Over the past year I have learned how to make my way around Goodwill. My closet now mostly consists of items I have found at Goodwill, and I've probably spent less than $50 on all of them. As a broke post-undergrad soon to be grad student, Goodwill was basically the answer for how I was supposed to cure my love of fashion with what little I had in my budget (hint: like most college students, most of my budget goes straight to college or my research). I've also found lots of other things that I needed, such as a set of plates to use when I move to grad school or some items I needed for a photo gig.
People inevitably ask me how I manage to find all of the clothing that I have salvaged from Goodwill. They are also usually surprised when I tell them a certain piece was from Goodwill. In an effort to help you find some really lovely pieces of your own, below are a few tips and tricks I've used to help me find stuff (along with some of the outfits I've found plus how much I got them for).
1. Go frequently
Most people go to Goodwill one singular time within a span of four months and don't find anything that day and then assume they can't find anything at Goodwill and don't go back. Stock at Goodwill is constantly in flux, so sometimes you might go and find a ton of stuff and sometimes you might go and find absolutely nothing. The only way to increase your chances of finding good stuff is to go frequently. I used to just go every once in awhile, maybe once or twice every six months. One day I found three fantastic items, and then I returned and found nothing and got discouraged and didn't go back for awhile. A Goodwill-savvy friend told me to try going back more frequently to find things, and so I started to go a little more frequently and found way more than I had previously. You can go once a month, once a week, or even once a day (that's dedication!), and you will be much more likely to find something incredible than if you just go every once in a blue moon. During the past semester I would go either once every three weeks or once every two weeks depending upon my schedule, and occasionally I would go once a week if I was really looking for something. I found so much more than I did when I just went every once in awhile.
2. Try to shop only sale items
If your Goodwill has sales (Goodwill of Middle Tennessee has lots of awesome sales), utilize them! My personal favorite is the color tag sales. Each Goodwill item has a tag that has a specific color (like orange or blue), and some Goodwill stores like the ones in my area will have weekly sales where all items with one color tag will be 50% off for that week and items with a different tag color will be 0.99 cents! I cannot tell you how many things I have been able to find for 0.99 cents. I once found a Madewell cardigan that was originally $75 for 0.99 cents at Goodwill, as well as several lovely sweaters and a few other great items. This is your best deal. If you're lucky, you can find some really great brands for really low prices.
In general I also try to only purchase items that are on sale to help save my budget. There have only been a few occasions where I bought something that was not on sale because it was one of a kind and unlikely to last long in the store. Even if something isn't on sale, if you have a student or teacher ID, you can get a 10% discount!
3. Have an idea of what you want to find
Goodwill can be a bit overwhelming. They have a lot of items and you may not have a lot of time to browse everything. Usually I go in looking for specific items. You can often find items that look similar to ones that you've seen somewhere else but for significantly cheaper or, on occasion, you may find the exact same item for less than what you would have paid elsewhere. I am not usually into white pants, but I saw a pair on Urban Outfitters and fell in love with the outfit, but I couldn't swing the $69.99 price tag for a pair of pants. Sure enough, I found a similar pair at Goodwill for $0.99 cents and was able to recreate the outfit. You can also keep in mind a specific item that you want to find. I really wanted a pair of overalls and a mustard yellow turtleneck, and after looking for a few weeks I found both.
4. Look around your size
A lot of people close themselves off from finding great pieces by limiting themselves to only looking at clothing in their size. Since Goodwill has clothing from all kinds of brands from all kinds of decades, sizing is going to be different from item to item. I have found clothing that was way too big for me in my usual size and clothing that fit me perfectly in a size that was right above my usual size. You can also sometimes get away with wearing something that is slightly too big for you depending on the cut. I found a pair of Madewell high waisted flare corduroy pants that were a size too big for me, but they still look good enough that I can get away with it (plus that was basically the find of the century, so I couldn't let them go!).
5. Don't give up!
You might go two or three times and find nothing. At that point it might feel like it's hopeless, but don't give up hope! I like to think of Goodwill as a treasure hunt. Eventually, I'm going to find that piece that I've been wanting and it will have been worth the wait. Just keep trying! You can also try other Goodwill stores near you, or maybe you can try going with a Goodwill-savvy friend. Try things that you wouldn't normally choose, or try something on just for the fun of it. You never know what you might find!
Good luck with your Goodwill adventures! I hope that these tips help, and if you have any other good ones, be sure to leave a comment with yours!