Is Once Upon a Child Worth It?

Like most parents, we have tons of used baby clothing and used toddler clothes that are in excellent condition. Since babies and toddlers grow so fast, unless the clothing gets stained, it almost always ends up in good condition since they outgrow them before they can wear them out.

Tax Deduction for Donating Baby Clothes

There are a lot of ways to get some money for used children’s clothing. The simplest is to donate clothing to a charitable organization. Any IRS 503(c)(b) non-profit organization will do. Unless you have your deduction limited for some reason, you can deduct the "value" of donated clothing from your income taxes.

used-baby-clothesIf you are in the 30 percent tax bracket, for example, your taxes are basically reduced by $3 for every $10 of clothing you donate. (This is overly simplified, but it works to give an approximate idea.) When it comes to valuing the clothes for a tax deduction, there are a lot of rules, but the one most people use is to deduct the "thrift-shop value" of the clothing, which is essentially what you would pay to buy the same item from a thrift shop. Some charitable organizations like Goodwill and Salvation Army have approximate values for common items posted on their websites. TurboTax also includes an estimated value if you do your income taxes with TurboTax.

It might not sound like much, but figure if you count every shirt you donate at just $2, and you donate 50 shirts, that works out to $100 and a savings of $30 on your taxes. Not bad for putting everything in a box and hauling it down to the donation center.

Selling Baby and Toddler Clothes as Garage Sale

Another way to get money for your used kids’ clothing is to hold a garage sale. In this case, if you sold 50 shirts for $1 each, you would get $50. If you could get $2 a piece, you would get $100.

The catch is that there are a lot of people selling a lot of children’s clothing at a lot of garage sales. In other words, how much baby clothing you can sell depends on how many buyers show up willing and able to buy. Generally to attract much traffic to a garage sale, you need more than just a pile of baby clothes, so unless you have other stuff to round out your garage sale, this might not be the way to go.

Children’s Clothing Consignment Shops and Once Upon a Child

Generally, a consignment shop takes your stuff and tries to sell it. They keep a percentage, often half, and you get the rest. Since a consignment shop doesn’t want merchandise piling up, and only makes a profit when items sell within a reasonable time, many of them mark items down as time goes by. Your percentage remains the same, but the selling value drops.

This model does not necessarily lend itself to clothing since the items aren’t sold for a high enough dollar amount to warrant all of the tracking necessary. Thus, used clothing consignment stores will often just buy the clothes directly from you.

Once Upon a Child is one such children’s second hand store. You take in your children’s clothing, and other items, and they make you an offer. Is Once Upon a Child worth it?

Here is the deal. Used clothing is one thing. Quality used clothing is another. While it is obvious that clothes such be in good condition and without stains or tears, they also need to be brand name. Clothing from Carter’s and Jumping Beans, for example, may draw an offer. Anything from a department store or off-brand catalog or whatever, will not.

I took several boxes of neatly folded clothing, totaling well over 100 pieces, and my Once Upon a Child store offered to buy only 22 of them for a grand total of just over $27.

If you are going to sell your clothes to Once Upon a Child or other child second-hand clothing store, here are some tips.

  1. Take Small Amounts – Don’t take a huge lot all at once. This isn’t a good way to clean out your basement, it is a good way to clean out your drawers.  It takes a while to go through and you lose count of what you are selling and at what price. In my example above, I got just over $1 for each piece. Is that a good deal? Considering I already tried a garage sale and plan to donate the rest, it’s better than nothing, but with such a huge load, I lost control over saying yes or no to specific pieces.
  2. Separate Your Brand Names - The Once Upon a Child website list their "preferred" brand names. Start by taking in just the clothing you have that matches that list. This maximizes the chances of you getting an offer on most of it. If you want to throw in a few extra pieces just to see what happens, go ahead.
  3. Don’t Expect Much – A dollar for a piece of baby clothes or for toddler clothes isn’t a lot. Of course, you won’t get much more donating or selling on your own, either. The good news is you can always say no.
  4. Check What Is For Sale First – You get a 20 percent bonus on the amount offered if you take store credit instead of a check. That is only a good deal if you already want to buy. Forcing yourself to buy things just to take advantage of store credit doesn’t make sense when you can get cash. Only take the store credit if you know there are things to buy.
  5. Don’t Bother Without Brand Names - The way the OUC business works is that they buy brand name clothing that they can resell for used, but brand name prices. I saw long sleeve Jumping Beans shirts on sale for $7.50. That comes out to just under half the typical online retail price of $16 and even less than what you would pay at full-price in a store. That math doesn’t work for baby clothes that you bought for $3.50 on sale at Target.

Is It Worth Selling Kid’s Clothes to Once Upon a Child?

I don’t mean to single out Once Upon a Child here. It just happens to be the place I went. I assume that most other kid’s consignment shops work similarly. However, I think the key is to determine whether you would get more value out of the tax deduction than out of the second hand sale.

For example, if you are in the 30 percent tax bracket, and a nice sweater provides a $5.00 deduction, then you are netting $1.50 off your income taxes. If OUC or whoever is only offering a dollar, then you are losing money.

On the other hand, they cut you a check immediately, whereas you’ll have to wait until you file your taxes to reap the benefit of the donation.

If you want cash now, Once Upon a Child is a decent alternative.

If you can never rack up enough tax deductions, consider donating the clothing and taking the tax deduction instead.

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