a million different ways to recycle your old stuff, but these are a few of my favorite donating (and savings) tactics:

  • Think about niche organizations. The Salvation Army and Purple Heart are certainly wonderful charities, but there are specialized groups that look for specific donations. Dress for Success, for example, provides professional clothing to economically-disadvantaged women; your old suit could help someone ace a job interview and start their way towards financial stability. Other niche organizations include Soles4Souls, which takes gently-used shoes, and BabyBuggy, which accepts baby gear you have no use for.

  • Donate, then get your tax write-off. First, make sure you are donating to an organization that has proven their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Secondly, the IRS says your non-monetary donations must be in “good used condition or better.” Then, add up the estimated market value of the items — not what you paid for them, but what they’d get in a thrift store. Finally, get a receipt from the organization, and you just got yourself some money back.

  • For jewelry or designer goods, use a dealer. If you want to recoup more than just a tax return on that $5,000 necklace, consider going to a reputable buyer, like Circa. A piece with diamonds can get you 40 to 50% of what you originally paid, while other pieces may only recover 20 to 30%. To make sure you’re getting a fair deal, try to get bids from three reputable dealers. For high-end clothing, find an ebay seller in your area who can help you make the most for your goods, or find an upscale consignment shop in your area. Just remember to include as many of the original accroutements as possible: buttons from sweaters, extra threading, even sales tags. The better-cared the items seem, the more you will get for them.

And of course, if selling your designer items garners you more money than you expected, you could always donate that money to a favorite charity. Your clothes (or purses, or shoes) will be like the gift that keeps giving!

What about you? Do you have favorite charities, or ways to recycle old clothing?

Jean Chatzky

About Jean Chatzky

Jean Chatzky, the financial editor for NBC’s TODAY show, is an award-winning personal finance journalist, AARP’s personal finance ambassador, and a contributing editor for Fortune magazine. Jean is a best-selling author; her eighth and most recent book is Money Rules: The Simple Path to Lifelong Security. She believes knowing how to manage our money is one of the most important life skills for people at every age and has made it her mission to help simplify money matters, increasing financial literacy both now and for the future. In April 2013 Jean launched Jean Chatzky's Money School , a series of college-style, interactive online personal finance courses that give men and women across the country the opportunity to learn from and interact directly with her. Jean lives with her family in Westchester County, New York.
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One Response to Clean out your closet, donate to charity

  1. Anonymous says:

    Of course all these tax write-offs for donated items to charity have to amount to over and above your standard deduction otherwise it won’t help your tax situation any. But then, donating for the tax write-off should be the secondary motivation to donate. As for recycling old clothing, I typically wear mine completely out…they never make it to the thrift store. I do like selling my stuff on Craigslist.

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