Should you sell or donate your old clothes?

Eventually, you’re going to wind up with items of clothing that you don’t wear. How do you know which to sell and which to donate?

Brittany Lynne Photography
Is it better to sell or donate your old clothes? According to Hamm, it depends on your time investment and how much you expect to get out of the clothes. Both can have financial rewards.

Over time, our life situation changes. We change jobs or even change careers. We gain some weight or perhaps lose some weight. Our complexion changes, as does our hair color. Our color preferences and tastes change as well.

Eventually, you’re going to wind up with items of clothing that you don’t wear. A few days ago, I suggested trading those items with friends, but what do you do if no one wants them? Simply sell or donate those items and recoup some of your investment.

How do you know what to sell or donate? In my situation, I usually look for clothes that don’t fit me well and also will not fit any close friends or family members. Since I’m by far the tallest person in my immediate group and the only one wearing tall clothes, this usually leaves me with just the option to sell or donate the items.

Which route is better? It really depends on your time investment and how much you expect to get out of the clothes.

Selling clothing puts cash quickly into your hand for the sold items. You can do this by hosting a yard sale, where you can include your unwanted outfits along with the other items you’re selling. My wife has sold several clothing items through yard sales in the past.

If you have some dressier items, you can take them to a consignment shop, where they may take those items into their store and split the proceeds with you. The exact policies of consignment shops vary, so you’ll want to know how they work before you go there.

Generally, selling items will earn you a greater return than donating them, but there’s usually a bigger time investment when it comes to selling items.

Donating clothing doesn’t put cash immediately into your hand, but it can end up saving you some money, particularly if you are paying off a mortgage.

That’s because if you donate items to a registered charity, the value of the donations (as assessed by the person evaluating the items) is tax deductible, and if you’re already deducting mortgage interest, you’re likely going to be filing long form anyway, which means that the donation will directly reduce the amount you owe in taxes.

I’ve found that charities are often fairly generous in their assessments, which means that you can actually end up trimming quite a bit from your tax bill with some well-timed donations.

Both of these options transform items that you’re not using into cash in hand. Even better, they take an item from a situation where it’s not being used and puts it into a situation where it will see regular use. Both of these are net positives, for you and for the world.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. 

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