Shopping Saturdays: Goodwill

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goodwill shopping tips

I have a love hate relationship with Goodwill. My love for it is location dependent. Certain Goodwills I find to be well organized with plentiful finds at great prices. Other Goodwills are ill organized, with pitiful finds and high prices, I hate those ones.

That said my first tip to you is…..

1. Try out a few locations

Don’t just try out one Goodwill and decide that we Goodwill lovers are crazy, because you may have hit a bad one.

I find the ones in or near bigger centers have much better selection than those found in smaller towns.

However, the Goodwills in big cities also tend to have the higher prices, so its a bit of a trade off.

2. Be prepared to spend at least an hour or two shopping.

Goodwill is not like the mall, you cannot go in go straight to the blouse rack, go straight to your size, go straight to your color, and then go straight to the changing room.

Most Goodwills are organized first by item (all the jeans together, all the skirts together…) then depending on the store they are organized either by color or by size.

Personally I love the stores that go by size, because the searching process takes less time.

However, it often pays to at least glance through the clothes that are not in your size in case an item has been put in the wrong section.

Trust me 90% of the time your extra time spent shopping will come back to you in dollars saved over buying at the mall.

3. If you see an employee bringing out a rack from the back go and take a look.

I often find the best stuff on these freshly bought out racks and the employee’s never mind me taking a look through as they shelf the items.

4. Grab a cart you are going to need it

I often think to myself I am just going to look through ……….this time so I won’t need a cart, but then within minutes I find myself walking across the store with several “whatevers” in my hand to go and get the cart because there are several more “whatevers” to look through.

5. Go down each aisle so that the front of garments are facing you.

I find it easiest to sort through the clothes if I go down each aisle I am interested in with the front of the garments facing me.

I then shove the clothes as far back as they will go on the rack and quickly thumb through them one by one.

If I am in a hurry I scan the rack with my fingers stopping when I find something that catches my eye, but often this approach causes me to miss great stuff (which I see later when a person behind me snatches it up)

6. Don’t be afraid to put sizes you think won’t fit in your cart.

These are second hand clothes they may have shrunk or stretched, or have been altered. Plus clothes sizes these days are not at all regulated. I personally wear anything between a size 6 to a size 10, and sometimes even a 12.

Now that you have a mound of clothes in your cart, come back next week to find out what to do once you hit the dressing room.

If you want to read more Goodwill tips read…

Goodwill:The Dressing Room

Goodwill:Saving at the Checkout

How about you? Do you have any tips or shopping Goodwill?

Click to read more shopping tips.

Click to read more shopping tips.

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  1. Great post! Definitely watch the new racks and carts as they come out–I have found the best stuff that way. If you are plus size, don’t just check that rack–those sizes often get put in the “regular” clothes. Make sure you take hand sanitizer if you have your kids with you, and always go to the books or toys and grab a few things for them to look at while they sit in the cart and you shop. Find out if there is a sale on one of the different colored “barbs” in the clothes–our Goodwills offer 50% off certain colors certain days. Don’t forget to return if you need to–leave the barbs in, though and our GW only gives you seven days. Also, I have found it pays to go often if you can, and lastly, I always say a little prayer before I go in, and I believe God has blessed our family so much this way with things we ordinarily could not afford. Oh, and check the board games–we have found lots and lots of great ones, NEW, for 3 bucks or less. If you open the lid, and the parts are still in the factory plastic, you are probably not going to be disappointed!

    • Victoria says:

      I agree with the prayer part (and all the other great tips), I use to do that a lot when our finances were extremely tight, I never forget the day, I prayed for a winter coat for my boy on bag sale day at a local mission $4 a bag, and found a like new gap down coat, that worked out out to .35 cents when I squished it down and added other finds on top, I felt so blessed. I need to get in the habit of doing that again thanks for the reminder.

    • I completely agree with prayer! I had a $100 budget to buy winter items for my 13 year old daughter and 5 year old son, this included coats and boots, hats and gloves. My husband said a prayer at supper and I said one on the way in the store. I found a brand new coat for My DD And several other warm clothing items on my list. When I got up to the register, I handed the cashier a coupon for 15% off and she asked me if I wanted to donate $5 and get 50% off. Yes please! My $99.99 total then became $50-something. That was such a blessing as I was able to go to another second hand store in town to get boots, mittens and snow pants for my son and even had a few dollars left to spare! The only thing I didn’t get was boots for my daughter but that’s fine, I will find some soon.

  2. Great tips on shopping at Goodwill. When I was in grad school, I used to shop at Goodwill quite a bit. I would find some great deals! Now that I have 3 kids it is pretty inconvenient and I don’t have time to scour for the great deals so I shop other ways (mainly online!). I love seeing peoples finds, though!

  3. We don’t have a Goodwill, but we have a couple thrift stores. I’ve never had the patience to shop them though. I really don’t have the patience for the mall either. So I just never get new clothes! HA! I think my problem is I never go in preparing to spend time there. I just think I’ll pop in and pop out. I’ll take your suggestion and plan to be there awhile next time!

    Mary Beth

  4. Hi, my first time here. I found you at Women Living Well. I love these tips and I love shopping at Goodwill and thrift stores. This year on Easter I wore a flowered spring jacket I bought at a thrift store – new w/tags $120.00 retail – and a white Ralph Lauren lined linen skirt. I paid $20 for the jacket and couldn’t believe I was paying that at a thrift store, but it goes with so many things in my closet and was new – so I justified it. 🙂 I have to watch myself and not buy too much stuff! Now I am following the rule if I bring something into my closet, I must take something out of my closet.

    Thanks for these great tips. I will try the praying before I go in.

    Twitter @MaryB0583

  5. Great tips! I just went to Goodwill yesterday and I can definitely agree with number 6.
    I usually wear a 6 but bought a size 0 skirt yesterday.

  6. I really like to take my time meandering through the store too. I often find some treasure in a least likely spot and would’ve missed it had I hurried through.

    I like the idea to try out several stores. Good one!

  7. There are two Goodwills within 30 miles of my home, both of them in small towns. Driving to a bigger “city” would defeat the purpose I think, with gas prices being what they are. I have found some nice things in both, however, both are generally unorganized. There isn’t even color groupings, let alone size groupings. All women tops squeezed together, all men’s etc. The baby clothes are in a huge bin that we must dig through. The smell lingers too. Even if I don’t buy anything, I still come out smelling musty.

    With all that said, I am still a big fan of Goodwill if I have the time to dig and search. I found ninety percent of my maternity clothes at Goodwill, which was fantastic since I only wore them for a while, then I redonated them!


  8. Great tips, especially trying multiple locations and being flexible about sizes.

    In addition to clothes, I have found some good sheets at Goodwill. I think what usually happens is that people wear out the fitted sheet from a set and then donate the flat sheet and/or pillowcases…but once I got a really nice fitted sheet. I prefer them to new sheets because they’re so soft! Of course, I only buy them in excellent condition, and I wash them thoroughly before use.

    Marcia, to get rid of the musty smell, try soaking things overnight in 1/3 white vinegar and 2/3 hot water, then wash. Or hang them outside in the sunshine for a day.

  9. I have a system for all thrift shops that has really paid off for me; first, I look thru several current fashion magazines and my closet to see what I have and what I would like to add. Going thru magazines also refreshes the names of current designers in your mind and keeps you from paying $4 for a Walmart shirt used. I make a list of items such as brown riding style boots, a blouse in turquoise, an oversized sweater, a purple plaid scarf. With the list in hand, when I go into the Goodwill, I head to either the section/s where items I want on my list will be or if there are new racks out, to them. I do a quick scan thru the racks for the color of the item I am looking for and hit the areas that those items will be in first. Then after I have done a quick look, I go thru racks one item at a time to see what I missed or what I might want for someone else. It does take some time BUT for about $100, I got about $1200 worth of nice clothes in excellent condition. Also, keep your receipt since Goodwill does do returns (at least here they do) with a receipt. Stores near college towns are great to hit since lots of college kids won’t pack up their entire wardrobe and take it home and they tend to cycle thru clothes faster than most people do. One other rule I have on Goodwill shopping is I never buy anything that is not a good name brand, no Walmart or Kmart clothes unless they are specifically on my list. I can buy those on clearance new for about the same as at GW used.

  10. I just discovered the world’s smallest Goodwill on Palm Beach…it’s the size of a small boutique, and it’s the place to go for designer brands like Escada, Gucci and more. They also regularly have brand new Boston Proper for about 70% less than the catalog price! If you’re vacationing in South Florida, put this treasure on your to-do list.

  11. Just left Goodwill today – needed new jeans and simply will not pay 38 dollars (or more) for some made in China junk – 7 dollars and those dollars will stay in my community to benefit folks. A win/win.

  12. Anne Harrison says:

    I used to shop at thrift stores when my kids were about ages 5-10. I would find practically brand new stuff all the time and remember paying like $2 for a pair of levis that had never been worn! Kids outgrow clothes so fast that this was such a money saving venture! However, when they got wise to the fact that I was buying “used” clothes, I had to stop!! (girls!!) The only problem I have with shopping at thrift stores is the smell!! I’m sorry, but everyone I’ve ever been in, smells gross!!

  13. In our small town, I have been extremely lucky to find gently used-new items at Goodwill. You need time to look! This is a great place to find maternity clothing!!

  14. So I’m late to the party, but I just recently discovered Goodwill! I thought it was just a place to drop off your junk, boy was I wrong. After we started homeschooling a friend told me she picked up lots of books from Goodwill, so I dropped in to check out the books. The next visit I bought books, plus some jeans for my 8 year old son. The next visit, books and a pair of Polo khaki dress pants for $3.99 for my oldest son! Then I headed over to the womens capris and got a pair of Seven brand capris and a few skirts with the tags still on! Every trip I expand my searching and I even found a like new coach wallet for $3.99. SCORE! We love Goodwill. My boys go through the books and I shop for everything else. We have picked up boardgames, vintage books and more. It’s so fun!

    • Victoria says:

      Sounds like you have gotten some amazing deals! My best finds have been for my husband lately. A lands end shirt and a Nike golf shirt.

  15. I should note that everyone needs to be aware that Goodwills are divided by industries. Not all will be fortunate enough to have good deals within a 50 mile radius. I work for North Florida Goodwill who was recently redone by South Florida Goodwill (which redoes stores across the nation) and there was a huge price increase for the area- and the areas that SFG worked (many stores across the nation.) A lot of the Goodwills do not do member cards, 50% off days, military, student, and more. Ours- and the surrounding stores within a 50 mile radius (over 20 stores)- only do 25% off days.

    Selection within the store is based on what type of store it is- retail is the highest form. Pound and salvage shops are going to be cheaper and not as nice as they get what the main retail stores do not want. Goodwill Outlets are the bottom of the bottom. They’re also rare and are the craziest as everything is super cheap and you have to dig in bins (here, you need to guard your buggy because people will take from it.) For all high end items, most are sent to so don’t always expect your store to have high end things. Most all jewelry is sent to that site. Even books.

    It’s actually against many industry policies to shop directly from just brought out racks. Ask first. If you don’t, you could be causing that employee to be written up (it happens too often.)

    Please also note: you cannot haggle prices. Too many people try to but there is no changing prices. Also, items cannot be held.

    If you buy furniture, there is usually 48 hours to pick it up. Electronics are the only thing returnable- within 24 hours (unless it’s from an outlet.)

    That’s just some added stuff that I know from where I work. I’ve spoken to a few other industries around the south and they seem to follow these same things with a few exceptions.

    • Victoria says:

      I had no idea it could get an employee written up if you shop directly from a newly brought out rack. Here in Indiana where I live, I shop the newly brought out racks all the time and just about everyone else in the store does too. I wonder if that is also a region by region rule?


  1. […] Goodwill Shopping Tips from Snail Pace Transformations […]

  2. […] In part 1 of Goodwill shopping I took you through picking a good location and sorting through the clothes effectively, today we are heading into the dressing room. […]

  3. […] You have gathered, and tried on all your clothes. You have decided what are keepers and now you are heading to the check out line. […]

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