Clean Out Your Closets for Cash

Need some extra spending money? Give new meaning to “spring cleaning” this year by selling your used stuff for cash. Here’s how.

Sell Online

There are many places to sell your old stuff online. If you want to stay local, try Craigslist, which lets you list things in its online marketplace for free, though you’ll have to make the sale (and deal with the inevitable last-minute negotiation) in person. To get rid of old cell phones or electronics, try Gazelle, which offers cash trade-ins and free shipping. You can sell virtually anything on eBay, though you do have to do a little work (take a photo, monitor email questions, ship the item), and you’ll have to pay eBay a listing fee, plus hand over about 15% of the final value to eBay and PayPal. You can also sell used goods on Amazon, which charges either a per-item fee or a “referral fee” that usually ranges from 6 to 20 percent.

Hold a Garage Sale

They may seem more like a parent (or grandparent) thing than a student thing, but garage sales can be a fast, fun way to get rid of a bunch of things you no longer want, but that might be treasure for someone else—and make a few bucks doing it. If you want to go this route, consider banding together with a few friends for a “neighborhood” sale, which will both sound and look more impressive than a solo sale. If you live in a dorm, find someone who’ll let you host it at their home. Price everything clearly and fairly, arrange things on tables and racks so people can browse easily, stock a money box with lots of change and $1 bills, make signs, advertise and open early—that’s when the hard-core shoppers get there.

Try a Consignment Shop

Pros: No shipping costs, potentially a better market for items that are more impressive in person than in photos. Cons: The consignment shop decides on a price and takes a cut of the sale (sometimes as much as 60 percent), and they can be picky about what they take in terms of style, condition, even season. And if your item doesn’t sell you have to come back and get it, or let the store donate it to charity. Some consignment stores choose the items they want and pay you on the spot (though they sometimes will give you the option of taking a higher amount in store credit). Other shops put your items on their shelves and only pay you when, and if, they sell. Consignment shops can be a good option for specialized goods in high demand (baby items, furniture, sporting goods), or high-end designer goods.

Make a Charitable Donation

Hauling a bag of old clothes to Goodwill won’t earn you any cash, but it can help you in another way. If you itemize your tax return, you can claim your donation as a deduction.

Give it Away

If you aren’t getting any buyers for a particular item, or it’s broken or seriously run down, before you throw it out try listing it on Freecycle, a Craigslist-like online marketplace that lets you list items you’re willing to give away. If you have something you want to get rid of, you post the item under Offers, including a description and where you’re located. Interested Freecyclers send you an email (they’ll often tell you what they want it for or why), and you chose one and make arrangements for transferring the item. And if you’re looking for some free stuff, you can post in the Wanted section and hope someone will volunteer to give you what you need. Freecycle groups are organized by location—according to the site, there are currently 5,196 groups with more than 8 million members around the world. Membership is free, just like all the stuff.

Clean out your closet and earn extra cash

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Showing 6 comments
  • jon

    I always have a craigslist store..500 a year average! great article

  • Sheila Lavallies

    Great advice! I had never heard of Freecycle. But, I am going to look into it! Thanks!

  • Dana

    Hi! Those were great tips. There are also two web based companies that I use to sell back used clothing that are pretty awesome:
    1. ThredUp
    2. LikeTwice

    They are also excellent for buying clothes on a budget as well!

  • Chris

    Would love to do this! Anyone else local wanting to conduct a community yard sale soon? Spring is coming

  • Mary Johnson

    Thanks to all for the great tips! Chris, since I don’t know where you are located, may I suggest contacting your local town hall to see if there is a community group that may be interested in spring cleaning and/or tag sale.

  • Angel Marti

    For any Ladies (Men, too!) out there, you could consider donating to your local domestic violence shelters. There is always a need for Ladies and Children’s clothing, business attire, household goods (although, please contact them regarding their storage, some things may not be feasible for them. If there’s no Domestic Violence shelter, then possibly any shelter or church that gives to the needy. Goodwill is great, but donating to these shelters makes a DIRECT impact on someone’s life. If you had to start completely over, what would you need?? Anything you come up with is probably needed! Just a thought! Thanks for reading!