Friday, January 7, 2011

Goodwill Shopping Tips & Tricks (Guest Post)

This is a guest post from my bargain shopping friend Starri.  She's a busy wife and mother to two young boys.  She's got a lot to say about shopping at one of our favorite stores, Goodwill.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

Several of you have commented to me that you never find anything at GOOD at GOODwill.  Ironic, don't you think?  I thought about what made my trips there fun and successful and made a few notes to share with you.  I have to give partial credit for this information to my mom.  I learned from the best and she's still my thrift store shopping buddy.  I'd love the hear your tips and tricks.  Hope it helps and happy hunting! 
Shop with a buddy.  Someone who knows your size style well is a plus because they can help keep an eye for things you might like.  Be sure to go through a rack even if your friend just did- it’s easy to miss things.   Often a fresh set of eyes will catch a spot or tear you missed.  Besides, being with someone just makes it less tedious!
Each week a different color is 50% off; at the Newnan Goodwill this changes each Sunday.   It will become harder and harder to find those color items as the days go by.
Shop your favorite magazines and websites for trends that you like then use these as inspiration while you’re shopping in the store.  I like People Stylewatch magazine,, and  Sometimes out-of-date can be on-trend with just a few tweaks and some clever accessorizing. One caveat:  It can be easy to loose your fashion-sense-of-self when your surrounded by all those colors and trends of days-gone-by.  Keep your wits about you! 
Do some research in your own closet.  Take a look at your favorite pieces and think about why you like them so much.  Is it because of the cut, because it’s so low maintenance, or because it just feels good on your skin.  Which cuts and colors get compliments?  Read the labels and find out what your most loved items are made of.  Do you notice that a lot of your items are particular brand?  What about the things you never wear-  why?  Are they wrinkly or scratchy or do they pull, bunch, or ride up?  How are these cut and what are they made of?  What brand?  Use the information you glean from the study of your closet to guide you at the thrift store.
Know you’re brands- it will help you to see the value in what you find.  Replacing missing buttons and mending small tears in the seam are worth the trouble if the item is of high quality but may not be if the fabric is cheap and the cut is bad.

Be realistic.  If it needs mending, are you going to take the time to fix it?  Do you know how?  When you add in your time, the cost of the buttons, or other sewing notions is it still a bargain?  Sometimes the answer is still "yes" but take the time to have this thought process.

Feel the fabrics.  You’d be surprised at your hands' ability to scout out wool, silk, cashmere, linen, and fine cottons. Quality just feels good.  Keep some hand sanitizer in your pocket!

Look items over carefully for stains or moth holes.  You may discover why it was donated.  That being said, you may find it worth repairing when the original owner didn’t.
Check by after big yard sale weekends and after Christmas.  People often donate their unsold yard sale items.  Since clothes don’t sell well at yard sales... SCORE for you!  After Christmas people often clean out their homes to make room for their new stuff and they’re also too broke to shop anymore.  Again, SCORE for you!!
Goodwill has even better hours than a lot of regular retail stores.  For example, they open at 9 am Monday-Saturday.  That’s an hour before most anyone else! They stay open until 9 pm.  On Sunday, they’re open to 1 to 6.  During the week check by during the day, even if you only have a few minutes, because it’s so much quieter and less picked over.
Relax, be patient, and dig in.   If you’re looking for something specific, you may not find just what you’re looking for on a particular trip but you may find a treasure.  It may take a little more time to find, but when you get a cashmere sweater for $2 and a new-with-tags Banana Republic skirt for $4, it’s well worth it.
Give the racks a cursory scan first.  The colors and patterns that appeal to you will jump out.  After that you can go through more thoroughly for things that may not have immediate appeal or may be tucked away.  Goodwill organizes by type of article (i.e. pants, skirts, blouses, etc.) and then by color.  Unfortunately, never by size.  Oh, well... what do you want for cheap.  This way is convenient, however, when you need to find something in a specific color.  
When your eyes get blurry from searching the clothes racks take a break and check out housewares, shoes, bags, or books.  It will give you a mental break to browse different items.  You can go back to the racks when you’re ready.
Try things on!  Even if it’s cheap you don’t want to waste your money.  It also makes it easier to see any flaws. 
You can make returns if you have your receipt. 
If you’re on the fence about something, let ride around in your cart for a while.  Think about it, you can always put it back if you find something better.  You may also stumble upon the perfect thing to go with it.
Have the vision to see what something can be with a good washing and pressing, a lint brush, a sweater shaver, a polish and buff and some cool accessories!
Newnan Goodwill takes credit card (even AMEX!!) but I don’t believe they take personal checks anymore.

One more thing- Goodwill prices all items of certain type the same price even if one is brand new and and one is stained.  That can be good or bad depending on how you look at it.  However, one kind of stinky thing they occasionally do is that they will decide a certain item is somehow special and it will be tagged with a different (higher) price.  They are usually on different racks.  I have found no method to this madness.  It is what it is, but just be aware of it.  I haven't found them willing to negotiate, but it's often still a find.

See you at the GW Boutique!

P.S. I'm not too consignment store savvy but I have noticed that most of them will put you on an email list to let you know when they have sales and specials.  I love the paper bag sale that Wellspring in PTC has twice a year.  All you can stuff in a paper grocery bag for $25!

Thank you Starri!  
Please share any other tips you might have for shopping at the thrift stores or consignment stores in the comments.  We'd love to hear from you!


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