Goodwill Hunting: 5 Tips for Better Thrift Store Shopping


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Today’s guest post comes from Kate @ Coupon Cravings

If you have heard of the movie Good Will Hunting, you’ll quickly realize this guest post really has little to do with a genius, a therapist or math. Well, a little math, I suppose…

Being a Mother of two and wife to a full-time banker, I rarely get time alone. But, when I do, I love to go Goodwill hunting. This is a chance to spend some “me-time” perusing the racks upon racks of deliciously frugal finds of my local Goodwill store. Not only do I know I am doing good by giving back to the Goodwill mission, but I am also saving tremendously on things that I normally would have bought brand new. And, if I can save a few bucks, well, why not?

I struck gold on a recent trip, scoring five pair of shorts (Gap, Aeropostale, Express & more popular quality, yet costly brands), three pair of capris and a shirt for myself! And, to boot, I also got my husband a nice pair of Nautica cargo shorts and a pair of Cutter & Buck khaki dress shorts all for $40.99 total, which works out to $3.73 per item. Holy buckets! My one pair of white Ann Taylor Loft shorts would have cost that much in-store and maybe even as much online using coupon codes!

Lay out all pairs of shorts.

Now, as to not send you out unprepared, I have some “Goodwill hunting” tips:

Timing is everything. Go towards the middle of a season, shopping for the upcoming season. So, for example, I went shopping for shorts while there was still snow on the ground here in Iowa.

Be patient. There are racks upon racks to look through so along with your patience, make sure you’ve set aside some time to look. Thankfully everything is color-coded so you can jump to the colors that look best on you.


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Be comfortable. Wear comfy clothes and easy-to-remove shoes so you can try some things on while you’re there.

Get dressed up. As with any clothes shopping experience tip you’ve heard, wear makeup and look presentable. You’re much more likely to look the way you would when you actually wear the items you’re purchasing.

Don’t be let down. There are times where you can spend a lot of time hunting and find nothing, zilch, nada. It happens, but just be prepared for that time where you strike gold, like I did on my most recent trip.

Here’s to giving you good luck on your next trip to Goodwill, you never know what great finds you might come across!

Kate Sorensen is a frugality blogger at Coupon Cravings. She enjoys sharing frugal finds, tips, coupons and the like. But one of her most favorite hobbies? Yep, Goodwill hunting.

Thank you Kate!  If you are interested in guest posting, please contact me  for guest post guidelines.

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Do you enjoy thrift store shopping?  Do you have any tips or tricks of your own to add?


  1. Barb
    March 26 at 09:36AM

    Great tips! I love Goodwill shopping. My local Goodwill has red tag days every once in a while where everything is 50% off. I have found some amazing bargains on those days!

    • Ruth Soukup
      March 29 at 08:24AM

      Thanks for the tip Barb!

    • Felicity
      September 18 at 07:52AM

      Good haul! I enjoy reading about other people’s Goodwill experiences. My Goodwill has a different color tag every week that’s 50% off all week, all items in the store. On Sunday only, one other color tag is $2 for all clothing and accessories. My best find was a barely worn (if ever) pair of S.A.S. loafers for $4 (normal retail price around $100), but I’ve now been in about an 18-month shoe drought (I wear size 11, so not very many available), but I still look just in case. I’ve also bought 2 Vera Bradley purses for $2 each in the last few weeks. If I have time, I go on Saturday and scope out the Vera Bradleys or other purses to see if there are any I want with the color tag that will be $2 the next day (the 50% off color is always the Sunday color at the beginning of the next week). Last week I got there before they opened and was about 12th in line and went straight to the purses and staked my claim. Goodwill had priced each of the two I bought as $19.99, so I was happy with my $2 (regular retail about $70).

  2. Kara
    March 26 at 09:50AM

    Go early in the week–Monday or Tuesday is best! Most of the donations come in on the weekend so the selection is a lot better.

    • Ruth Soukup
      March 29 at 08:24AM

      That’s a great tip too, Kara! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  3. March 26 at 01:11PM

    Nice tips. Our local Goodwill has bins of new arrivals, mostly stuff that has tags on it still. This weekend I just scored some great work shoes, a windbreaker, pajama bottoms, workout shorts, two tops for girls, leggings, and a Gwen Steffani sweater. Guess how much I paid? $24!

    • Ruth Soukup
      March 29 at 08:24AM


  4. kay
    May 22 at 12:02AM

    our local disabled vets store is great and it helps a great cause. everything is color coded and they rotate their merchandise by choosing three colors every sunday. everything in one color is 25 cents (5 items for $1), one color 50% off and one color 25% off.
    they get a lot of donations from stores that are using the donation as a tax write-off, so often their stores have clothes that are brand new with tags still on. goodwill is good, but this place is great.
    you would be shocked at the great deals i’ve gotten for a quarter…like a brand new $70 pair of rockport shoes, a slightly used $100 bell bicycle helmet, a $40 chef’s knife, a nice watch and some great clothes.
    my point is, there are a lot of smaller places than goodwill that are also serve a great cause, get great donations and have great deals.

  5. kay
    May 22 at 12:07AM

    btw, i made a grammatical error and the ‘edit’ button didn’t work for me to correct it.

  6. Tara
    July 9 at 10:47PM

    I love shopping at goodwill!! I went yesterday and scored a leather Cole Haan bag, in FABULOUS condition for $3, and a brand new pair of leather Bandolino boots for $4!! I’ve also scored a very nice Columbia jacket for $7. My Goodwill tip is to travel to the nicer areas nearby and hit those locations, they are obviously going to have a nicer quality and selection of items.

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