Garage Sale Vs. Donate

Updated on July 17, 2012
M.H. asks from Jenison, MI
23 answers

I have so much stuff to get rid of and am not sure if it is worth having a garage sale or just donate everything to an organization. I am having guilt for some reason "giving away" all of my childrens clothes, toys, etc. I work full-time and just don't think I have the time to devote to having a garage sale. Also, does anyone know if there is a limit on the amount you can donate for taxes? I was going to track everything if I go the donation route but I am sure there has to be a limit for taxes. Thanks!

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answers from Boston on

What we did was have a multi-family yard sale - running a Craigslist ad for multi-family brings more traffic, and everyone gets into the spirit of it. Call a local charity - you probably get mailers from them anyway such as Big Brother/Big Sister, Epilepsy Society, Multiple Sclerosis, etc. They pick up at the house. Schedule them for the Monday after the yard sale to pick up whatever is left. Usually you can leave things in the garage or on the porch and they will pick up even if you're not home, or maybe a neighbor can be standing by. They will give you a receipt. There isn't much of a limit for taxes - at least you won't hit it with a standard family yard sale as long as you give a reasonable value for used items. You can also try local consignment shops first - let them pick over what they will sell, and then just track things on line, going in every 30 days to get paid.

For a yard sale, just price things fairly low (the idea is to get rid of stuff) and be ready to negotiate. Understand that early birds will come 60-90 minutes before you "open" so be ready. Have a lot of singles and a roll of quarters on hand to make change, buy preprinted garage sale stickers at the stationery store, and price as you clean things. You can also throw old tarps or sheets onto the yard and put all the 50 cent items on one, $1 items on another, etc.

You'll have less guilt when you realize that all those extra things will be put to use by shoppers or charities - far better than stuff just sitting there, right? It can be a learning experience for kids - don't know their ages, but you can get them to help by making it a family activity and letting them keep the money from their own sales. Sometimes kids run a lemonade stand at the sale too.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I have a monstrous amount to donate. I wrote off $600 last year. If you donate more than $500 worth to one organization you are required to get a signed letter from that organization. The way I handle it is to donate to several. I keep a list of what I donate and list the value as the price it would be for the organization.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

I had a yard sale yesterday - I made $150 for 4 hours work.

No, this doesn't include the time I took to get my signs made, placed and advertising on Craigslist. I did this "work" over the week, after laundry, etc. and put the stuff I knew was too small in a basket and took it to the garage.

I didn't put everything I had out. We had rain. I have a 12 x 12 canopy to put my stuff under, as well as tables to set stuff on. We also had a swim meet at our pool so the cars blocked the sign I had to help people turn into my street. Oh well.

What didn't sell? I took to Goodwill. Got a receipt. I made a list and ensured I had pictures prior to taking the items away. I'm kinda anal and have a memory stick for tax purposes in our tax folder.

No. there is NO LIMIT (to the best of my knowledge) on donations. Your best bet is to take pictures for proof. I say this because if it's more than you typically donate - it might cause a red flag to be placed for an increase in donations. In our past for donations - we are pretty consistent (I just pulled our tax records)

In 2009, we donated over $6K in cash, clothes, toys, furniture, etc. I have pictures of the items (I sell on ebay as well so it's typical for me).

In 2010, we donated over $8K in cash, clothes, vinyl records, books, toys and other miscellaneous items.

In 2011, we donated $5K in cash, clothes, toys, etc.

I have pictures and receipts for all of the items donated with the exception of the money given to Goodwill and the Salvation Army during the Holiday's.

When you donate - make a DETAILED list of what you give - not just 5 pairs of boys jeans - if they are name-brand like GAP, Banana Republic, etc. - the price is higher (we do our taxes and use Turbo Tax - it has a program to help you calculate the price of the item for taxes). Pajama's, blankets, sheets, purse, shoes, blender, coffee machine, etc.

Either way - you will have work to do. Either way you will get something out of it - cash on hand for selling or future cash or less cash owed for taxes. So you need to figure out what is best for you and your situation. you CAN do both. Get some cash in hand and donate and help people less fortunate than you!!


9 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I donate, I HATE, DESPISE garage sales.

People try to haggle and get something for nothing, case out your house, etc.. I closed my garage sale forever when I had $50 Abercrombie jeans for my daughter and I was asking less than $10 and was offered $1. I never expected to get 1/3 of their value but as I told the lady that day... "if I am going to give it away, I am giving it to someone who appreciates it" I packed everything up then and there and took it to the women's shelter, got a receipt.

Far more worth it to me to donate. I typically donate to our local women's shelter. Many of the moms showed up with their children in tow and nothing else. They truly appreciate good used items. We've also donated furniture, computer, washer/dryer, etc.

It depends on you and your time as well. For me time=$$. More more worth my time to donate and get a tax deduction.

I am not familiar with the limitations. When I donate, I just list what I donated basically so I have a record and I do not inflate the dollar amount to help me on taxes.

I also do not do freecycle or use any program where the organization sends the person who is to get the items to my house.... (ex: furniture pickup) If something needs picked up, I call Salvation Army or make sure the organization is the one who picks it up.

I know I sound mean but you never know who is coming around your house and I don't like getting my house cased out for potential issues. Our neighborhood is pretty strict about that.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I do both. I have a garage sale to get money in hand. Then I take what does not sell to our local charities or have one of them come pick up. I try to schedule my garage sales around charitable pick ups.

My kids are older so it's not as hard. I do understand working full time. Garage sales can be fun. I like getting the cash in hand and seeing the look on people's faces when they walk away happy with things they purchased from me.

I found this link on taxes. I hope that helps.
What Is the Maximum Limit for Charitable Federal Tax Deductions in the United States?

Herb Kirchhoff

By Herb Kirchhoff, eHow Contributor
What Is the Maximum Limit for Charitable Federal Tax Deductions in the United States? thumbnail If you donate less than 20 percent of your income, you''re not affected by charitable deduction limits.

The U.S. tax code encourages charitable donations by making them tax deductible, but it limits the donations you can deduct to 50 percent of adjusted gross income each year. However, the Internal Revenue Service says a limit as low as 20 percent of income may apply, depending on the type of organization receiving your donation and the form your donation takes.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

We donate and take the tax deductions -- it's too much work for a yard sale, in my opinion, and we donate to the free store at church, where people can walk in and take what they need for free. That way the things go to people who truly need them.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

you can take some of your stuff to a consignment store. If you have nice toys and clothes that your kids have outgrown you will make some money off it there and not have to deal with a garage sale. You can also list some items on craigslist in order to make more money than a garage sale. I try to meet the person at a public location as opposed to my house. Then you can donate the rest. Garage sales are okay, but a lot of work and many people try to haggle to the point that you could have donated the items and gotten a tax write off. The max depends on your income.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I find garage sales a big hassle. This may be because my sister has roped me into helping her with hers way too many times. She makes a lot of money but spends a LOT of time. I usually try Craigslist and Ebay if it's an item that has been selling there. If not, Craigslist then donation if it doesn't workout.

Don't feel guilty about whatever you do. Once it is gone from your house, whether it's sold or donated, someone else is using it, alleviating some of the stress on the environment caused by the creation of new stuff. Also, I don't know about your house but we don't have a basement or usable attic so storing stuff is out of the question.

As far as donations, google donations and IRS, that should get you the info you need as to how you can track it and if there are limits.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

I'm a homeschooling mom and felt the same as you (no time for a garage sale). A year or two ago I finally broke down and had a sale, and couldn't believe it when we made $300!!! On what seemed like junk!!!! We went to a NICE dinner that night.

A month or two ago I boxed up some kids' clothes and put the box on Craigslist for $20. Sure enough somebody called and came by for it!

I have donated lots of stuff through the years too, but sometimes when I am looking for money to buy something it's fun to "find" it in our stuff that we don't use anymore.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

we sorted through our house one time for 6 months and stored it in our garage and had a garage sale. we made about $350. Which would not be bad for a days work but it was not a days work it was 6 months work which is so not worth it. so i donate. I hardly keep track of what I donate and just write off the "safe amount" for my taxes which I think is like $250 ish.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

You could always post pictures of the stuff on Craigslist, then it's up there and if someone wants it then they can come buy it, or meet you.

Do you know anyone who might be able to use the baby stuff?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

I enjoy I always describe it as a craigs list where you give stuff away. you do need to be safe about it just like any other internet sort of set up.
but usually you get to hear a little bit about people's lives, I know when i pick something up someone else has offered, I always email them a Thank you and tell them how much my child will enjoy it, or what we will used it for.

from the tone of your post i would say a garge sale will not be pleasant for you.

Consignment maybe a good compromise for you, especially larger pieces of toys and furniture, Lots of new moms are looking for gently used baby equipment and toys. Will you get back what you paid for it??? No, but will it go to someone you wants it and will use it YES!

Rule of thumb,
Yard sales and I"m assuming Ebay/ craigslist too You price things 1/3 rd of their value.

Consigment stores i think already do that, so you get Half of what that 1/3 is, sorry i have no math skills i have no idea what that amount might be.

But if you paid $30 new for a baby swing, a yard sale you might get $10 and for consignment you might get $5
But with consigment you don't have to deal with the public, you don't have to do as much prep work as with a yardsale and you still get some money back.
If I'm wrong on my figures someone, please let M. and i know.

Donation is great too. Think of it as Christmas for the family that will be blessed by you.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

I would pay to NOT have a yard sale!!! I have done our community one in the past and it was way too much prep work and crazy customers to do it again. I much prefer to donate it and get it over with.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

I just had a yard sale yesterday. I spent the whole day at it (about 8 hours). My boys set up a stand and sold cold soft drinks. It was fun, and we made about $180. I will pay each of the boys for participating. I have put ads on Kijiji for some of the bigger items that didn't sell, and I will donate the rest to Goodwill. We don't get tax receipts for donating stuff up here. If you don't have time for a garage sale, do you have a second hand consignment store nearby you could sell your stuff to?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

I don't know the limit for taxes. I think it has something to do with a % of your adjusted gross income but I do know that if you do donate to "non-profit" organizations and keep records/receipts you can deduct those items. I think it is a great idea for you to donate and completely understand not having enough time. Should you just want to get rid of stuff that others could use you could sign up to free-cycle (it's free) and give it away to those that could use it in your area. I'm a big believer of reusing stuff and its better for the environment.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I don't do garage sales...I can't stand all the cheap-skates that come to garage sales and try to buy a $50 outfit in perfect condition for 50 cents! I did a garage sale for the leukemia and lymphoma society....I had my computer set up so that they could fill out a form and get credit for their donation. I was running a marathon for Team In Training and trying to raise money. Even the people who came to that one (for charity) were cheap as hell. That was the last time I'll ever do a garage sale! I dontate everything to ARC or VA or Goodwill. ARC and VA pickup at your driveway - and of course, it's all tax deductible.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Grand Rapids on

Hi M.,
Garage sales do take a lot of organize and put up and to take down. But sometimes they can be worth it. I did my first one in a few years and made about $500. The only reason I decided to have one was because I had a few bigger pieces of furniture and I wasn't comfortable posting it on Craiglist and having a bunch of strangers come to my house while I am home alone with my kids.

Typically I just donate our items. I use the calculator/form on Goodwill's website and bring the paper in when I donate my items and they sign it. After our garage sale this year, my tax donation was over $2500!

To answer your question, there is no limit on tax donations, you just need to have the signed tax form from the organization with your donation detailed on there. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

for me, much rather pass it along, give away, set out free..... less hassle and does good for someone else that is in need .

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I would say look on FB and any other social sites that are local to you and post you have a lot of free stuff and just let them come go through them and take what they need.

We have several local here that do that. It is quite common to see someone giving away furniture, TV's, game consoles, clothes, etc...just to get rid of them.

If you really want to just get rid of them then tomorrow start calling places that have clothing rooms. Some churches do, some shelters need stuff and some are so packed they just can't take anymore.

I would also call the Salvation Army, Good Will, etc...and see what their policy is.

I think the one we have here just gives you a piece of paper that says you donated items then it is up to you to give it a value. I would call whomever does your taxes and ask them what cap there might be for donations such as this.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

we had our yard sale over the weekend, made close to $500.00 (for one day)

I sold all my kids/adult clothing, furniture, household items, and my step sister come over all her kids big indoor/outdoor toys and sold them all.

I am a single mom who works full time, with a part time job, so I was really hoping for a great turnout. I used the premade sale tags, and just took a sign and placed them on the tables as to how much clothing was. I placed signs at the corners and on craigslist, they came before we even do have to deal with the low-ballers, but if you want to make money or just get rid of stuff, go for it!!!



answers from Detroit on

Yes there's 500.00 dollar limit last time I asked but we switched tax people last year n he really never said. I would track then see you can also call like hr block n ask.



answers from Los Angeles on

I would do both.
Do not spend a lot of time putting together a garage sale.
You can put up a few signs at nearby intersections w/high traffic a few
days before w/the date on it.
Hold it for one day from 8-12.
Buy those pre-printed neon stickers w/the amt already printed on there.
Get it ready the day before.
In your garage, set up a few long tables w/the items for sale on them already stickered.
Make sure items are clean. No one wants to buy a dirty, dusty item.
Price to sell. Don't over price.
Go to bank a few days prior & get some $1 & $5 dollar bills & some coins to make change.
Clothes don't sell as well. If you have a few good quality pieces of clothing like suits, hang them up on a wardrobe rack you buy (Wal-mart online for about $15) or hanging from a pre-made one in garage (broom handle suspended by rope).
Pre-price everything.
"Showcase" like itmes together (like kitchen items etc)
Have a few paper bags to put things into.
People stop for big-ticket items they can see from a "drive by" like chairs, furniture, desks etc.

Put an easel sign out front.
Donate what you don't sell.
Always best to try & get money for yourself first before you give it way.
Especially since you orignally paid for it.
Donate what you don't sell.



answers from Detroit on

when you donate to, e.g., Purple Heart, you're given a slip of paper to decide how much you feel your donation is worth, just for tax purposes. Other organizations are like this. Remember, that some of them accept vehicles too, so any limit, if they have one, might be very high and therefore shouldn't be a worry.

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