I’ll be the first to admit: I shop at Goodwill. But who even cares? Goodwill used to have this stigma of being a low class place where people go to buy crappy things–but not anymore. I know a lot of people that shop at second hand stores unashamedly, and I am openly one of them. Sure, I still hit up places like Zara and Forever 21, but some of the cutest clothes I own have actually come from thrift stores. Not to mention I feel really proud wearing them around knowing I got a killer deal. Anyone can score some amazing Goodwill finds if they just know what to look for.
A $90 dollar shirt for $3? Yes please. 50% off a certain color tag all week? Even better. In and out of the store with incredible stuff without wasting time rummaging through every single thing? If it sounds too good to be true, it’s not. It can take some practice, but following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to snagging some really great bargains in no time. And before you know it, you’ll become a hardcore Goodwill addict like me (don’t worry, it’s actually way more awesome than it sounds).
1. Not All Fabrics Are Created Equal
The Quick-Glance Test
This is one of the biggest things I want to stress. About 70% of my shopping trips at Goodwill revolve around judging fabrics from a distance. If it doesn’t catch your eye while you’re scanning down the isle, it’s probably not good. Look for things like color, pattern, and quality.
I usually stay clear of bright things. Hot pink, bright red, or in-your-face orange are all generally a no-go. But neutrals and gem tones (mustard, emerald green, wine etc.) tend to produce better results. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but I’ve found this to be the case most of the time.
You should also be on the lookout for patterns. I try to find ones that either look super modern or super vintage. Anything in between and it’s probably not noteworthy. This is on some level a matter of taste, so just go for what you feel matches your style best.
And finally, have an eye for quality. Does the fabric look expensive and clean, or does it look like it has been through about five different owners, never washed, and dumped at the Goodwill Graveyard? Sometimes it’s hard to tell from a distance, but do your best. I’ll touch more on this later.
Trust your instincts and eventually you’ll get the hang of it. You’ll also save tons of time because you won’t have to sort through every. single. hanger. After all, who wants to go through ten striped grandma looking shirts and twenty Hawaiian print tourist button ups before finding something cool? Not me.
Spotting Something That Might Be Good
When I pick up a piece that gets my attention, I’ll first check the tag and see where it originally came from. This is usually a good indication of whether or not it’s worth inspecting further. Most of the time, I’ll see that what I’ve picked is a brand name I love. Okay confession guys: I get a mini high every time this happens. It feels SO cool to validate my initial instincts all while browsing quickly and efficiently. It’s seriously so much more rewarding than regular shopping!
If the piece you’ve chosen is worth a closer look, then do just that. Does the fabric still look new? Is it faded (and not in the cute “on purpose for stylish reasons” kind of way)? If there are holes or too much pilling, just put it back.
Given that it still passes the test, check out the silhouette. Is the shirt a big box that’s going to be totally unflattering? Do the pits look really loose and baggy? When you try things on, take note of which items worked, which didn’t, and why. Over time, you’ll learn to spot good clothes more quickly and make better decisions.
2. Have a Plan
Shop For the Right Items
Need more tops? Head straight for the blouses and start there. Have a certain color in mind? Then narrow your search even further. By doing this you can make sure you’re the first one down the isle so that the kind of cool looking girl around the corner that you’re pretty sure is your shopping competition doesn’t steal what’s rightfully yours. But really, this happens. I once watched someone snatch a beautiful cardigan I had been second guessing off the rack I was patiently waiting to get another look at. Seriously, how could she!? It’s a battlefield out there ladies and gents. Everything is fair game. So fight for what you want.
What Time to Visit
Another way to make sure you never miss a deal is to get to Goodwill right when it opens. A quick Google search of shops in your area will let you know store hours so you know when to show up. Beat the crowd and you’ll have access to everything before it’s all picked over.
What Stores to Visit
Try to frequent Goodwills that are in wealthy areas. You won’t believe some of the things people leave behind! I have had a lot more luck finding quality clothes in towns that are well off rather than their less wealthy counterparts.
What Days to Visit
If you can, always go on a Monday. Most people don’t have time or energy to drop off donations during the week, so they wait until the weekend. Mondays are a gold mine for finding amazing Goodwill clothes because the store is freshly stocked.
Visiting after holidays is a good plan too. Christmas gift someone didn’t fit into but couldn’t exchange? I’ll take that. Spring cleaning after Easter? There will probably be some cool things someone didn’t want to part with but finally gave in to in the name of downsizing.
3. Check for Local Deals
Visit the Goodwill website for current deals. All Goodwills will have a particular tag color that is 50% off all week. Each week they cycle through a new color. That means that your $5 pair of jeans just became $2.50. And on certain days the tag color is only 99 cents! Not bad, especially when you’ve scored a good brand. Pro tip: if what you want isn’t on sale now but will be next week, hold off (as long as you’re okay with risking it not being there when you come back).
I also suggest asking your local store if there are any specials going on. Not everything is always listed online. Check out the schedule below to see an example calendar month of deals.
4. Donate Something
Ok, you’re probably thinking, “How is giving something away going to help me get awesome stuff at Goodwill?” But it totally does. First of all, it always feels rewarding to give to a good cause. It’s also great because you’ll be spreading the love and continuing the cycle of thrifting that allows the rest of us to indulge in our Goodwill addictions.
But if that wasn’t enough, Goodwill usually gives a coupon for 20-30% off your entire purchase for donating something. Talk about savings. Keep that coupon until you’re having a particularly lucky day and have found massive amounts of clothes. You’ll save so much money that you can now, of course, use to buy more Goodwill clothes later. Win win.
Now that all of my shopping secrets are out there, I hope you all put them to the test and find some amazing Goodwill pieces. Remember, you won’t always walk away with something. Some days there just isn’t anything worth buying. But if you stick to it, I guarantee you’ll find something you love!