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Secondhand savings; Cleaning out your closet this spring? Bring your gently used clothing to a consignment shop and make some extra cash, and while you're there, do some shopping and spend less

Stephanie Schillaci repeats the consignment cycle often. And her shopping and selling pattern has meant savings and earning on clothing for her growing sons.

At area consignment stores, you can save when you buy their "gently used" apparel and you can earn money when you sell your own fashions.

Schillaci has been a consignor and shopper at Rumpelstiltskins, a children's shop on Elmwood Avenue, for five years.

"Shopping there really helps the pocketbook," she said. "And I can't stress enough the financial benefit of reselling used clothing."

As annual springtime decluttering gets under way, consignment shops could be a lucrative way to part with wardrobe items no longer in use, and a cheap alternative to replenish your closet for the upcoming season.

Area consignment shops offer quality used duds at a third of the price and give consignors a 40 to 50 percent cut when their items are sold.

"Bring your clothes, we'll take what we think will sell," said Gail Gill, owner of the Clothes Horse in Orchard Park. "When they sell, you collect your money. It's an easy way to make some extra cash."

The Clothes Horse, a 30-year-old, multilevel department store, gives a 40 percent cut to the consignors. "You certainly don't get every penny back," Gill said, "but you can make some cash for a dress you're no longer wearing and it's cluttering up your closet."

Mary Felong, an Orchard Park resident, has been selling items at the Clothes Horse for more than 20 years. Over the years, she has collected various amounts -- sometimes enough to fill her tank and sometimes hundreds of dollars.

"I've always done well there," said Felong, who started selling her children's clothes as a young mom. "I'm a schoolteacher, so in the summer, I call it my income. It's nice to have a little bit of money you can count on."

At Plato's Closet and at Clothes Mentor, consignors are paid upfront.

"We sell clothing less than the retail price and we pay you on the spot," said Dana Zuber, owner of both stores, located in the Northtown Plaza on Sheridan Drive and a second Plato's in West Seneca. "We'll pay you 35 to 50 percent of the amount we'll sell your items for. People walk out with $10 or with $200, it depends."

But Zuber's shops as well as traditional consignment shops are selective. It's highly recommended to know the demographic of the store, since shops cater to different groups. For example, Plato's is geared toward juniors and young adults, ages 14 to 24. Plato's shoppers save up to 75 percent off gently used, in-style brand name clothes from stores, such as Abercrombie and Fitch, Express and Hollister.

"We just want your clothes to be trendy, clean and in style," Zuber said.

In general, consignment shops prefer certain brands and accept clothes a few years old. Items should be like new. The Clothes Horse sells current business casual styles from brands like Jones New York and Talbots. Baby Gap and Gymboree are sold at Rumpelstiltskins. Traditional stores accept in-season items, while Zuber's stores buy items year round.

"At this time of year, we'll take a wool coat," Zuber said.

While the styles and brands differ, store owners want items laundered, brought in a presentable, ready-to-wear condition.

"I can't say enough about presentation," said Erin Casey, owner of Rumpelstiltskins. "Presentation sells -- the newer your items look, better they'll sell."

Schillaci, a mother of two boys, ages 5 and 15 months, said her sons grow out of their clothing so quickly that it makes better financial sense to buy at a consignment shop.

In addition to children's clothing, savings can be had on garments for special occasions. Clothes Horse does brisk business, selling mother-of-the bride gowns and prom dresses at a third of retail price. Consignors can sell their gowns and reap 50 percent of the cut at Clothes Horse.

Local charities are also an option for used clothing. You'll help a good cause and save money through tax breaks when making donations. Taxpayers should be aware of the IRS requirements for noncash charitable contributions. First and foremost, you must itemize to get the tax deductions. Your contributions have to be made to nonprofits with 501(c)(3) status. Taxpayers should receive slips from the charity with its name, location, date of the contribution and reasonable details of the property.