Ten Tips for Shopping at Goodwill and Other Thrift Stores
Shopping at Goodwill, second hand stores, and thrift stores is a waste of time to some since, in their opinion, all you will find is junk. To others, finding just the right item seems to be like looking for a needle in a haystack. But there are some who consider shopping at thrift stores to be a rewarding challenge. The challenge is to find items that are nearly new, items that they may really want or even need. Is there a way to make this activity less depressing, even exciting? Here are ten strategies I have found that may make shopping at thrift stores an enjoyable, exciting experience.
1. Go to Thrift Stores Often
Go often. In order to be the person who finds the high quality items at second hand stores, whether those are clothing, housewares, hardware, toys, electronics or anything else, you have to go to second hand stores often. You might even be able to discover when shelves and racks are restocked during the week so you can plan your visits at those times.
2. Know What You Are Looking for Before You Go In
Know what you are looking for. Sure, browsing without a plan may be a good way to kill spare time, but spare time isn’t something many of us have. So know what you are looking for when you go to a Goodwill / thrift store. Also it is helpful to know what brands you are interested in. By narrowing the field of what is acceptable, you can speed up the process of shopping.
3. Decide Before You Enter the Thrift Store Which Departments You Want to Look Through
Decide before you enter the thrift store which departments you want to look through to find the items you want. Upon entering the second hand store, make a bee line to the first of those departments. Scan the shelves or racks for the exact items and brands that you are looking for. If they aren’t there, then move on to the next department and do the same.
4. If You Find What You Are Looking for, Put It Back Until You Are Ready to Leave
If you find what you are looking for, it may be a good idea to then return the item to its place and go on shopping. Later, when you have finished looking through all the departments on your list, go back and look at the item again. Is it really what you want or need? Is the price right? If so, then grab it and head to the checkout lane.
5. Ask Yourself: Is the Price Right?
Is the price right? What would the item cost new if it were on sale? It may be a better value to wait for a sale and purchase the item new, although I have found items of clothing at Goodwill / second hand stores that for all practical purposes were new. If those items had been worn by the previous owners, it was only to try them on and then decide for whatever reason, that they were not right for them. In that case, a ten dollar price tag really isn’t much because I would never find that piece of clothing on sale for that little money.
6. Check for Signs of Wear
Check for signs of wear. Keep in mind that these things are used, so there will likely be some signs of wear. What is acceptable to you in terms of wear? For clothing, look for wear signs on the ends of pant legs, the top edge of pant pockets, knees, under the arms and the top of collars.
7. Take Something to Donate When You Go to Shop
Take something to donate when you go to shop at a Goodwill / thrift store. This will help keep down the potential clutter of shopping at second hand stores. When you donate, be sure to get a receipt for your donation. At tax time, pull them out and use the thrift store value (What the item would sell for at a thrift store) to calculate your charitable contribution. This way, you get additional savings.
8. Go to Thrift Stores That Have a Large Turnover in Merchandise
Focus on thrift stores which have a large turnover in merchandise. That way you are getting a regular look at new items.
9. If It Doesn't Knock Your Socks Off, Don't Buy It
If it doesn’t knock your socks off, don’t buy it. But you might want to buy some new socks.
10. If You Already Have One, Don't Buy Another
Do you already have something similar? Then don’t buy another. This is most easy to do in the clothing department. Just because it is a great piece of name brand clothing doesn’t mean you should buy it. The question is, do you need it?
BONUS TIP! A few days ago I went to a thrift store looking for a coffee grinder. I knew it was a long shot, but when I got to there, I found three grinders on the shelf. One was priced at $12.99, another at $7.99 and one that had no price on it. I had already learned this lesson, so I took the one with no price tag. At the check out, a supervisor was called and he priced it at $3.99. That has worked out well on a few occasions for me.
Some Thrift Store Purchases I am Proud of
- A wardrobe of clothing by Columbia, Patagonia, TheNorthFace, Jamaica Jaxx and other high quality, name brands.
- Jason Empire binoculars.
- Bose computer speakers for $5. There wasn’t a thing wrong with them. I had bought these exact speakers a couple of weeks before for $100. I gave them to a friend. I know I violated number ten in the list above, but I wasn't going to pass this one up.
- Camelback hydration system for backpacking.
- Minolta Maxxum film camera lenses for my Sony Alpha digital camera. Awesome purchases.
- Merino wool sweaters and pants.
Reselling Thrifted Items on eBay, Amazon, or Craigslist
I am an amateur photographer, so I am always watching for photography equipment at second hand stores and yard sales. I have found some highly sought after items at Goodwill stores and other thrift stores. I have turned around and sold those items on eBay for a huge profit.
Do you have knowledge about a certain craft or hobby which would enable you to spot good deals on items at second hand stores? You might be able to make extra money purchasing those items and selling them on eBay, Amazon or Craigslist.
If you go with a strategy and stick to the plan, shopping at second hand stores can be enjoyable and rewarding, if not addicting. Recently I was looking for clothing at Goodwill. I kept seeing shirts and pants I had seen on previous visits. I remembered the sizes and whatever flaws were in the items. I knew then that I may have a problem.