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How to Get Cash for Your Castoffs

Dayana Yochim
January 20, 2010

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.

  • 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, 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.
  • 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 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, 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 (, or swap it ( 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:,, and

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 d