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How to Get Cash for Your Castoffs

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The Motley Fool's Fiscal Fitness Boot Camp is in session! Every weekday this month, we’ll walk you through a fresh money-saving/money-making tip as we work toward finding $2,000 in savings you didn’t know you had.

Stop picking the spinach from your teeth with that unredeemed gift card, and stop using that old MP3 player as a paperweight. There's cash to be had for your castoffs -- even if it's just $40 for an early-generation iPhone or 70% of the value for the remaining balance on a gift card.

There is a market for everything and a place to hawk it to the highest bidder. So in our mission to dig up $2,000 in savings opportunities this month, let’s clean out our closets, wallets, and anywhere else we’re stashing stuff.

Here's a brief rundown of some services that can help turn your trash into cash. Start your sales research here (this is by no means an all-inclusive list). Even better, if you have successfully used another service, share it with the entire class in the comments area below this article.

Old electronics and other gadgets: Most of us have a veritable gadget graveyard somewhere in our home. (Attention Smithsonian curators: I recently unearthed a stack of five-inch floppy discs at the bottom of a closet.) Here are a few places that’ll help you clear out some drawer space and get some cash.

  • Gazelle.com buys “pre-loved” cell phones, digital cameras, laptops, camcorders, and other electronic doodads. Once the condition and market value of your item is verified, you'll get a check, PayPal payment, or gift card -- your choice. Recently, an iPhone 3G 8GB fetched $103, and a Samsung Solstice SGH-A887 earned the seller $116.
  • Over at BuyMyTronics.com, you can price out what you’ll get before you sell by answering a few questions about the condition of the item and the accessories you still have for it. You can offer anything from PDAs to Apple software to eBook readers.
  • Flipswap.com lets you recycle your old phone for cash (or a donation to a charity of your choosing), or trade it in for credit at a store that sells cell phones.  At the high end, Flipswap pays out an average of $160 for old BlackBerrys and $220 for iPhones. Even that old Samsung Blackjack is worth $41, or your kid’s old Motorola RAZR around $20.
  • Even retailers have gotten into the trade-in business. Costco (Nasdaq: COST  ) has a program with Gazelle.com that enables members to recycle their electronics for grocery money deposited on their Costco card.
  • And check out the market for your used stuff at RadioShack (NYSE: RSH  ) and GameStop (NYSE: GME  ) ; the latter relies on used video games and game systems for a significant part of its business. Stores typically only give you store credit for your castoffs. And at Gamefly.com, you can trade in those video games Junior has tossed aside for credit toward purchasing a new first-person shooter game.

Gift cards: You might think they're duds, but gift cards can be worth, well, almost their face value to other folks. With billions of dollars of gift card balances going unredeemed every year, it's no wonder there's a crop of services to help consumers off-load them.

You can auction it off, sell it outright (Giftcardbuyback.com), or swap it (Swapagift.com) for something better. You'll typically find a full menu online of cards from stores like Lowe's (NYSE: LOW  ) , Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) , and Cheesecake Factory (Nasdaq: CAKE  ) , among dozens of others. (Other sites to check out: plasticjungle.com, giftcardrescue.com, and monstergiftcard.com.)

Don't expect to get full face value: Most pay out anywhere from 60% to 90% of face value. (You'll get top dollar by selling cards from hot retailers, in round dollar amounts, and with distant -- or nonexistent -- expiration dates.)

Some sites charge you a percentage of the final transaction, and others charge a flat fee. Balances must typically be at least $10 to be eligible for swapping, trading, or selling. Over at Dealnews.com, they ran a handful of these sites through the paces and recommend selling directly to the site (instead of auctioning the card off to members) and using a combination of sites for the highest payout.

Unused airline miles or points: At Points.com, you can swap, share, or redeem your unused rewards. If your points are spread around, you can even combine them so you can get something -- a gift certificate, song downloads, etc. -- before your points expire. At Loyaltymatch.com, you can sell your loyalty reward outright to another member or trade it for something else. Another option is to donate your miles to a cause. Many organizations are set up to facilitate this transaction directly.

Oddball, unusual, and limited-appeal stuff: To get top dollar for your collectibles and other items that might not have mass appeal, eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY  ) is still the obvious first choice. You don't even need to go through the hassle of setting yourself up as a merchant. Simply take the treasures from your attic to an eBay drop-off location, and they'll conduct the transaction from start to finish. For a fee, of course. At the other end of the spectrum is craigslist.com, a digital town crier where you can list, for free, the stuff you want to sell.

As long as you’re cleaning out the garage … : If you’re burdened by a car lease agreement you no longer want or cannot afford, check out Leasetrader.com and Swapalease.com for some financial relief. These sites match folks looking for a short-term lease with those looking to get out of their contract early.

Clean out the attic this weekend
There are plenty of other places to sell your unwanted stuff. Consider the following:

  • Consignment shops are great for designer-label clothing that's in good condition.
  • Jewelry stores or pawn shops might buy that gold rope chain you sported in the '80s, which can be sold for its value in scrap.
  • Children's consignment shops are a popular way to get a little money for those toys, clothes, and strollers that your little one has outgrown.

What websites or other venues do you use to get cash for your clunkers? Chime in below! 

Tune in throughout the month for the latest installment of our Fiscal Fitness Boot Camp, as we stay on course to produce at least $2,000 of savings for you. 

Fool.com Fiscal Fitness instructor Dayana Yochim recently cleaned out her closet and got paid $189 from her neighborhood clothing consignment store. Costco, Lowe's, and Wal-Mart are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Costco, eBay, and GameStop are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Motley Fool Options has recommended a bull call spread strategy on eBay. The Fool owns shares of Costco. The Fool.com disclosure policy is in mint condition and comes complete with a user’s manual and charging station.


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