Think shopping Goodwill stores is a waste of time or that everything they have is junk? Then you’ve obviously missed the many tales of people finding authentic treasures worth sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, all resting amongst the thrift items many shoppers deem junk. OK, so we’re not going to tell you that our secrets for shopping Goodwill will result in great fortune, but what we can promise is if you use our secrets, you’re sure to save on all kinds of cool finds at Goodwill — one of our favorite secondhand stores.
Like saving money when you shop elsewhere, Goodwill has a few ways you can save money every time you shop. Yes, their prices are typically lower than if you buy new. However, that isn’t always the case, so pay attention. The more you shop, the more you’ll learn the ins and outs of your local Goodwill. But it can’t hurt to get a little help if you’re a thrift store newbie — and that’s what we’re here for: to help you get started shopping Goodwill. You can thank us later.
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1. Shop early on weekdays to beat the crowds.
This tactic is hands down the best way to find the best pieces at Goodwill. Try to shopping Goodwill during the off hours, such as early morning, and avoid weekends when stores are the busiest. Then you can dig through the racks at your leisure without elbowing or competing with other shoppers. Just like couponing, it requires patience to find the best deals: the fewer fellow shoppers, the more time and patience you’ll likely have.
2. Check the store hours at your local Goodwill to get the good stuff.
If you’re going to get to your local Goodwill early enough to get some nice deals, you better know what time they open. Although hours may vary, we found most open at 9 a.m. Monday – Sunday and close around 7 or 8 p.m. during the week, but they close at 5 or 6 p.m. on Sunday. Goodwill stores close for Easter, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
3. Learn the Goodwill price list to build your bartering skills.
Check out the website for your local Goodwill or ask a team member if they have a price list. If so, study it so you know going in what their standard pricing is for items such as clothing and household goods. Having this knowledge may give you the upper hand when it comes to negotiating prices — which we encourage because, after all, Goodwill wants and needs things to sell. To give you an idea of what you might see, we have pricing examples for stores in the North Carolina area.
- Coat: $9.99
- Dress: $5.99
- Jeans: $5.99
- Dress shirt short-sleeve: $4.49
- Suit: $9.99
- Sweatshirt: $4.49
- Clothes 0 – 24 months $1.99
- Clothes 2T and up $2.79
- Onesies $0.99
Cups, mugs, plates, and bowls run $0.49 each, while Goodwill reserves special prices for things like furniture, TVs, Target items, and new goods.
4. Ask for a military discount, medical professional, senior, teacher, or student discount and save 25%.
Eligible shoppers may get a discount at their local Goodwill. Before shopping Goodwill, ask a team member if they offer one of these discounts. A Goodwill location in Southwest Pennsylvania offers a 25% discount to certain groups on specific days every week.
- Seniors (55+)
- Military (active duty and veterans)
- First responders
- Medical professionals
While this discount is of a higher value than many others we come across, you can’t stack it with any other discounts.
TIP: If your state holds a tax-free weekend or tax holiday, take advantage and shop during these periods and skip paying sales tax on top of any discounts.
5. Sign up for the Goodwill newsletter and text alerts to receive the scoop on upcoming sales and exclusive coupons.
You can receive news on upcoming sales and coupons through texts and emails at some Goodwill locations. Goodwill Keystone sends out one text message a few days ahead of a sale, while Goodwill Northern New England sends information on upcoming sales and exclusive coupons two to four times a month to shoppers who sign up to receive text messages. Email subscribers also keep abreast of what’s happening at their nearby Goodwill. Visit your local Goodwill website or ask a team member if the store offers an email newsletter or text alerts.
6. Join a loyalty program like Club Goodwill.
Join the loyalty program at your local Goodwill — if they offer one. We found reward clubs such as the one offered by Goodwill in the Keystone Area of Pennsylvania that you can join for free, whereas others like the loyalty program at Club Goodwill NNE (Northern New England) cost $15.
If your local store charges for their reward program, you may be wondering if it’s worth it. While free rewards programs rock, there are some perks we found that may be worth joining (somewhat like Costco and Sam’s Club membership — just not as costly). In addition to everyday discounts, advance notices on special events, and flash sales, members are entered into a monthly drawing to win a $50 Goodwill gift card. Here’s a breakdown of the Club Goodwill member discount:
- 5% off orders up to $19.99
- 10% off orders of $20 to $49.99
- 15% off purchases of $50 to $74.99
- 20% off purchases of $75 to $99.99
- 25% off purchases over $100
Courtesy Goodwill NNE
Spend $75 or more to cover your membership fee. Did we mention you also get a 30% off birthday discount that you can use one day (of your choosing) during your birthday month? Goodwill NNE doesn’t require a minimum purchase and allows you to use the discount at all participating area stores throughout Maine, New Hampshire, and northern Vermont, providing all your shopping is done the same day.
7. Plan ahead with the Goodwill tag sales calendar.
Learn the tag sales calendar for your local Goodwill to plan your shopping trip. The colored tags on the monthly calendar represent a 50% off sale within a specific department, such as furniture or women’s clothing. Each color tag sale lasts seven days and then changes.
Calendars we found for locations in Wisconsin/Illinois and North Carolina start their new week on Tuesdays. However, the start day varies between locations, as does the color of the tags, so you’ll need to check out the store’s website for information or ask a Goodwill team member about your store’s tag sales calendar.
8. Pay by the pound at Goodwill Outlet Stores and save over 70%.
Did you know that Goodwill has its own outlets, clearance centers, or second edition stores where you pay for merchandise by the pound? No matter what they call it near you, if you’re really after a bargain, search for a Goodwill Outlet location in your area. Here’s where you can find unsold items, including clothing, shoes, home goods, and furniture, from traditional Goodwill stores.
When shopping Goodwill outlet stores, you may need to dig in the bins to separate the good stuff from the not-so-great stuff. But we say if you’re paying by the pound, dig away! Why? Think about it: if a pair of jeans cost you $5.99 and the average weight of a pair of women’s jeans is about 12 – 16 ounces, finding a decent pair at a Goodwill Outlet store will cost $1.59 for about 74% off. For lighter pieces, you’d save even more because you could buy more for your per pound price.
We still believe you should get there early to beat the crowds for first dibs, with the understanding Goodwill team members rotate merchandise throughout the day. Here are some pricing examples for a Goodwill in Wisconsin:
- Home Goods/Clothing/Textiles/Shoes/Purses
- under 25 pounds – $1.59 per pound
- over 25 pounds – $1.29 per pound
- $0.69 per pound
- DVDs/CDs/Albums/VHS Tapes/Video Games/Books
- $1 each
- Oversized Items/Bikes
- Priced individually
Everything you buy at a Goodwill Outlet is sold “as is.” So don’t let the krazy low prices fool you into buying something that is in poor condition.
9. Shop Goodwill during their 99-cent day and save up to 99%.
One day a week, typically on Sundays, Goodwill stores discount the outgoing color of the week merchandise to $0.99 an item. Pretty hard to pass up on clothing or shoes that cost a buck. Here’s an example: for a coat or formal dress that regularly costs $9.99, you’d save 99% if you waited and bought one of these items on a 99-cent day. Now mind you, once things get to the 99-cent sale, they’ve been pretty picked over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find what you’re looking for. Be sure to check things over because while it’s hard to pass on clothing or shoes that only cost a buck, if it’s in poor condition, you’ve wasted $1.
10. Buy designer and name brands at Goodwill (GW) Boutiques without paying designer or name brand prices.
Yep, Goodwill also has boutiques where they sell trending designer and name-brand clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry, and home decor. Some of the brands you may find in a GW Boutique include:
Pricing can vary but tends to be between $3.99 and $24.99 an item. Check labels to make sure you’re getting genuine designer or name-brand items.
11. Bid on auction items at ShopGoodwill.com.
If you’re looking to score a particular item of value or something rare, check out shopgoodwill.com, an auction-style site similar to eBay. You’ll find antiques, collectibles, books, and much more. Participating stores from across the country list items pulled from their inventory of donations.
Shopping options include Buy It Now, which allows you to instantly buy an auction item, preventing other shoppers from getting the item, and $0.01 shipping deals. We recommend checking out the $0.01 shipping deals, as each location can set their own shipping and handling charges which can be pretty steep.
To avoid shipping cost surprises, click the Estimate Shipping link on the item listing page to get a shipping estimate before placing a bid.
12. Use the donation value guide to calculate the worth of your items.
Thinking about donating to Goodwill? If writing off your donation is a concern that you get a fair market value for tax purposes, Goodwill provides a valuation guide to give you an idea of what they say your stuff is worth. Goodwill suggests you figure about 30% of what you paid for an item. That, of course, is assuming what you’re donating is in good condition. The prices on the list are not set in stone — only estimates. Here are a few value examples we found:
- Dress: $7
- Shoes: $6
- Business suit: $12
- Bike, microwave, and computer desk each valued at $10
13. Does Goodwill have Black Friday sales? You bet.
If you think holiday sales are limited to major retailers, think again. Goodwill is just as savvy in timing sales exactly when people are planning to shop. Don’t discount Goodwill for Black Friday sales! Many stores offer 50% off everything the day after Thanksgiving. Presidents’ Day, Labor Day, and Independence Day sales are also common.
You can also find many seasonal items at Goodwill. Many may be overstock or final clearance items from the year before. Knowing the popularity of these items when the holiday rolls around again the following year, Goodwill holds onto them. If you need a last-minute Halloween costume, a Christmas tree stand, or Valentine’s Day cards, look no further than Goodwill.