1. Less clutter now, tax-deduction later! Today’s MoneyMondays Tip.

    Doing some spring cleaning? Donate your unused items to local charities for less clutter now and a tax-deduction later!

    If you’re like me, sometimes I get so annoyed with closet clutter that I want to throw everything out just to get it out of my way. But, I must say, I try my best to avoid throwing out clothes. Unless the item is completely wrecked (like that shirt I wear whenever I paint a room) it can most likely get good use at one of many local charities.

    Some charities accept donations of clothing, toys and other household items to be given to those in need, while others like the Salvation Army and Goodwill will accept items that will besold. This not only provides the organizations with funds to further their mission and community outreach, but also provides gently used goods at a low cost to the community.

    Whether the items will be given away or sold, there are usually a few common guidelines for donations:

    • Clothing donations should be washed, undamaged, and reasonably wrinkle-free.
    • Items that come in pairs (shoes, gloves, socks) should be kept together.
    • Test electrical equipment and battery-operated items.
    • Include all pieces and parts to children’s games and toys.

    When you drop off your items to the charity of your choice, be sure to ask for a receipt that will allow you to value the items you donated (for example, see the Salvation Army Donation Value Guide). If you itemize deductions on your taxes the following year, you will be able to include your donations (See IRS Publication 526: Charitable Contributions).

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  2. Can You Give When You Need?

    Talking with a friend last week, the subject of charity came up. Sometimes, I hardly have enough money to “make it to the end of the month” as the saying goes.  I have written out my budget and am living within it.  But still, the food stamps run out and the car insurance comes due - the motor vehicle registration, too - I need a new suit for an interview and there I suddenly am – fifty dollars away from busted!

    My chosen profession, freelance writing, pays an average of $12,000 a year unless you break into the big time – getting published in magazines like Esquire, The New Yorker or Vanity Fair. I haven’t done this quite yet so I must be monthly-frugal and budget-wise.  Even so, when my friend asked me what I gave to Haiti for the earthquake last winter (the answer being nothing), I felt so verysmall.

    The truth is, I don’t have to spend dollars to give. I often take nonperishable food products down to our community food shelf.  It’s giving without spending.  I also try to visit my 93-year-old friend Edna at her nursing home more often.  The surroundings aren’t always cheerful but Edna loves the company and I love Edna.  And if I conquer my coffee addiction for a week or two, I’m able to give $5-10 dollars to my church, where they are collecting for orphaned students in Tanzania.

    It’s not that hard to save a little bit, even the smallest donation means something when given to those who are truly in need.  Each evening, when I watch the network news with my mom, we remark on how blessed we are as we witness floods and mudslides and tsunamis and earthquakes and tornadoes ravaging other places and hurting the innocent.  And I used to think Vermont’s snowy, icy winters were bad.  They never carried the house downstream…

    Really, I have it good, even when there’s not all that much in my account. I may need to up my bank account (and I plan on doing so by writing several articles), but I can still give. And hey, I can’t complain - I get paid to do what I love.

    As my mom says - redundantly - “This is happiness.”

    Cindy

    Cindy Battles is a freelance writer based in Rutland, VT, winner of the National Disability Institute’s 2008 Blog Contest and a regular contributor here on the Real Economic Impact blog.