Should I Donate Used Items or Try to Sell Them?


August 17, 2017

Each time you purge your house of unwanted items, such as clothes the kids have outgrown or kitchen appliances you no longer use, you’re faced with a question: should you try to make money off those items by selling them, or are you better off giving them to a charitable organization?

The answer isn’t black and white. Sometimes, you should go the donation route, while other times, it’s smarter to sell. How do you know which option makes the best financial sense? Read on to learn more.

What Items Do You Have to Offer?

The first step in determining whether you should sell your items or donate them is to assess what you have on hand. That means being honest with yourself about the condition of your items. If you have well-worn clothing, cracked dishes or books with torn-off covers, set them aside for the trash or recycling. You’ll save charities the time and effort of having to dispose of the unsellable items. Remember, it must be usable to pass it on.

Next, take inventory of your usable items and determine what will sell well at a garage or yard sale. For example:

  • New or like-new clothes
  • Jewelry
  • Vintage or antique items
  • Tools
  • Wooden furniture
  • Seasonal or holiday items

If you have several similar items, such as clothes or books, you may benefit from offering a bag sale. At a bag sale, you give shoppers a small bag and allow them to fill it for a set price. Put all of the items they can choose from on a separate table so they don’t get mixed in with things you want to sell individually.

Is the Hassle of Selling Your Items Worth It?

Getting items ready to sell, tagging them with prices or shipping them to online buyers can be overwhelming. You may find yourself asking if it’s worth the hassle. Sometimes, it’s not. Unless you believe you will see returns that can justify any expenses, such as shipping or advertising, then you may be better off donating your items to charity and talking to a tax professional about how to report your donation.

Is It Worth Donating Big-Ticket Items to Charity for a Tax Deduction?

Many donation centers will offer you a receipt when you donate. It’s often up to you to fill in what’s been given and its value. When determining value, it’s important to be as accurate as possible.  Be sure to consider the item’s age and condition. If you’re unsure, check the current year’s donation value guide online.

Several factors affect whether or not you’re able to get a tax deduction for a donation. For instance, your donation may not be included in your taxes at all if you don’t itemize your returns. If you’re considering making a large donation or several small donations that will add up, check with a tax professional to determine how it can impact your taxes and what documentation you will need.

Is Selling Online an Option?

Sometimes, traditional garage or yard sales aren’t possible. Perhaps you live in an apartment, or you need to clear out your items during winter, when the weather won’t cooperate. You can still make money on your unwanted goods by selling them in an online marketplace, many of which dub themselves the online equivalent of garage or yard sales.

Destinations you can look into include:

  • Facebook groups
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Online forums related to your kids’ schools or sports teams
  • Online auction sites

Exercise caution when selling online and watch out for anything that looks or feels suspicious. If you’re going to meet up in person to drop off the item you’re selling, look to see if there are any SafeTrade Stations near you. Even if there’s not a SafeTrade Station nearby, the site offers tips for safely buying and selling small items and large items online.

Can You Maximize Profits?

What’s the average garage or yard sale profit? This is a tricky question because outside factors such as weather, location and item offerings all play into the outcome. There’s really no specific answer. However, you may be able to gauge what revenue you can expect by asking neighbors how much they’ve made at their own garage or yard sales in the past.

You can pump up your profits by selling cheap refreshments, such as bottled water and homemade cookies. Or wait for a weekend when your neighborhood has an area-wide sale. More people will venture out if they know they can hit multiple sales in one spot.

You can also attract a bigger crowd by creating an advertisement and going a step further by including one or two large items you have for sale in the ad, such as a dining set or toddler bed.

Donating vs. Selling: Do What Works for You

The final decision between donating and selling comes down to what works for you. If you have a busy life, then organizing a garage, yard or online sale, no matter what your return, may not be worth it.  But for someone who has the time to put together a great sale, it may be entirely worth the effort.

For more ways to save, visit our WalletWorks page.

The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. PSECU does not endorse any third parties, including, but not limited to, referenced individuals, companies, organizations, products, blogs or websites. PSECU does not warrant any advice provided by third parties. PSECU does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided by third parties. PSECU recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal or other professional if you have questions.