Getting the Most out of Goodwill

I call it Good Will Hunting. Yep, me digging thru racks and shelves stuffed with stuff. Some good stuff, some well stuff that is trash worthy. I am not so sure I believe that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure always holds true. Sometimes, trash is just that, TRASH. However, if you can get over the items that are trash, you can find a treasure or two at the Goodwill.

Make sure you check out my thread on the Frugal Living Community on Trash to Treasures.

How do you make the most of Goodwill?

1. Get over the fact that Goodwill smells weird…. . It smells like mothballs. I know it’s not exactly the best smell ever but it is nothing a washing and a can of Lysol can’t fix. If you walk around the store thinking “Gee it smells bad”, nothing will be appealing.

2. Seek out the new items – There are plenty of brand new items at Goodwill. For years, Target has been donating its unsold and salvage items to Goodwill. There have been many occasion where Target has some of its merchandise in Goodwill and its stores! Check it out after they have the World Bazaar or season changes, Goodwill carries a lot of their stuff out of season.

3. Just because it’s cheap, doesn’t make it a good deal – Like I said before, if its trash, let it be trash. Just because a tweed skirt with a broken zipper is $3.00, doesn’t make it a good deal. Don’t buy just because it’s cheap., you have to be able to make use out of it.

4. Don’t get Goodwill happy – I have seen women load their carts up with a ton of stuff because they are at Goodwill and get happy and forget their budgets. If you came to buy a shirt, don’t buy 20 pairs of pants, it defeats the purpose. The pants will be $3.97 next week too.

5. Color coded sections – Some Goodwills use the color of the item to put it in a section. While this may make logical sense to some, you may have to spend some extra time in those sections. There seems to be no rhyme or reason other than the item is well, ah brown.

6. Visit Frequently – The selection changes frequently, so be sure to stop by on a regular basis.

7. Don’t get discouraged – I have visited Goodwill for weeks on end and have not found a thing and other times I will find things everytime.

8. Go with an open mind – If you are looking for a black shirt for an event in a week, don’t count on Goodwill for your item. You can check it out, but don’t be surprised if they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for that day.

9. Things to be leery of at Goodwill – undergarments, undergarments and undergarments.

Do you have any tips?


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  • Sharon

    I love Goodwill here in Colorado! Most baby clothes are in great condition and only $.99 each. Be sure to check for missing buttons, stains etc. I also have gotten tons of books for my kiddo there. But be sure to check for missing pages etc. One of the first books I purchased had flaps that you pull up on each page. I didn’t think to check every single page and realized after I got home that half the pages were missing the flaps! But I just made my own and now the book is as good as new.

  • Lisa

    My Goodwill is mostly overpriced. Sometimes I see the Target stuff in there with higher prices than the Target clearance price. Crazy prices on some of the most basic things also. Shoes are never under $10 and they mark up any designer clothes so they are always higher priced than the listed generic prices on the posted signs. Whoever is doing the pricing seems to think they work at Macy’s. Although I go in there a lot, good deals are very hard to come by, unless something slips by the heavy handed pricer!

  • Maggie

    I buy Halloween costumes at goodwill or salvation army
    And save a lot by not buying brand new.

  • Jillian

    Dont forget about consignment shops! I have one in a very well-to-do neighborhood around my home, and, very often I can find clothes for my little one, 75-90%off at the end of the season. I just went there and I bought 21 things for $23.90, and 4 of the items had the ORIGINAL Baby Gap and Gymboree price tags on them.

  • Ashley

    I love Goodwill but the one thing that drives me INSANE is when they get their donations from Target and jack up the price just because it’s new! It’s like, HELLO!? They’re getting this stuff for FREE so any price they put on it is making them money! Makes me crazy!

  • Teage Christensen

    We have a Goodwill outlet in Seattle. All the same rules apply and you actually pay by the pound. Very interesting and you have to be patient. All of the clothes come out in large bins and you have to sort through them individually. However, you can come across some great deals, like the Prada jacket we found there! Just be prepared as there are some people that spend the ENTIRE day there, just waiting for new bins to come out onto the floor (they are cycled in and out every 30 minutes or so).

  • Jen T

    Our Goodwill, for the most part, is overpriced on most things. You can find GREAT deals sometimes though. I bought a brand new, just out PC game for $5 that sold for $50. I was very happy. =) Unfortunately, our Goodwill doesn’t allow returns. No changing your mind! =)

  • Doretta

    Shannon, do you have a link for the signup? Maybe its too late? but I couldn’t find it… ;) Thanks.

  • Natalie

    I love going to our Goodwill. Right now, I am wearing my brand new t-shirt (picked up for $1.50) and my shoes (picked up for $4.95) I get many compliments on my clothing and my shoes that I purchased from Goodwill or other consignment shops. Locally, my favorite consignment shop is Just Theresa’s on Perkiomen Ave

  • Shannon

    If you sign up for their email you will get a 25% off total purchase for your birthday and they will send emails throughout the year for 15% off your total purchase and other specials. Every bit helps when you have a family of 5 and working on one income…ugh

  • Shannon

    Woohoo, where do you live? I wanna shop in that one.

  • Becca

    Check out the books at Goodwill! I’ve gotten tons of books for daughter’s library and my classroom library at Goodwill. Most of which I’m pretty sure were never ever used. I’ve also found toys that were missing parts that had just the missing part for a toy we have for about .25. I don’t make to Goodwill often, but I don’t think I’ve ever left without atleast 10 books. I don’t often have the time scavange through all the clothes, but I have found a few cute tops with tags for just a few bucks.

  • michelle

    In some areas of the country Goodwill has certain days each month where almost any clothes are 99 cents each. I try to shop on those days.

  • Amanda

    Great article! I love Goodwill-ing. I do hate the color coding, though. It makes searching tedious sometimes. Our town also has a Goodwill As-Is store. It requires more searching as clothing is just piled on tables, but most items are $1 or less. We recently purchased a bike rack for our car for $5!!!

  • http://thisblessedlife.net Jessica @ This Blessed Life

    lol at #9! seriously!

  • http://unintentionallyunemployed.blogspot.com Unintentionally Unemployed

    My advice would be, “look closely and try it on if you can”

    Right now, I’m wearing my only “summer” purchase – pair of Lane Bryan denim shorts – approx 40 dollars new and I paid 3 dollars…I figure, once you cut off the tags, mine are the same as new…

    I just bought a pair of Christmas shoes – a size bigger than my usual size, but I can’t wait to wear them! 3 dollars vs 50 dollars!

  • Renee

    The first Sat is half-off everything at my middle-TN store & if you have a Smart Card (initial investment of $12), you can get an add’l 10% off that. I like the first Sats, but it is a bit like last minute Christmas shopping on Dec 24!!

  • http://www.chapelroadphotography.com Sarah

    I love our local Goodwill. If you ask they should tell you when the new shipments come in. I know ours come in on Wednesday (I think) and Friday (which is when I always go). They also put out a 1/2 off any one item coupon in our local free paper. I had gotten so many high end brands there for really cheap, it’s almost ridiculous! Michael Kors, Seven For All Mankind, Juicy, the list just goes on and on! But you do have to go often, and like the post says the deals are not always there. I try to go at least once a week :)

  • Dizzy Mommy

    I’m outside Detroit and thank god for Salvation Army (we dont have many goodwills, but every city, town, village, has a Salvation Army.
    We figured out that Salvation army has 5/$5 clothing days on certain color tags or types IE childrens. We currently live in an expensive area and my teen girl gets all her Abercrombie and Hollister from SA. We also have gotton her brand new Vans for $8 that lasted her 3 months (till she outgrew them, now my younger cousin has them and has woren them for 6 months). Also when my neighbor invited my daughter to a waterpark for the weekend and told us she had to have 4 bathing suits (one for everytime they were going) I went to SA and got her 2 gymboree suits, and a GAP kids one for $10 or the cheap price of one. Sometimes bathing suits can be hard especially kids because of how much they wear them, but they were only needed for the weekend. We have 2 SAs right by us and I always will try both of them first. Including when we baptised my youngest we ended up going to my brothers church to do it and they have an actual dress code. Thankfully SA allowed me to cloth the kids (minus the baby) and husband for cheap. I wear Express mostly because its the only thing that first me right and most of my clothing comes from Salvation Army. My drapes are $300 hunter green JC Penney drapes with Valances I got for $17 at SA. One thing I remember though is I am there for certain items, yes when I found a pair of Playboy Platforms I couldn’t live without I bought them there for $15 (normally $200). My table, chairs, 1937 working Kenmore sewing machine and cabniet with orgienal instructions, 3 kids beds, and several toys are from SA. Hell my bedroom set was broyhill before we were broken into a 8 piece set we got for $150. I guess my thing is I always start at Salvation Army, then go to the other stores. I also have noticed around here at least that the stores in the more expensive areas have the more expensive stuff IE Abercrombie, Hollister, GAP, they also tend to have slightly higher prices but if it helps my daughters and son to fit in a bit more where we live that Im all for it. We also replaced several items from there after our home was ransaked and everything destroyed… its taken time, but like last week we found a Lenox frame that was ruined, I took it home and put our wedding pictures back in it. In my mind its back where otherwise I could never have afforded buying a discontinued frame from Lenox like that one.

  • Amy

    Check with your Goodwill store about their return policy. My Goodwill lets me return an item with tags for a week, so then I can pick something up for my kids, or my home, and if it doesn’t fit or look good, I can return it! It has worked well for me!

  • Alyssa

    #1 is my problem- I have a very hard time getting into ‘shopping mode’ when it smells so miserable in there. I’ve also been known to buy a bunch of stuff that was cheap but needed a small alteration and never gotten around to fixing it- such is the fact of life!