3 Thrifting Tips from a Goodwill Addict

January 13, 2017 at 1:57 am

I’m not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed to admit that one of my absolute favorite places to go is to Goodwill. I think I would be more proud if I could say my favorite hobby was hiking or volunteering or something more meaningful. I do love hiking and volunteering, and I’d spend a lot of time in the woods if I could. Alas I live in a desert, and I don’t have a lot of free time, so for the past several years my go-to “me-time” destination has been Goodwill. You could probably say I have a slight addiction to getting super deals on nice stuff.

My friends often say to me, “I should go with you to Goodwill. I never find good stuff!” I would gladly have friends join me in my favorite guilty pleasure. Definitely never hesitate to call me up and say, “I’m going to Goodwill, you wanna come?” Ummm YES. Always. I wish Goodwill-shopping Coach was a real job.

Obviously it’s best to go to Goodwill on 50% off days, dollar days, or take advantage of their monthly coupons and daily colored-tag deals, but here are some other thrifting tips I’ve picked up along the way.


1) Patience pays.

15936686_10154702351226900_231846194622430167_oLet’s say you have an item on your wish list (i.e. pillows for your outdoor furniture, a large rug for the living room, a bigger frying pan for your growing family, a 4-pelt sheepskin, a groovy lamp <—all items I have wanted/found second-hand), so you hit your local Goodwill without finding what you want. Don’t give up. I find great deals in part because I am patient. I may not find what I want for a few months, but it’s always worth it.  Often I find the coolest stuff when I’ve actually forgotten I was waiting for it.

For example, several years ago I first saw Frans Schwartz’s painting, Agony in the Garden. I instantly fell in love with it. But when I tried to find a print of it at the time, they were much pricier than I was willing to pay. Somewhere in the back of my mind, however, I knew I wanted to have it on display in my home someday. About a week before Christmas (2016) I had gone to Goodwill looking for something else, and as I walked past the art and frames in the back of the store, there it was. On canvas. Already framed. In absolute perfect condition. For only $4.00. I was kind of dumbfounded, but simultaneously not surprised. It felt like a Christmas gift from my angels.

I have come to sort of expect that the things I want will eventually appear for me at Goodwill if I’m patient. I got this extra-large stainless steel skillet just last week for less than $7 at Goodwill after looking on Amazon several months ago and deciding not to spend $40+ for one.


2) Some things should never be bought new.

OK, maybe never is a strong word. We do buy some of these things new occasionally, but there are definitely some things you can get at Goodwill or other 2nd-hand stores for a tiny fraction of what you would spend anywhere else. Here’s a sampling of the items I see regularly that fit into this category:

  • Lamps, lampshades ($7 or less)
  • Frames (real wood, beautiful frames are always available for $1-$15)
  • Decorative pillows ($4 or less)
  • Yarn ($3 or less for a bag with several skeins/balls included)
  • Canvases for art projects (sometimes blank, sometimes with stuff you can paint over, small or large sizes, $1-$3)
  • Bakeware and cookware (always available for $3-$7)
  • Clothes, particularly for kids and women ($1-$7 for most things)
  • Belts, scarves, ties ($4 or less)
  • Decorative/organization baskets (always available for a few dollars)
  • Pots for houseplants ($3 or so)
  • Wreaths (always available for $3-$7)
  • Blank t-shirts for freezer paper stenciling or tie-dye (don’t spend more than $1)
  • Purses, wallets, tote bags (less than $5)
  • Converse sneakers for kids (almost always available for less than $5)
  • Scrapbook/photo albums (brand new, never-been-used for less than $3, sometimes with stickers and paper included)

Goodwill upcycle… painted the frame and painted the trees

There are other items I am always on the look-out for and often find if I’m patient. These items aren’t always available, but sometimes I get an amazing score.

  • Baby carriers to give away (I see a lot of pouch slings, but sometimes I see soft-structure carriers)
  • Cool fabric for projects (there’s always a section of fabric scraps)
  • Pottery (beautiful hand-thrown mugs for less than $1, bowls, plates, and platters for $1-$7)
  • Popular books (large selection for less than $4)
  • Movies (occasionally they have good ones)
  • Crafting/school supplies (beads, ribbon, popsicle sticks, etc)
  • Rugs (I got a beautiful large wool area rug for $30-something, a 4-pelt sheepskin for $10, smaller sheepskins for $5)
  • Boots (nice fashion boots for $10 or so)
  • Nice wooden hangers (shirt and pant, a bundle for a few dollars)
  • Yoga clothes (if you need white clothes for Kundalini Yoga, never spend more than a few dollars)
  • Cool art (sometimes I find really cool hand-made treasures)

I have found several of these cool woven trees at Goodwill


3) Think outside the box.

I often feel a little bit like Dr. Frankenstein when I upcycle things from Goodwill. When I don’t find exactly what I’m looking for, I start looking for things I could use to make the desired item myself. I have turned too-big women’s dresses into baptism and blessing dresses for my kids, chopping them up and putting them back together again to fit my girls. I have taken apart a grapevine wreath and reconstructed it into a tree wall-hanging with plastic “grapes” as leaves. When I needed metal hoops for crafts, I have purchased lampshades for less than $1 and scavenged the hoops from them. When I couldn’t find enough cheap fabric to cover the cushions on our hand-me-down patio furniture, I cut up some sturdy drapes from Goodwill. Sheets can be used as fabric for any sewing projects. A knitted scarf can be unraveled for your own textile art project (I just unraveled three for the project pictured below). Look at any wooden item as “salvaged” or “reclaimed” wood for your own projects (cut it up, carve it, paint over it, make something else with it). Anything ugly can become groovy with a fresh coat of paint. Look for potential, not perfection. My latest project is a woven wall-hanging. My husband made the loom for me with salvaged wood. And all of the string/yarn came from Goodwill.

That gorgeous mug came from Goodwill too

That gorgeous mug came from Goodwill too


Do you have some thrifting tips? Please share in the comments!