The Goodwill Series
I absolutely love shopping for clothes at second hand stores, with my favorite location being Goodwill. I would say about 50% of my clothing comes from other people’s closets, with the rest purchased with money I make from selling the items I find at thrift stores. Before having a child, I would scour the shelves frequently for amazing finds. I occasionally find home goods, but my niche is finding brand name, fashionable clothes, in excellent condition at Goodwill. If you’re asking, “why don’t I ever find anything when I go to Goodwill,” then this post is for you. I have a few tips on how to find the best items, and while I hate giving out my secrets, they’re honestly too good to not share.
The Charleston, South Carolina stores are all amazing but some are better than others. Location is everything.
- Coleman Boulevard: The best Goodwill (in my opinion) is located on Coleman Blvd, strategically placed on the drive out to Sullivan’s Island, near Mount Pleasant, and Isle of Palms. This location is a hidden gem and where I find most of my new with tags clothing, sundresses, sandals, and designer names like Michael Kors and Tory Burch.
- James Island: This is an area where many mid to late twenties, postgraduate students, and hipper crowd lives. This store is always jam packed with Anthropologie clothing and designer jeans.
- Johns Island: This is a drive for many folks, but it’s located on the drive to Kiawah and Seabrook Islands, where very wealthy individuals live and vacation. It is a quiet store and I tend to find a lot of cute blouses, dresses, and skirts at this location.
- Other locations I love: Clement’s Ferry, Bee’s Ferry, and North Mount Pleasant.
Our Palmetto Goodwills open at 10:00 am and I like to go before lunch time on a weekday. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are typically busy, and items are already picked over. You can find your own local hours located here.
Use a Shopping Cart
The first thing I do is grab a shopping cart so I can load it up on the fly with anything I’m slightly interested in. This comes in handy when using the future tips of this post.
If you have ever been in a Goodwill and you have heard a bell ring, that means they are bringing out new merchandise. They will bring out racks of new clothing to sit in the middle of the store. I always start with the center racks first, because those are the newest items to the store. Then I make my way over to the dressing room racks and sift through unwanted items shoppers have put back. The reasoning behind this? They have already done all of the hard work and looked through the entire store, and may have put back an item that just didn’t fit them but is in excellent condition. Also take a peek inside the dressing rooms, there are often clothes piled up that lazy shoppers didn’t return to the unwanted rack (I know, I know… we have ALL done it before).
Back to the shopping cart. I load my cart up and take everything into the dressing room. That way I can inspect everything closely while trying it on. You will need to look for holes, stains, malfunctioning zippers, missing buttons, and etc. I even do a “sniff” test and make sure the clothes didn’t come from a stinky home. Check your seams for tears and pilling on the sweaters. Check the bottoms of pants for fraying and stains. Go over it with a fine tooth comb, they do not take returns. Do not fret, the clothing article is less than $5, so you’re not out of a ton of money if you miss something.
Take Your Time
I have gotten a lot faster at shopping at Goodwill these days, but in the beginning, you must take your time. You have to pick through the clothes, and you have to hit all areas of the store. Many of the great things I have found were located not where they’re supposed to be. For example, I found this cute lace dress hanging in the children’s racks. Many times you will find skinny jeans and blouses in the children’s aisle. I have found a pair of Tory Burch sandals in the book pile. People often pick up something they’re interested in and sit it down after they have decided to not purchase the item. HOW many times have you done that in the grocery store? “I REALLY don’t need this chocolate, let me sit it here with the celery.” RIGHT?! After I hit the center racks and the dressing room racks, I start at the front of the store and zig-zag myself to the back.
Beware of Front Display
Unfortunately, the workers will see something that is nice and put it on display, and price it well over what it would be priced at retail. I find they love to put shoes and jewelry up front that are just not worth the price.
Do Your Research
This is a VERY important step. Make sure your smart phone is fully charged and take it in the store with you. When I find an article of clothing that looks expensive, but I do not recognize the brand name, I do a quick Google search to find out it’s worth. You can always download the eBay app and do a search to see how much the item is worth. I also use google frequently because stores like Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters have off the wall brand names, and those clothes tend to be more trendy with higher resale value.
Goodwill Rewards and Coupons
First and foremost, take something to donate and ask for a tax slip. At the bottom of the slip, there is a coupon that you can use on your purchase that day. I always find something in this house and swing through the donation center first. Also, sign up for a Goodwill rewards card, and use it every time you check out. Those points add up! I used 200 points recently to get 20% off of a larger purchase ($30 iron bed I will totally blog about later).
There are some items I refuse to buy at goodwill, aka under garments and used gym clothes. You just have to use your own judgement on what you’re willing to buy secondhand.
As a recap:
- Choose an ideal location, near a beach, nicer neighborhood, or “hip” area.
- Best time is before noon on a weekday.
- Drop off a small donation.
- Take your charged phone.
- Get a shopping cart.
- Go to center racks and dressing rooms first.
- Comb through the store, hitting all areas.
- Inspect everything (don’t forget the SNIFF test).
- Take your time.
- Use your coupon.
- Sign up for rewards.
I hope you have found these tips helpful and I would love to receive feedback on how this works for you. Also, comment with your favorite tips for thrifting! Until next time my sweet friends!