Goodwill is my go-to store for clothes shopping. In fact, I shop there for clothes before heading to the clothing clearance racks at Kohl’s because I often find what I need at Goodwill. There are a few exceptions which I’ll share. Shopping at Goodwill is 3 parts plan and 1 part serendipity. You can and should bring a list to rein in your shopping, however, be open to unexpected fantastic finds.
Make a list of needs and wants
If you can, make a list of the clothes you’ll need for the next year, not just the upcoming season. Because Goodwill accepts donations of clothes all year long, you’ll find summer clothes in December and winter coats in June.
I put my lists together at the beginning of each season. Occasionally, we’ll get through a season, and I’ll find that a number of shorts have worn out beyond repair. They go on the list even if the next child doesn’t need them yet.
Shop without kids
Some Goodwills have wide aisles; others don’t yet. My local Goodwills have regular shopping carts which I use with my 4 year old when I have to bring him.
Going through the racks requires your gazelle focus. Clothes are sorted by sizes or color, and generally by type. However, you need to be able to pull something out, give it once over for stains and rips, and decide whether it’s worth trying on. (Stains and rips are not common, though they can slip through.) Expect to find brands mixed up in the racks.
Shop the sales first
To keep clothes moving through the system, many thrift stores use mark-down dates. My Goodwill color codes the clothes. Each week a color code goes on sale for half price for the week. Because the color code tags are usually in the sleeve or shoulder, it’s easy to skim through the racks looking for the color of the week.
Our local Goodwill has a half-price clothing sale several times a year; the next one happens the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I’ve started planning for these sales if I have some items I need 6 months down the road. During August, our Goodwill also has $2 Tuesdays; all summer clothes are discounted to $2.
See if your Goodwill has a special program for frequent shoppers. Our offers a VIP program. VIP shoppers receive exclusive online coupons, plus instant savings on special shopping days. When I visited Goodwill during the I Love Thrifting event in July, I received 15% off my purchase for being a VIP member.
In the store
When you walk in, check for the color of the week. Usually this is posted on a sign up front, or you can ask an employee.
Grab a cart. You need a place to put the clothes as you go through the rack.
Look for name brands. These usually are better made and last longer.
Try on every item. Even if you think it will fit, try it on anyway. Many stores have a very short return period, often 10 days.
Be open to alterations. Once, I found a pair of Anne Klein trousers that retailed for over $200. I paid $2.50 because the tag was missing. However, I needed to get the length shortened which cost me $10. I didn’t do it myself because the pants were lined.
Anything without a tag is half price and NOT returnable.
What I buy elsewhere
- Besides the obvious socks and underwear, I have a hard time finding shorts for my teenage son. He prefers longer shorts.
- I also purchase my husband’s business clothes elsewhere, though he’s beginning to ask me to look for certain clothes at Goodwill like a navy blue blazer.
- Shoes – I buy these on clearance for the kids at Kohl’s. I buy most of my shoes at DSW. My husband’s and teenage son’s shoes come from Kohl’s or outlets.