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Is It Better Financially to Donate or Consign Clothing?

Updated at the Bottom

I asked this on Facebook last night, but I thought I would open up a larger conversation here with more details. Facebook’s tiny status box always makes me feel as if I should keep things brief even if we have mostly unlimited space over there. Whereas my blog feels more like Montana; big sky country. I can babble and babble and babble…

Lucky you.

So here is the situation. I am cleaning out the house, and I have a lot of old clothes and old toys that I need to get out of the house.  I could have a yard sale, but I think the planning and implementing of that would break me.  I could sell it online, but again, I think the time I would need to dedicate to the task would be untenable considering how much my work time has been impacted by this kitchen remodel.

Which leaves two feasible options (unless you can think of a third that takes about the same amount of time as these two): donate to a registered charity and take the tax deduction at the end of the year, or take it all to a consignment shop and see what they will give me for the haul.

To begin, it sounds like people’s experience with Thredup hasn’t been positive, so I’d rather just drive it over to a Thredup-like store in the area vs. go the mail-sent route.  If we go the registered charity route, we have one down here that we like and often work with.

Other details to know:

  • All of the clothes (kid AND adult) and toys are in great condition.
  • A lot of the kid clothing is popular, brand names.
  • Most of the adult clothing is out-of-style or was never in style to begin with because I am just not a stylish person.
  • Most of the adult clothing is casual; not dressy.
  • We are talking about a lot of stuff.  Like it will take a few trips if we bring it all to consignment shops.

Okay, so which would help us more in the financial sense, since obviously donating would be better in the altruistic sense?  Has anyone ever worked out whether it’s better to donate or sell?

And if you’ve sold items in the past, what could I expect to get for a bag that contains (let’s say) 20 items of laundered, folded, in-good-condition brand name kid clothing?  I guess I have no sense what these places pay.  I know it all depends on what they assess the value to be when I get there, but what is a ball park figure?  Or tell me about your experience consigning — what you brought in and how much cash you took home?

Blogs are so much better than the backyard fence when you only got advice from two or three neighbours.  Bring it on.


I don’t want to cut-and-paste people’s comments from Facebook because I’m not certain they want their words out there like that, so if you wrote something on Facebook, could you cut-and-paste it here so that others searching for this information can see your words?

Also, the most helpful thing would be to hear people’s real life experiences with selling stuff to consignment shops on online places like Thredup.  Like how much (generally) did you bring, how much did they pay, and did you walk out happy or frustrated?  Because you can’t find anything like that online, giving specific examples so people can look at what they have and make a decision.  What sort of payment can someone expect based on real life examples, also knowing that each individual case is going to be different?


1 andy { 04.28.15 at 7:50 am }

I am too lazy to do anything but the simplest approach! Maybe it’s a Canadian thing, but I don’t think we can donate items and get any sort of tax rebate. We have 2 charities that call every couple of months and ask if we have any items to donate. If we do, they book a date/time for pick up. We put everything on the porch before 8:00 and they come and take it away. When we have done a big purge in the past, we have called them directly and arranged a truck to come get everything.

The other, not as simple option, is that Liam’s school holds a yard sale every couple of years. If we know it’s coming up, we’ll keep things for them and just donate to the sale and then the school gets any money.

2 Persnickety { 04.28.15 at 7:52 am }

I can’t comment on the kids clothes front, but I have found it easier to simply donate stuff most of the time. The ubiquity of cheap clothing and the ease of the Internet has meant that second hand selling can be difficult. Same with books.
If you know the stuff is sought after it can be worth trying to sell it through consignment. I suspect kids clothes may work there.

3 Jenn { 04.28.15 at 7:55 am }

I would take the kid stuff to a consignment store and the adult clothes to the charity. Whatever the store doesn’t want goes to the charity too. A little bit of both and minimal effort. I have had good experiences buying and selling kids stuff with a store.

4 nicoleandmaggie { 04.28.15 at 8:00 am }

It’s going to depend on your marginal tax bracket, whether or not you itemize, the value of your time, and how generous your consignment shop is. In general, low income people will be better off consigning and high income people will be better off donating. If you don’t itemize, then consign.

You can find how much clothing items are worth for charitable purposes online– the salvation army I think puts out a guide. Then you would multiply that by your marginal tax bracket (so if you’re in the 25% bracket, you’ll get 1/4 back at tax time, if in the 33%, you’ll get 1/3 back etc.)

5 Charlotte { 04.28.15 at 8:12 am }

I would go the donation route for that much stuff. You will probably get more of a tax deduction than you would from consigning. Most consignment shops require you to make an appointment where you bring all your stuff and they look over ever piece. Generally, they only take things that are for the season they are getting ready to stock, and ask you to hold onto other items and bring back during the appropriate season. Once they quote you a price for each piece, you only get half that amount right away, and the other half when the item sells. So it can be a very time consuming process.
I have purchased from Thred-Up , and Ibthink the issue with consigning to them is they are very picky and only want items that don’t look worn at all. The items I received from them, you couldn’t tell the clothing wasn’t brand new. So anything that has any wear at all they usually don’t accept.

6 loribeth { 04.28.15 at 9:12 am }

Like Andy, I don’t think Canadians get tax credits for donations of used clothing & household items, so I can’t comment on the financial aspects. Never heard of ThredUp. I did try to take some clothes to a consignment store once, but she would only take stuff that was in season, and the onus was on me to keep checking to see what if anything had sold and come to claim my cheque. Anything that wasn’t sold after awhile I could either reclaim or she would donate. I found it just wasn’t worth the hassle.

Likewise, I am sure I could make a small fortune if I held a garage sale — but the idea of getting stuff organized & priced (and what to charge??) & set up — not to mention strangers (and neighbours, lol) poking around my stuff and my property, and haggling with me over the already-low prices completely stresses me out.

So I am all for donations. As Andy said, there are organizations that will come pick up your donations, but there are also lots of drop-off boxes around here, and a Salvation Army Thrift Store where we can take stuff. When I think about the money I originally spent on all this stuff (and I will admit, I have donated clothing that still had the price tags on it :p ), it’s kind of a reminder about whether I really NEED some of this stuff, to use what I have more often, and to shop more wisely in the future.

7 Savannah { 04.28.15 at 9:15 am }

Don’t sell it on a FB yardsale group. Those are way too much work. Meet this person here, this person doesn’t show, that person wants to haggle on price. Its just not worth it.

I live in a small community, so yard sales are the thing. I think my nearest consignment store is probably 3 hours away. I usually yard sale with a friend once a year. She always hosts it at her house, because she has the largest yard. She invites her mother, mother in-law (who happens to be my aunt), myself and usually another friend to join her. We have a great time visiting throughout the day. I think we enjoy that part more than actually selling stuff.

The first yard sale I participated in, I made $500! (But that did include a couch.) We were getting ready to move, so I had a huge binge cleaning.

But in the end, there is always stuff left over that you have to still deal with. I usually box it up and drive the 30 minutes to our nearest DI drop off. Maybe they would give me a tax credit, but I have never asked. I just drop my stuff off and leave.

8 Savannah { 04.28.15 at 9:18 am }

One more thought, could you find a family in need? I remember right after one yard sale, someone’s house burnt down. When I realized I wore the same size of clothes, I was sad to realize that just a week before, I could have helped provide clothing to the mother.

9 jjiraffe { 04.28.15 at 9:58 am }

Ugh – consignment stores around here take nothing unless it’s fancy, expensive and in perfect condition. I guess because people around here are fancy, expensive and in perfect condition 😉 I always donate to Goodwill.

10 Mel { 04.28.15 at 10:02 am }

Here is an alternative:

Donate the adult clothing (if it is not designer/trendy most places won’t take it).

Some consignment shops give only a few bucks for kids stuff. You could list each bag garbage bag size) $25 on something like craigslist.

Toys, I would have your kids pick out somethings that they would like to donate; this would give them the experience of being altruistic. The others sell if you can get a few bucks a toy, consider that money for new cabinet door handles for your new kitchen:)

11 Working mom of 2 { 04.28.15 at 10:36 am }

We have a local child’s consignment store. The stuff in there always seems overpriced and in not great condition to me. Yet their selling process is difficult (you can only have a limited number of items each month, etc) and you don’t get that big a cut.

I can’t see a consignment store taking adult stuff unless it was somehow rare, fancy, etc.

We typically just take books and clothes to goodwill. The only things we’ve sold have been big things in excellent condition like bouncy chair, pak n play, cloth diapers etc. we’ve also used CL to give away stuff like car seat, breast pump, etc. bc no one will pay for them.

12 stacey { 04.28.15 at 10:52 am }

I have sold kids stuff to consignment-type stores before. Admittedly, my stuff is not all name-brand and not always in great shape, but I’d say they took maybe 10-20 percent and I got a decent amount of money. It was probably worth it. I donated the rest. I always donate adult clothes or give them to my sister who goes to clothing swaps a lot. If I picked out the very best things, I could possibly make some money, but I don’t consider it worth my time. I also just discovered that we have a local kids resale group on facebook, and I see stuff going quickly once it’s posted, so something like that could work for the toys and possibly the kids clothes. I think adult clothes in general are harder to make any money on.

13 Jenn { 04.28.15 at 11:19 am }

Oh and there is a difference between a consignment store and resale. With the kid’s resale shops, you bring your stuff, they sort through it, and they give you the money right then for what they want. Very easy! Consignment is too much work for me.

14 SRB { 04.28.15 at 12:00 pm }

Interesting to read the comments. I can’t bothered to try to sell children’s clothing at all. Not worth the effort. I much prefer to donate or give away to friends.

I have never considered consigning my clothing either (usually gets donated). However, last spring, a friend held a “clothing swap” for her birthday party. You bring all the items you are considering donating, and you get as many tickets as items you brought. Everyone’s clothes were arranged on those portable coat rack thingies… Every time one of tickets was drawn, you could choose an item. I scored some SWEET boots and a lovely sweater. Whatever wasn’t swapped, we donated to Dress for Success. Plus, there was wine.

15 Justine { 04.28.15 at 2:16 pm }

I’ve donated or freecycled almost everything to friends as the kids have grown up, with the exception of a few things I’ve sold on consignment, becuase I sometimes shop at the consignment store so it’s nice to have credit there. And adult clothes I donate or freecycle, too. Sometimes with larger items (toys) I’ll sell, but usually through a list. One other thing we’ve done before is host a party where everyone pays a cover charge for charity, and gets to take what they want. Then it feels a little more like a celebration, instead of a chore, and it requires a LOT less organizing, and no travel (because everyone comes to get stuff). You just need to make sure you’re inviting people who won’t piss you off when they take your stuff. 🙂

16 Another Dreamer { 04.28.15 at 5:01 pm }

I usually wear my clothes until they”re threadbare or ruined. If I don’t, say I lost/gained weight or didn’t wear the item a lot, I usually donate it. I do not get the donation slip to claim in on my taxes though, because I am lazy. Truth. I have a ton of kids clothes and items this year we need to pass on though, I am planning on going the yard sale route to save trips, what is left after that will go to either consignment or thrift stores.

I really haven’t given the monetary value much thought, more “I want this stuff out of here, and a little extra cash wouldn’t be bad!” I do know that I would get more from most items at a yardsale than I would at a consignment store, although it will take time from our day.

17 a { 04.28.15 at 5:51 pm }

Here’s what I said on FB – you will get more cash by selling (however you do it), but I believe donating and taking the tax deduction is less of a hassle. But that’s because I don’t want to be bothered with selling stuff. It’s a personal preference.

“In terms of actual money in your hand, you will get some from selling your items (however you do it – yard sale, consignment, online, etc). In terms of your time, it will be much larger investment to sell things than to donate. However, if you are going to donate and take the tax deduction, there are a few things to remember. First, take photos of everything you donate in case of audit. Second, there is some unknown amount (a percentage of income, I hear) that is rumored to trigger questions, keep that in mind. Third, don’t undervalue your items – 1/4 of the original price is probably the maximum value for resale, but don’t just claim the $1 (or less) you’d sell it for at the close of your yard sale. Fourth, get donation receipts too. The time consumption for itemizing donations is annoying but still less annoying than selling your items on your own (unless you enjoy that sort of thing.).”

Someone said 40% of the original price is a fair valuation, but I don’t know if that’s accurate. And you might want to go lower, considering that you have a large volume of items.

18 Katherine A { 04.28.15 at 6:32 pm }

No experience with kid’s things, but I did consign some of my own/adult clothing with an online consignment shop. It was very hassle-free, but they only really took brand-name/virtually perfect condition stuff. Also, I was shopping for some stuff a couple of weeks later on that site and saw what they had listed one of my sweaters for price-wise…it was more than they’d paid me total for the 4-5 items they bought. I know they have to pay web/graphic design, photograph each item, employees, store/ship everything, and take the risk that some of the stuff they buy doesn’t sell, but it made me sigh. And several of my sweaters sold – I watched.

After that, I’ve listed some stuff on online auction sites and actually wound up making a fair amount, but there’s a lot of time to photograph, write a listing, set up an auction, take it to the post office, etc. I won’t do it any more unless I expect to get a minimum of $10 for the piece. I’ve had better luck also with a real, brick-and-mortar consignment shop where the deal was that I got a specified percentage of the selling price once the piece sold. The only drawback was I had to wait for each season and then sell clothing specific to that season. Which meant I had a fair amount of stuff hanging out for quite awhile waiting for a certain season to come around…

Donating the adult clothes is probably the best way with those, because in my experience, consignment shops (online or in real life) tend to only take the name-brand or the trendy.

19 Mali { 04.28.15 at 11:30 pm }

Goodness, I’m amazed that you get tax deductions for donations of used goods to charity. No wonder it takes you all so long to do your tax returns!

That’s all I have to contribute!

20 Geochick { 04.29.15 at 11:18 am }

I usually just donate adult clothing and write down everything that’s going to Goodwill. I didn’t realize I should be taking pics too! Ugh.

I’m having the same issue with kids clothes (mine usually aren’t good enough to consign). I’ll use you as a guide. Currently most of the kid clothes are hanging out in the attic waiting for a decision. :/

21 Geochick { 04.29.15 at 11:20 am }

Oh and are there kids consignment sales in your area? I did one of those once and while it’s a bunch of work hanging and tagging the clothing, theoretically you get more $. But then there’s the time spent tagging,hanging,schlepping…

22 LN { 04.29.15 at 5:14 pm }

We always donate, either to a charity or to a younger child (in the neighborhood or a child of a friend). Good karma.

23 Jaime { 04.29.15 at 7:35 pm }

I have tried consigning, they couldn’t take everything because they had an item limit. Then I tried yard sales and finally just donated everything and took the tax write off. Wish I’d done it from the start, instead of driving myself crazy!

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