Donate Items Instead of Selling Them

When you move or reorganize your home, you typically have items that you no longer use or need. If you have a lot of these items, you might consider having a garage sale (or yard sale) this weekend to get some cash. Instead, consider donating your items.

NOTE: If you have good electronics, such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, flat TVs, or newer gadgets, you should sell the items instead of donating them. Because you will probably receive far more money for selling some items than you can write off for donating them, you should sell popular items directly on Craigslist, EBay, or Amazon Marketplace.

Garage Sale

Consider the best case scenario for holding a garage sale. If you live in a neighborhood that sponsors an annual or biannual garage sale, you can see a lot of traffic at your sale. Or if you live on or near US Hwy 27, you can join the annual 7-state Hwy 27 yard sale. Alternately, you could work together with friends or family in a convenient location to have a multiple-family sale. By joining a larger sale, you don’t have to advertise, other than to put up a sign at the nearest major intersection. However, this method requires that you adhere to a set schedule and location that might not be convenient.

The worst case scenario is that you pay for advertising in your local paper, have a sale on a Saturday morning when it rains, and few people show up. You can increase your traffic if you are selling furniture or children’s clothing.

You must do a lot of work to have a garage sale. Your items must be clean, well-priced, and clearly visible to buyers. You will probably need to borrow or rent tables. If you don’t have room in a garage, you might need to rent a tent to keep your items dry if it rains. Your signs must be up, and your items must be ready to sell EARLY on a Saturday morning. People WILL show up the minute you open your garage or put out a table. People are looking for deals at garage sales, and you will need to haggle with your buyers. The more that you interact with customers, they more likely they are to buy something. After lunch time, customers look for deep discounts, as you decide whether to nearly give items away for pennies on the dollar, or whether to literally give items away when you load up the items that didn’t sell and take them to Goodwill.

At the end of the garage sale day, you will be mentally and physically exhausted, but have a bit of cash in your hand.

Garage Sale Pros and Cons

There are pros and cons to having a garage sale.


  • Garage sales mean instant cash in your pocket.
  • Garage sales can be fun if you’re into that kinda thing.


  • You must go through every single item before the sale.
  • You must price your items appropriately, which means computer research time, purchasing and adding price stickers, and advertising big-ticket items.
  • You might need to transport items to the sale location (even if it’s to your garage or driveway).
  • On the day of the sale, you must start early to prepare before the sale.
  • At the end of the sale, you must clean up and donate leftover items.
  • You won’t make as much money as you think.


Donation is simple. You can load up your car and take a load of boxes and bags to local charities such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Those shops are non-profit organizations that take your donated goods and sell them inexpensively to the neighborhood. It’s easy, and you can feel good about helping the less fortunate. However, like most easy things, there’s a catch. Where do your clothes REALLY end up? You can do some research, but it is common for charities to sell leftover items to textile companies who overprice the items and sell them overseas. These charities DO use their profits to help underprivileged Americans, so the good outweighs the bad.

If you really care that your donations help your local community, investigate local shelters, crisis centers, and churches. Many of these organizations (such as Cedar Lake in Louisville, KY) even pick up your donated items. You should also consider options such as repurposing clothing as discussed in 10 Impactful Ways To Recycle & Repurpose Used Clothing

You can still benefit financially from donating items if you itemize your deductions when you file your taxes. You can write off donations to charitable organizations that are valued at a total of less than 20% of your taxable income (according to 2016 tax laws). In order to do this, you need to take photographs of everything that you donate, get a receipt when you drop off items (or get your items picked up).When you take photos, group similar items together to save time when you enter the information. You need photos of everything, but you can photo a stack of jeans, or a box full of dishes. Keep your photos and a scan of your receipt with your tax files so that you can defend your donation if you are ever audited. You can use your photos to review and enter your donated items into the website. If you use TurboTax, you can import the data from directly into your return. If you use DeductionPro, it is now integrated within the H&R Block software.

Donation Pros and Cons

There are pros and cons to donating your items.


  • Donating items help the less fortunate makes you feel good.
  • Donating items is easy, especially if you find a charity that picks up items from your home.
  • You can donate items on your own schedule.
  • Tax deduction – If you itemize your deductions, donating items means more cash in your tax refund.
  • Tax deduction – You don’t have to go through every item and photograph them individually, so this is easier than a garage sale.


  • Charities sometimes refuse to accept items. For example, many places won’t accept used computers and you might need to locate an electronics recycling center in your area.
  • Tax deduction – You must photograph everything if you want to write it off your taxes, but you can photo groups of items together. If you don’t want the tax deduction, then this is not necessary.
  • Tax deduction – You must enter your items into pricing software, such as, to determine how much you can deduct from your taxes.
  • Tax deduction – You must wait until you finish filing your taxes the following year before you receive the money for your items.
  • You might need to transport items to the charity.


It is better to donate household items that you no longer want, instead of having a garage sale. This is primarily because it’s less time and trouble for you, but also because it can help others.

From a strictly financial perspective, for nice pieces of furniture or expensive electronics, it is best to sell the items to individuals through Craigslist. For clothing and household goods, you come out ahead by donating them instead of selling them at a garage sale.

Consider the following items (all in great condition) that are popular at garage sales, and compare the garage sale price to the deduction and subsequent cash you receive through your tax return:

Item Garage
Deduction Refund
Baby dress $3 $14 $3.50
Standard stroller $10 $34 $8
Women’s blue jeans $1 $10 $2.50
Winter coat $4 $22 $5.50
Dress shoes $5 $21 $5.25
Framed art print $5 $17 $4.25
Dish set $10 $26 $6.50
Kitchen table $25 $70 $17.5
DVD player $20 $21 $5.25
Treadmill $50 $42 $10.50
NOTE: The refund column applies to individuals in a 25% tax bracket. You can adjust this number according to your tax bracket.

As expected, it’s better to sell a few electronics and furniture pieces, but for hundreds of clothes items and household goods, it’s easier and more profitable to donate them.

Author: Steph

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