Turning Junk into CASH


How many times have you heard America described as a “throw away society”?
We’re so used to being able to replace our old possessions with new ones that it often doesn’t occur to us to that there may be someone out there who could use what it is we’re throwing away, and some might even be willing to pay us for it!

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, as the saying goes, so the “junk” we’re too embarrassed to sell or give away could very well be a blessing to others.

If you have some usable goods that are in fairly decent condition, what can you do to make some money on them?


There’s an organization somewhere whose business it is to resell just about everything that’s ever been manufactured, especially if it’s in the technical gadget category. For example, how many old cell phones do you have around the house? There’s a company called Cell For Cash that will pay you for them. How much they’ll pay will depend on the model, age and condition of the phone, but it’s always worth a try.

Another site called Gazelle will purchase just about any kind of electronic equipment, including camcorders, laptop computers, MP3 players and digital cameras, among others. There are also computer and peripheral resellers in nearly every locality who might be worth a call before trashing any equipment you’re looking to get rid of.

Garage Sale

Garage Sale

Garage sales

Or, if you prefer the do-it-yourself route to selling your goods through a reseller, you might be able to get a bit more money by selling direct. Garage sales are one way to do this. It seems to be a rule that the more goods you have to sell, the more you will sell, not just because you have more goods to sell, but because larger inventories attract larger crowds, and could even invite a bidding war on one or two pieces.

Once or twice a year, gather up anything you’d like to get rid of, clean it all up, price it realistically, then put some signs around your neighborhood and on the nearest main streets. On a pleasant day you can draw a nice crowd, but it can work even better if you do it with a few of your neighbors—again, more is better with garage sales.

One thing I’ve found with garage sales is that what we think of as the worst stuff we’re selling seems to be what sells first and best. No idea why this is, but it’s a strong argument in favor of putting out what ever you have. We’ve typically made a few hundred dollars from a garage sale, selling nothing particularly significant so it’s always worth the effort.

Consignment shops

If you don’t live in the kind of home where you and have a garage sale, or if you don’t like the idea of having a garage sale (they can be a bit of work) you can also try consignment shops. Those selling clothing are the most typical, but you can also find consignment shops that sell furniture, toys and other goods.

The consignment shop doesn’t buy your merchandise, but will put it up for sale in their shop, then split the proceeds with you upon sale. One drawback is that in a consignment shop, “gently used” means gently used–they’re not places where you can dispose of true junk.


eBay is a place to go with some of the merchandise you couldn’t sell at a garage sale. You typically want to sell any items that are in the small size-high value category, since shipping costs figure significantly in the sale price, and the item may be shipped to a foreign location where shipping will be even higher.

I’ve sold a few items on eBay, and it’s not as easy as it once was, but it’s always worth a try, especially if the item is novel, antique, hard to find, or high value.


Most people  think of Craigslist for only really big items, like cars and boats, but it can also work for appliances, furniture, computers, TV’s and entertainment equipment as well. Think of it as the place to go with items that didn’t sell at your garage sale, but are too big to sell on eBay.

Non-cash donations

If you don’t have the time or inclination to sell your used goods for cash, you can still get a financial benefit from disposing of them and maybe even help a few people along the way.

Many charitable organizations collect used goods for resale at thrift shops. Goodwill, the American Kidney Foundation and many local faith organizations are among the charities that run collection drives. You’ve probably been called by some of them in the past. Next time they call, don’t hang up! In fact if you have a collection of gently used goods, you can call the local chapter of a charity and request a pick up.

Most people associate clothing with these drives, but most of the organizations will accept other usable goods as well. Before throwing out anything, call to see if a charity will accept them.

If you itemize your income tax deductions, the IRS will allow you to deduct non-cash contributions, which will lower your tax liability. You can only deduct the fair market value of the goods at the time of sale, which will be substantially below the retail price you paid.

For tax purposes, you can assign the “thrift shop value” to items donated to charities. This valuation is highly subjective and the charities will generally leave the job to the donor. Be reasonable in your estimates, but don’t get carried away (see IRS Publication 561 for more details). You’re not getting cash for disposing of your used goods this way, but you are getting a higher tax deduction, and that might be the next best thing–especially if you owe!

Next time you’re tempted to put that “old” gadget, contraption or bauble in the trash, stop and think about it for a while. You may just be sitting on a few hundred- or even a few thousand-dollars worth of merchandise should you change your mind and decide to either sell or donate it instead of putting it out on the curb for the trash hauler. When you start thinking of your “junk” in terms of money—and not trash—it starts to look different. Really different!

What do you do with items you no longer need… sell them, or junk them?

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