12 Goodwill Shopping Secrets

It's not new: thrifting is becoming the trend. What with income levels getting stricter and students' schedules becoming more time-consuming, it is harder to clothes shop let alone save up for brand names on your own.

I have a Goodwill store right up the street from me. The building isn't the prettiest sight, but I've found some gems inside. The store is literally just full of mega-sized bins full of clothes full of hands digging around. Not cute. But with a proper wash, or perhaps some refurbishing, a $4 person's trash can become another person's treasure.

It's all in the technique!

1. Visit regularly.

I visit my Goodwill usually once a week, but lately I've been slacking because of classes. Some days I score big! Other days I walk out completely empty-handed. But I'll never know unless I stop in and check out the goods.

If you've never had any luck at Goodwill before, it might just be because you went on an "off" day when their stock wasn't newly replenished.

2. Stop in at prime times.

I'm not even kidding in saying I almost don't want to reveal this little tip. When the yard sales in your area are in full swing, chances are your local Goodwill will get a spike in merchandise, too.

Since most yard sales are on the weekends, I tend to have the most luck on Mondays after items have been donated. Most people usually clean out their closets and storage areas over the weekend. And if you hit up the store after a holiday weekend, you can expect an even bigger selection, since most people have more time to purge their stuff.

Visit early, too! Some days I manage to get to Goodwill when they open and there is already a line 5-10 people deep at the still-locked doors. It doesn't happen often for me. But when my family and I would arrive bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on a Monday or Tuesday, I could pretty much guarantee an amazing find.

3. Know what you're looking for.

I keep in mind a list of items I need to be on the lookout for. My family has a route planned out and typically stops at the home decor section first, followed by the furniture section, lighting, and holiday sections.

Yes, holiday sections.

You wouldn't believe all of the Christmas decor my family found smack dab in the middle of summer. They decorated for Christmas last year with tons of it for dirt cheap if not our storage.

4. Think outside the box and get creative.

This could probably be a whole 'nother post all by itself, but just know that so much of what you find can be repurposed and madeover for what you want with a bit of imagination.

Furniture selling for $5 with minor damages can easily be refurbished into a whole new style/piece.

5. Don't hesitate. 

If you see something you like, snatch it up!!!!!!!!! Take that furniture tag and run; as you shop, you can make the decision if you really want to buy it. You can always put the item back, But the best items aren't on the floor for long, so don't miss out while you are deciding!

My aunt and I were actually standing and looking at a beautiful vintage birdcage sitting on a shelf the other day trying to decide if she really needed one more in her bedroom. And a lady came along and grabbed it right from under our noses!! I mean... wow. It's a ruthless jungle in there with some people.

6. Make sure the price is right. 

Since thrifting has increased in popularity, Goodwill has taken notice. And sometimes they do seem a bit pricey. Don't buy something just because it's there. Chances are others won't buy an item priced too high either and you can come back in a day or two when it's marked down.

Patience pays off sometimes.

7. Donate something every time you go.

To keep my thrifting/hoarding tendencies at bay, I try to take at least something to donate every time I visit. :) Justifies my shopping habit...

8. Visit stores in higher-end neighborhoods and/or multiple locations.

Visiting multiple locations obviously increases variability in clothes. Wealthier neighborhoods tend to have ritzier thrift stores (i.e. one that accepts certain brands, styles, collectibles, etc.) and thus interests can be specialized at your dollar's cost, remember.

Goodwill still sells plenty of brand name clothing. The important habits to get down are (1) use-to-brand ratio and (2) price fluctuations. Use-to-brand ratio is a fancy name for comparing the two: is the Gucci worth it if it's stained/ripped? Goodwill also changes prices, I feel. Sometimes tops are more expensive compared to my last visit and I wonder if I'm seeing things.

Use the patterns to determine when to save a few bucks on the outfit. Multiple locations help increase variability and spice up the scenery. (Goodwill shopping can actually be an extreme sport for some people, I swear...)

Important things to keep in mind: use-to-brand ratio + price fluctuations

9. Only buy items you are truly excited about.

If you don't totally love it in the store or aren't excited about an item's potential, leave it. Don't buy something just for the sake of buying it. Walking out with nothing is okay!!! You'll have better luck (and more money) next time.

10. Remember that paint can fix (almost) anything.

If you find a beautiful dresser with lots of scratches, chalk paint will fix it right up. Don't like the color of some picture frames? Paint those bad boys. I even have friends that paint their jeans, and I think that I idea is so cute. I definitely want to try painting something sometime! Don't let something's color or material limit you, but don't force it to work, either. Sometimes it's best if bad looks are left at rest. If it ain't broke, don't fix it...

11. Look for quality.

If you find a dresser with dovetail drawers, that's a winner. If a chair is nice and sturdy, it has lots of potential. brand names are a plus, too. Some people on Pinterest make their dining chairs (for example) out of much shabbier version of the chair from Goodwill. With some TLC (and paint!!!) you can transform anything so long as the quality is reliable.

12. Know the sale days.

Sale days and discount programs vary by region, so check with your local store as it might be different from the next store. A lot of Goodwills (if not all) give student/military discounts for 20% off the purchase with ID. My grandmother had a senior card with a Goodwill in the next town over and they gave her discounts, as well. Goodwill has a Customer Value Program and Email Club with special discounts and coupons, too.

I love the process of digging through the bins and pulling out potential treasures. I hope this helps you guys or inspires you to thrift! It's definitely not dirty, or a sign of being "poor," or any of those stupid stigmas! My friends and I have found some of our cutest outfits secondhand, and so can you if you just learn the ropes.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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