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Secrets To Thrifting -Goodwill Shopping Tips

As a little girl, I remember making Goodwill trips with my momma. I was very fascinated by what others once had (and decidedly threw away). To be candid, a lot of the items were things I’d never had. Newer toys, different style clothing/shoes, furniture pieces we didn’t have in our own home. I’d watch my mom be ultra selective about which pieces she wanted, but always let us roam and point out the things we wanted as well. Sometimes we were able to get a few things, other times we could get 1 item. It didn’t matter to me though, I thoroughly enjoyed thrift stores! It was amazing to me that I could still see value in something “used” while it was so affordable.

Like tons of children growing up, we struggled. Me and my siblings pretty much knew what all we could, and couldn’t afford. My memories of shopping trips were mostly to thrift stores and to places that had awesome deals. (pretty much everything a young adult wants in their life now). As a kid, sometimes you don’t see it that way. It wasn’t until a little later in life I realized why my mom was so selective about her purchases. Needless to say, this fueled most of my frugality as I got older. It also turned me into a Goodwill Guru, if you will- Tony Robbins style.

I’ll be honest, sharing this made me a little nervous. “What if my mom reads this and is upset with me?” crossed my mind, of course… But I have ultimately learned that I had an AMAZING childhood compared to the lives of some. Some who couldn’t eat, didn’t have clothes, and didn’t even get to pick out a few things each time they went to Goodwill. I am grateful for the struggles we went through, because one, we went through them as a family, and two, I can appreciate the value of money easier. Still, I felt like disclaiming that as an adult, we all know money problems come and go. Nothing at all to be ashamed of.


Goodwill Guru

As a Goodwill guru, I feel a responsibility rests on my shoulders to bring you the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years while shopping at thrift stores. How you can actually walk out of a thrift store in under an hour with at least 5 items, how to use your time efficiently, and ultimately what to look for. I do this for all the struggling mama’s, young adults just trying to make a house look cute on a low budget, and all the young professionals who want to dress impressively for your job, an interview, or even a first (or 100th) date night!!

Location, Location, Location!

Let me first add in, the location of your thrift store CAN matter, not to say that it’s the biggest factor, but it can change things. For instance, there are Goodwill’s I specifically stay away from due to the quality (I try not to be picky but c’mon bare with me people) , and also price. Yes, most everything is still under retail value, but I find it hard to pay almost full price for certain items that clearly are pretty used, but are high because they have a brand name attached to them. Call it power to the consumer! But don’t let location scare you off. Try out your local Goodwill first, there’s bound to be a few hidden treasures.


First, I say have a plan. Be intentional about what you’re going in there for. That is not to say ignore the urges to look and roam, but don’t lose sight of the OG plan! I try to break my trip down into what I need at the moment. Let’s take clothes, for instance. I might be in need of new skirts for work. So I’ll take a little inventory of what skirts I currently have, and what tops I can wear with those. Going in to a thrift store such as Goodwill, I am going straight to the skirts. I don’t leave that section until I’ve literally looked through every single skirt. At this point you’re probably wondering if Nelson likes to go with me… and the answer is that he’d rather have mouth surgery than come with me. It “smells” in Goodwill, according to him haha.

So, back to the search. I make my way through the entire skirt section. And I do this because I hear all too often, “I can never find anything in Goodwill.” When I ask if they looked through the racks, most of the time they’ve just scanned and didn’t dig deep. I dig deep!! And I’m rewarded with some great finds. I’ve scored brand new with tags items that were wedged between two hangers. Recently, I got a Michael Kors dress, brand new with tags for $8.00. It can happen!!

“Fashion is like eating… you shouldn’t always stick to the same menu.”

Another little saying from my mom pops in my head when I’m in the dressing room. “You never know how it will look on you just from seeing it on the rack. Once you’ve looked through your section, I have a huge try-on session. I also hear from people they thought something might work, bought it because it was very cheap, and it didn’t fit.. So the “I never find good things at Goodwill” talk happens. No, you just don’t want to try anything on! Sometimes I go into the dressing room with 20-25 items (something I would NEVER do in a normal retail store because I am not looking to spend that amount of money).

Twenty to twenty-five items at a thrift store can cost you anywhere from $85-125. I’ve been able to replace full wardrobes almost by literally trying on as many pieces as I possibly can. I’ve gotten home décor that people ask where it’s from! Plus it’s a little therapeutic being in the dressing room, listening to some music, planning outfits in your head. Take it a step further and you can even think about the reaction of family and friends when they see you in certain outfits (btw; Goodwill has brand new lingerie – with tags – just sitting there).

Style Is Forever

Lastly, I think a huge tip that helps me is knowing your main personal style. I know style changes, and we have seasonal preferences to take into account. But most people have a personal style that doesn’t really change. This could also be labeled as staple pieces. Thrift stores are a great place to find staple pieces, such as jackets, both men and women’s, coats, vests, and more formal attire. I’ve always been able to throw things together and “happy accident” my way into an outfit. (Sometimes I really can and Nelson always says he can’t believe my ability to do that lol). But I realized I needed staple pieces to tie everything together when I got into the corporate world, and started having more community events, and of course date nights/outings.

While home décor can change with the season, think about what most people do with seasonal décor they aren’t using… they take it to thrift stores! Whatever season it is, you’re bound to find something for the home.

Outerwear and staple pieces are a great way to express your personal style. I think there is a confusion around staple pieces having to be expensive. If you budget for it, and know that you may have to get new staple pieces each season, Goodwill is the perfect place to do it. Tons of online fashion bloggers say they have staple pieces that have lasted them 2-3 seasons so far, which is great!! And I really respect the retailer for making something such good quality. However, most times, those pieces are STILL way far out of budget. Upwards of $100+ sometimes, compared to something between $8-20/piece. You could get tons of staple pieces for that same price. I’m not knocking good quality retailers, just trying to enlighten.

Wine Taste; Beer Budget

Thrift stores are more than just clothes. I can go room to room in my apartment right now and find at least 2 things in each from Goodwill. One specific thing that comes to mind, that’s always a little sentimental, is mine and Nelson’s first bit of furniture. We had just moved into a small townhouse after college, and the only furniture each of us had was a bed. Goodwill was a huge source of furniture for us, and we were so proud. We were genuinely so excited that we could afford something, with no help, and it was really ours. Since I’ve loved thrifting for over 15 years, it’s easy for me to enjoy perusing the furniture and decor aisles.

Read Between The Lines

If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ve probably realized now that I love books and reading! Another love that I believe came from my momma. Thrift stores are a great resource for books of all genres. Sometimes, like clothing, the location of your store matters for books also. Location might determine genres, amount, and condition of the books. I’ve always found at least 1 book every time I go to Goodwill. And there’s nothing like reading an actual page-turning book. I’m guilty of reading on a screen mostly, but will always appreciate real books. Check out my post on favorite books!!

I want to hear YOUR Goodwill and thrift store experience below. If these tips help you at your next trip, I’d love to know 🙂


Talks With Tyler

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