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Goodwill Hunting: Tips for Thrift Shop Shopping

Tips for thrift shop shopping

That’s right, I totally used that as my title. It’s so cheesy it hurts. But it’s hipster to be cheesy, right?

It’s also super hipster to shop at Goodwill. Which really pisses me off because they get there and yank all the good kitty shirts before I get a chance to even look at them. Damn hipsters. Seriously though, I love me some thrift shopping. Apparently it’s all the rage with rappers, too.  So, for those of you idiots who have not yet seen the light, a guide to thrift shopping.

What TO buy at Goodwill:

Tips for shopping at GoodwillDress clothes for the children. Especially if you live in a place that is heavily populated by godless sinners who only buy dress clothes for weddings.  Most of the dress pants and shirts look like they’ve been worn once.

  • Dress shoes and sandals, especially for children. We were told that we had to buy Stride Rite brand shoes for Abby’s orthos to fit in. Stride Rites are EXPENSIVE. I’ve now found two almost- new pairs there, along with an originally $90 pair of some European brand shoes. Kids, especially toddlers, don’t usually wear shoes long enough to trash them. I buy all of my boys’ church shoes there. They usually look brand new. I’ve also found a sweet pairs of Keen’s and Adidas flats for myself.
  • Kids Clothes: My kids are jerks and ruin most of what they own. That’s why I buy MOST of my kids’ clothes at Goodwill (actually, ours is a Savers, but same difference). Check the knees for holes, and the zippers and buttons before you buy anything. Remember, and I know it sounds super WILD- but you can take stuff back if they don’t work! Also, be a brand snob, because you can. Most of the better brands are in fact better made clothes that will last longer. My kids look like I spend a fortune on their wardrobe, which I don’t. I just buy good brands second hand.
  • Snow gear. DO NOT buy boots, bibs or snow jackets anywhere else. Especially if you’re only going to use them only a couple times a year- like most people do. Which is why most of the snow gear at the thrift store is almost new.
  • Ties: if your husband is like me and has been happily wearing the ugly kangaroo tie you bought him at the dollar store ten years ago, buying used ties at Goodwill is a good choice.
  • Books. We can’t do the whole library thing because I’m irresponsible. But we can buy four books and get one free at our local Savers. I’ve gotten all of the classics there, it’s THE BEST place to buy board books (you know, the toddler ones that they love to gnaw on?), and occasionally you’ll get lucky and get some good older-kids books, too. Also, there’s usually at least fifteen copies of Sarah Palin’s book at any given time, if you’re so inclined.

    Best Goodwill Buy EVER!
    Best Goodwill Buy EVER!
  • Clothes for myself are a little bit tougher. The selection is HUGE, but I’m super picky and thumbing through all of the clothes just takes too long. I always check for hoodies and t-shirts. I was actually planning a trip up to the outlets to get an Aeropostale hoodie because I’ve worn holes in my last one, and I found a like new one there that’s just my size! (They’re the only hoodies I’ve found that have long enough arm sleeves for me) I totally found this awesome porky pine and blow fish shirt and it fits and it’s perfect and it’s making all of my other t shirts jealous.
  • Toddler toys. Don’t you dare buy any of the baby or toddler developmental toys new. That’s just dumb. Don’t be a dummy. There are usually LOADS of them there, and for a fraction of the price. Toddler toys are super easy to disinfect, are durable, and children usually bore of them before they are worn out.
  • Creepy as hell dolls: They are usually in the housewares section. There are SO MANY creepy dolls there. They’re usually overpriced and dusty and scary.

What NOT to buy at Goodwill:

Okay, I’m not saying to NOT buy these things, they’re just stuff I haven’t had as good of luck with.

  • Sweatpants. This makes me violently sad. The two pairs that I’ve bought have had bad elastic in them. The same goes for yoga pants. Miss miss miss.
  • Adult athletic shoes. Unless they look almost new. Sometimes smells that aren’t present at purchase can spring up after you warm those suckers up. Also, the shoes are going to be broken in to the person’s foot who originally owned them. I think. In my mind, I think that makes a difference.
  • Electronic toys. I said buy toddler toys. Yes. Do. But be leery of electronic toys that you can’t test in the store. You win some, you lose some. I’ve mostly lost.
  • Carseats and cribs. Most of the big chains will no longer carry these items because of recalls and safety issues.
  • Furniture: It’s really hit and miss. I’ve found WAY better deals on furniture on Craigslist. But if you’re willing to pay extra to not get strangled, go for it. I, personally, like the thrill of not knowing whether I’m going to end up with a snazzy dresser or in a ditch.

Other helpful tips:

At the big stores, all of their tags have different colors on them, different days (and in some stores different weeks) have different colors that are half off. Some places have a sign saying which color is half off, or you just have to ask someone who works there. I heard that it’s best to go on Sunday mornings between 10 and 12 because that’s when they change which color is half off and so you get first dibs at the stuff. I don’t know that for myself because I’m super righteous and am at church at those times.

Be friendly with the employees. Ask them if they’ve seen something you’re looking specifically for. You’d be surprised at what they remember is hidden in the store.

Never ever go with your kids and only go when you have real time to HUNT. If you hate hunting, then don’t go at all you big party pooper.

Also, TOTALLY TOTALLY send your good stuff to Goodwill or Savers. I believe in Thrift Shop Karma. When I donate good crap instead of selling it or whatever, I find the best stuff. Plus, the money goes to charity and blah blah blah.

As always, you’re welcome.

15 thoughts on “Goodwill Hunting: Tips for Thrift Shop Shopping

  1. I love love love shopping at thrift shops! There is just so much good stuff there, it seems crazy to me why we waste so much. I buy almost all my clothes there, it’s seriously good fun. Other cool things I like to pick up are baskets (so many baskets!) and tupperware for craft projects. Yay for thrift shops!

  2. Laughing my head off at the craigslist line. In San Diego I use to drive by the Salvation Army several times a day. I was a regular. Use to get all of the boys books there. I miss that place. I love thrifting. If it wasn’t for second hand, my family would be sitting on the floor.

  3. Nearly choked on your comment about “the thrill of not knowing whether I’m going to end up with a snazzy dresser or in a ditch.” Oh my gosh! You are seriously FUNNY! I, too, love a thrift shop. Our Goodwills around here (San Diego County) offer 10% off for military and students. Sometimes I take my daughter so I can use her school ID for the 10% off. She sits quietly in the cart while playing her iPod. Her old bus driver works there so it’s fun to see her, too. My favorite place is the DAV (Disabled American Veterans). Their stuff is CHEAP. Like a Gymboree shirt for 45 cents. Nuts. I go every Monday when my daughter is at school and my other daughter is at Speech/OT. I am addicted to that place. I keep telling myself I don’t need anything and that I have too much but I can’t drive by that place without stopping, Ever. I’ve never been successful at just driving past it. It’s like a magnet. I can’t count the times I have walked out of there so elated from a super cool find. It feels like I am high. I buy/sell on eBay. I can easily flip a $5 item into a $50 item on eBay. It’s absolutely thrilling!!!

  4. Great post. I do love me some Goodwill and was actually thinking about making a run this week for Easter clothes. Thanks for the tips and reminder! I’m came to your blog from a friend posting your “I’m Jealous” post to Facebook. I’m going to subscribe because I absolutely love your voice. Thanks for being brave, vulnerable, and a fellow Goodwill hunter :).

  5. I was a thrift store shopper before it was cool, so now that saving money is “in”, I feel all vindicated. My Goodwill is also great for finding purses and sports equipment. We always check there first for cleats, knee pads and new bats. My daughter has gotten 3 prom dresses for under $15. Outdated electronics are super cheap, I got a TV with VCR/DVD player for my kid’s playroom and only paid $7. And you’re right, I never bring my kids. They gravitate straight to the worst junk, or stuffed animals, which I hate with a passion.

  6. I’m a religiious thrift store shopper. LOVE it. (Btw, do you realize that there are *3* people named Rebecca who just commented on this post?) However, I’ve had good luck finding stuff for me and also finding furniture. Of course I live in Ashburn, where anything that gets donated to thrift stores is pretty nice. 🙂

  7. Yes yes yes! My toddler girl looks like she is dressed to the nines with expensive brand new clothing but she is not because I hit the thrift stores hard and get afreakingmazing stuff for her. At church they are all excited to see what new thing she comes dressed in because I have had awesome luck finding her perfect dresses for cheap. My goodwill actually separates women’s clothing roughly into sizes now so it makes it a ton easier to find things for me.

  8. I laughed when I first read this post because I live in Minnesota so snow gear getting used only a couple times a year is a foreign concept to me. However, I did recently buy a pair of practically brand new snow pants for my son, and brand new slippers for my daughter all for less than $4 at my local Goodwill. 🙂

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  11. Love this. I found vintage Fiestaware platters at Savers in just the colors my daughter needed for her set; $4 each. I found a gorgeous BCBG dress, my size,$10.00 Three Aboud sweaters, $7 each. Banana Republic silk sweaters, $7. I check in at least once a month, and I never leave empty-handed. Highly recommend. Just don’t go to MY Savers, lol.

  12. Oh my gosh! I was going to go to my local Goodwill yesterday. Pulled in and saw huge signs that said “Closed until December 6th due to remodeling”. I nearly started crying. I was so stoked to have found time to stop by yesterday, just to be met with such disappointment. WTF am I going to do for the next month without my Goodwill fix? I guess I might have to venture out to some other stores. There are other Goodwills in our area but this one is just up the street! So convenient. The others are like 10 miles away. I’m so depressed.

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