Anyone who knows me can tell you that I LOVE finding deals at Goodwill. Earlier this week my husband likened his inability to go to a river without bringing his fly rod to my inability to drive by Goodwill without wanting to stop in. That is saying a lot. And it’s not far off the mark.
When we have a need for something Goodwill is often the first place I look. The opportunity to significantly save money on our purchases is a huge motivator in adding another stop in our day.
But in addition to that, there is freedom in buying items that are used– we are free to not worry about keeping everything nice and pristine. We can live life without worrying about staining clothes, scratching furniture, breaking a toy, or redecorating on a whim. These items can be used up without any guilt because they were acquired at little cost.
Not to mention, finding a good deal and seeing God provide is just fun.
People sometimes mention that they can’t ever find anything at Goodwill and can be surprised by my frequent success. Many Goodwill shoppers will say that the key is to going often. But life is busy and days are full. There isn’t always time to go often to multiple stores to check for recent additions.
What has worked for me is to find one or two stores where I have had success and stick to shopping there.
I stick to stores located in areas where I often run other errands. Stores in which I have found more than a couple of useful items also become favorites because I know that they are likely to have similar quality items on future visits.
Already knowing the layout and prices also is very helpful in keeping visits efficient and headache-free. And because there is almost always something to be found whether it’s needed or not, I try to only go when there is a real need.
When I do visit, I usually have three children in tow. (The times when I get to go by myself are much less frequent, but splendid nonetheless). My kids are experienced Goodwill shoppers themselves and are at the point now where they get a little excited at the prospect of finding a cool toy. I definitely won them over when I found a large talking Optimus Prime and then a working toy chainsaw in one month.
Depending on the time of day, I may let them eat a small non-messy snack while I peruse the aisles. But now that my oldest is almost too big to sit in the back of the cart, we don’t do this very often anymore because I don’t want him carrying food around the store.
Now, I wear my baby and let the boys roam whatever aisle I am currently on. If they get too crazy, we just call it quits and try again another day. But typically the anticipation of what we will do after we leave or of the toy section is enough to keep them in check.
Our house and closets are testaments to how well shopping at Goodwill has served our family. Occasionally there are big or unusual items that we need which warrant a visit, but typically, I am looking for just a few common things.
Here are the five things I always look for whenever I visit Goodwill:
1. Baby & Kids’ Clothing
All three of my children’s wardrobe are almost completely comprised of used clothing. I started shopping at Goodwill for my oldest son before he was born and haven’t stopped. The only things I don’t look for at Goodwill for my kids are their shoes, socks, and underwear.
At less than $2 per item of clothing, the savings are enormous. Even with passing up on the clothes that are stained or too worn, there is still an abundance to pick from. Occasionally, the kids have needed something specific that I haven’t been able to find at Goodwill and so I have to go get it new. But that is the exception more than the rule.
My personal shopper testing to see how a shirt fits the baby.
The clothes are there to find. Baby clothes are often like new. Some things still have tags on them. This one section is the greatest way Goodwill has saved our family a lot of money.
2. Women’s Clothing
I’m a mom. (Obviously). On any given day, you are likely to find any number of spots and stains on my clothes. Fluids that were wiped or smeared on my shirts and pants by little faces and messy hands. Besides my kids, I get my clothes plenty dirty on my own during the course of my busy, beautiful days.
This alone is reason good enough to me not to invest a lot of money into clothes during this season of my life. I don’t get anxious about the fact that I am my kids’ preferred tissue. It’s a little yucky, but it pretty much comes with the territory.
My clothes get dirty a lot. My clothes get washed a lot. This isn’t likely to change in the near future. Spending $4 or less on each item of clothing works for me to feel liberated to live life without worrying about toting around a stain-stick or shooing away my children when they are a little too grimy.
What’s more, because I am still in the midst of the baby years, my body is constantly changing and there is always a degree of uncertainty about what is currently fitting. I have bins of clothes that I rotate through depending on what stage I am in. I have my regular clothes, early pregnancy clothes, late pregnancy clothes, postpartum clothes, and clothes that fit in the interim between not needing postpartum clothes and not fitting into my regular size.
That’s a lot of different clothes that I’m not ready to part with yet. I am thankful that Goodwill has made it much easier to keep so many sizes on hand without breaking the bank.
And honestly, I really think that I am dressing better now than before I purchased the bulk of my clothing from Goodwill. I find so many name brand (read: high quality) items there that I can be very selective in what I buy. Eddie Bauer, The Loft, and Gap are some of my regular finds and favorites.
Goodwill is an awesome place to find baskets of all shapes and sizes. Buying baskets new at the store can be really cost-prohibitive. But there are always baskets at Goodwill, usually for fifty cents to five dollars. Buy several and spray paint them to match.
Glass jars, plastic totes, and wooden boxes also make great finds.
I use baskets and boxes and jars all over the house to keep our things tidy and organized.
Contain your stuff for less!
4. Frames and Decor
Another way in which Goodwill has saved us a lot of money is through picture frames. I find them in all shapes and sizes and then just replace the picture, maybe give the frame a coat of paint and it’s as good as new.
Around the holidays, especially, I like to stock up on frames so that I can refinish them and fill them with photos or artwork to give as gifts.
I also love finding things to use to decorate my house, often in unconventional ways. A few times a year, I like to rearrange a lot of our decor and Goodwill is a great place to collect several pieces to rotate around your house.
5. Kids’ Toys
If your kids are like mine, they really don’t need many new toys. But we do rotate toys and it’s fun to find things that I know that they will love and that they can use in open-ended play.
Outdoor toys that get a lot of use, items to use in pretend or costumed play, musical instruments, and a current favorite character/theme are some of our favorite things to look for.
Other Fun Extras:
- Blankets, sheets, curtains, etc to repurpose for sewing projects
- Furniture (when I need something)
- Books (mostly children’s books and the occasional cookbook)
- Men’s dress shirts (when my husband worked at a job where he needed a shirt and tie everyday I found some great shirts)