Making Donations Truly Count


Let me first preface this post by saying I am not a tax adviser, nor am I trained to give tax advice – there I said it!  My disclaimer – I sure don’t want anyone calling me up to help them with a tax audit.

The other day my husband and I did an activity we do about 3 times per year and I just wondered how many others do it, or even knew to do it.  (yeah, I know….you could insert many different things here, but this is not that kinda website gals!)

When I was a single mom I always donated my used items to the local Goodwill.  I kept receipts and lists of the items and then I could take the donated amounts off my taxes.  It takes a little work to keep track of it all and you have to know how to complete the form for donated items for the IRS, but I find it is well worth my time.  When I got married, my husband had never done this – never kept track of his donations for tax purposes.  He donated, yeah – but it ended there.

After some talking, I convinced him to try it “my way”.  With all the changes in the deductions, it was going to require a little more work, but we tried it.  After gathering all our items together, we took a few pictures and then went through item by item listing them on an excel spreadsheet with the item, purchase price and then the donated value.  We then bagged the items, placed them in our car, took another photo of them in the car, drove to the donation site, took another photo of us unloading them and we were done.  It took total about 2 hours.  For a family of five, we go through a lot of used clothes, toys, games and household items!

After we got home, my husband looked over the spread sheet, tallied up the totals and then took 33% of the donated value of our items (rough estimate for tax use) and came up with a figure that basically was what we just “made” by tracking our donations using the tax deduction off our income.  Let me just say he was convinced to keep doing it, it was well worth his time!

So the other day was one of our days to go through this process.  It feels good to donate, feels great to get the things out of our house and I like the fact that the hourly rate we just made together for our family certainly made it worth our time to do this!

Please make sure you read information associated with the deductions of donated items or ask your tax adviser.

Do you have any tips or secrets that you could share with others to help them make a difference?  I would love to hear it!  For more information on how you can run your home with more ease and less stress, check out the Family Manager Makeover – you will be glad you did!

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  • April Ward

    I came across your blog through Frugal Dad. I was curious if the photographs are necessary. I do keep a list of the items being donated and attach it to the generic receipt that the Salvation Army gives me but I’ve never taken photos.

    I also use free online tracking at ItsDeductible (it’s related to Turbo Tax). I just use the default estimate they give for each item. It’s really handy and since I use Turbo Tax it just imports the data directly there at tax time. It also gives me a running estimate on my donations and approx. tax savings.

  • I am so glad you found me, thank you for leaving a great comment. We were told by our accountant to take photos – just one more way to cover ourselves if in fact we are audited. I love that site you offered, I will check it out – unfortunately we don’t use turbo tax, but I think we could review our prices (which I feel are very underestimated in value) on that site. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge – truly appreciate it!

  • Jane

    Oh we don’t have that advantage in France! This weekend we are getting our stuff together to participate in the village “vide grenier” (attic emptier… ha ha) where we can try to sell our stuff. Usually I bring it all to goodwill, but we don’t get tax benefits. The advantage is that so many people in our area now give to this place that the shopping is GREAT! It’s my favorite store.

  • I love this!! Can’t wait to hear how you did, I love that “Attic Emptier” that is a perfect name for a store. The tax benefit of donating is a nice added plus for sure, but in the end hopefully our stuff that has been just sitting around taking up space can be put to better use. 🙂

  • Jane

    That’s exactly it. Stuff taking up space that could be used by someone else. We are in the middle of going through all the stuff and have made some discoveries. The garage is a lot emptier. Anything not sold will be going to Goodwill on Monday. I’m on the parent’s association for the school and last year we went around to all the houses of our village and collected stuff that people didn’t want anymore. So, we hold a stand at the “vide grenier” and make money for the school. Tomorrow I have two stands to manage. Yikes!

  • I, too, use Turbo Tax and Its Deductible feature, it really helped us with last years’ taxes.

  • KDL

    I have a lot of decluttering to do, and this is great advice if we decide to donate some of it. We usually try to find friends who can use items we are done with – especially kids’ clothes, which I get from other friends. It’s a hand-me-down chain. It seems like a lot of places where we live are getting pickier about what items they will accept. In particular most don’t want clothes or stuffed animals anymore. I shipped a big box of stuffed animals to Afghanistan for soldiers to give to kids there in community outreach efforts…otherwise I’m not sure what to do with them! (Except I’ve asked people to stop giving us so many 🙂

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