By Anne D' Innocenzio -- AP Retail Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — When credit was flowing, stock portfolios were rising and jobs were plentiful, Americans bought and bought, stuffing their closets with everything from designer shoes to coats.

Now, worried shoppers are looking to their closets — including many items inside that still have price tags attached — as a means to raise cash to help them get by.

"People are coming up with creative ways to turn all that stuff into money," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart, which is published by Consumer Reports.

Here are ways to make your closets work for you:

1. SELL TO CONSIGNMENT SHOPS: If you have a bunch of status brand clothes in pristine condition, consider taking them to a consignment shop, which typically will pay you 50 percent of what it can resell them for, according to Freeman. Check with the trade group the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops, at NARTS.org, for shops in your area and tips on how they operate. Make sure to visit to learn what they're looking for and which shop will give you the best price. Dry cleaning your offerings will help boost your return.

But remember that consignment shops pay you only when they sell an item — and that amount will go down the longer an item sits on a rack. Freeman advises setting a minimum selling price because it can be more worthwhile to donate some things to charity and take a tax deduction.

2. SELL ON CRAIGSLIST OR EBAY: Sites like craigslist.com or eBay.com make it easy to get rid of castoffs because they draw buyers hunting for secondhand items. Michael Londrigan, chairman of the fashion merchandising department at the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising in Manhattan, recommends posting photos of your offerings on the Web. He estimates you can get anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent of what you paid at retail.

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