One thing that Uncle Sam lets us do is to write-off donations to charity. Now I’ll start this post off by the usual disclaimers that I’m not a tax expert and you need to consult your tax advisor on any of this stuff.
That said, one thing I’ve become acutely aware of after getting married is that I have a lot of junk. Well, prior to getting married I thought this was treasure, but my wife has helped open my eyes to certain things. Like how our clothes closets aren’t being used to store clothes but boxes of things. Or how our second bedroom isn’t being used as a bedroom, but as a storage unit.
My first reaction was to go on eBay and sell as much as I could. But boy did that become a hassle. You have to take the time to write a listing, take pictures, get payment, box it carefully, buy postage, and drop it off at a post office. At the end of the day, the few dollars I earned from it almost seemed not worth it.
Donation of goods is never something that really crossed my mind before, but when you think about it, it’s a fantastic idea, whether or not the tax write-off. You have stuff you don’t need that’s taking up space–furniture, lamps, appliances, clothes, shoes. They’re not in terrible shape, but for whatever reason you just outgrew them. But donate them to charity, and the charity will re-sell it to someone else. That person gets your used items are a huge discount over what it’d cost to buy it new, the charity will get a little bit of profit, and that profit will go towards helping someone who’s in desperate need. All while keeping your local landfill from being cluttered with your stuff.
One brilliant idea I recently heard of is the GiveBackBox.Com. The concept is simple. How many times do you receive boxes of more “stuff” from UPS or FedEx or the post office? Oftentimes, you’ll unpack the box and then throw it away.
With GiveBackBox.com, you can print a pre-paid shipping label. All you have to do is empty the box you received from your e-commerce purchase, tear off all the labels, stuff the box with household items you want to donate (as can fit in the box), slap the label on the box, and call UPS for a pickup. Your donation will be send directly to Goodwill, where they’ll sort your items and sell it in their stores, with money going to help strengthen communities and help youth, seniors, veterans, the disabled, and others through education, skills training, and finding jobs.
Just a few suggestions that aren’t on their Web site. Avoid the temptation to donate things that are too old and raggedy–no one wants you old stained pair of sweatsocks or your underwear with the holes (and while I’m no tax expert, something tells me the IRS wouldn’t be too keen on your assigning value to those things). Instead, donate things that have value; the sweater you only wore a few times, the appliance that still works but that you don’t use anymore, and so on. Things that you believe that someone shopping in a Goodwill store would snap up as a bargain. Also, be honest with yourself and with the IRS about the valuation.
I love this idea because it avoids so many of the hassles that usually prevent us from donating. Driving to a donation bin and finding that people are basically using them as dumpsters. Driving for miles to the nearest office of a charity who may or may not be open. Scheduling an appointment for a charity to come pick up your items. Already, companies like NewEgg and Amazon are jumping on the bandwagon.
This won’t (and shouldn’t) replace you from donating to other charities (The Lupus Foundation is one with special significance to me, whose bags I will continue to fill), but it’s a great way to remind you that whenever you get cool new “stuff”, it’s time for you to evaluate which of your “cool old stuff” you can donate.