Saturday, August 31, 2013


Everyone loves a bargain.  And we all want to look our best.  

A year ago I discovered GoodWill stores. I thought only the financially disadvantaged shopped there.  I didn’t realize what gems were hidden behind those doors.  And I didn’t know that I was supporting a good cause by purchasing items, not just donating them.

Over the past year I have built a brand-name wardrobe from shopping at Goodwill.  It includes brand names such as J.Crew, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Michael Kors, White House Black Market, Kenneth Cole, Kate Spade and more.  I scored a Kate Spade purse which retails new for $298 and paid only $4.99.  I paid $3.99 for a brand new Ann Taylor skirt still carrying the original tags and retail price of $99.00.  My most recent find was a brand new, Kenneth Cole leather purse which retails for $300, and I paid $15.00 using a 25% coupon at Goodwill. I own 6 beautiful cashmere sweaters and paid $4.99 or less for each at GoodWill.  

Are you ready to build a gorgeous wardrobe for incredibly low prices? Follow my tips:

Check the GoodWill store’s website for the following:
  • Store locations;
  • Calendar events, promotions & deals;
  • a Rewards program for which you can sign up (not in every State)
  • Outlet stores (which sell by the pound);
  • Their Return Policy (typically 10 days to return an item with tags for store credit).
Intentionally shop the stores in highly affluent neighborhoods where wealthy people will be donating their expensive items.

Shop on a weekday morning or afternoon when most people are at work; avoid shopping on Saturdays & Sundays.

Shop multiple locations and shop several times a week!  Try to go to at least 2 different stores 2 times a week.  New merchandise is being put out every day.  The more frequently you go, the better your chances are to find a great deal.

Shop when you have time to “dig” through bins & racks and try on clothes.

Don’t be afraid of the heaps of clothes in the “bins.”  There could be a hidden gem!

Become familiar with where things are located in each store:
  • Many stores have brand name handbags locked up away from the regular handbag section.
  • Many stores have valuable jewelry locked up separately from cosmetic jewelry.

LEARN what makes a good deal before buying numerous items.  Finding a Target brand T-shirt for $3.99 in good, used condition is not a bargain when you can find it brand new on the Target clearance racks for a similar price.  But digging and re-visiting the thrift store time and again to find that quality J.Crew or Ann Taylor cashmere sweater in like-new condition for $3.99 is a savings of hundreds of dollars off the retail price!

Shop year-round for all-season clothing.  
  • Shop the sweaters and coats in summer and the shorts & tanks in winter. While everyone else is looking for tanks and shorts in summer and the sweaters are hardly touched, you can pick up that gorgeous sweater no one else noticed.  You’ll be glad to have those garments when the seasons change.
  • Shop coats & outerwear for all seasons & weather: the denim jacket, windbreakers, puffy coats, wool coats, trench coats, even fur coats.
Grab deals at the time they come, not just when you need them.  Slowly build your wardrobe by periodically buying deals as you find them over a long period of time. Don’t just shop for an item at the time you need it, because it may not be there. Check the coat racks year round and look for that formal dress months ahead of time.

Check each garment for 5 “GOOD THINGS” -  (think 5 OUT OF 5 STARS):
GOOD CONDITION (new or gently used);
Look at the entire garment, front & back  (don’t forget the armpits) and Check for:
  • STAINS.  If there’s a small stain, consider whether or not you can remove the stain by washing or gently rubbing it
  • TEARS or RIPS.
  • PULLS in the weave or FLAWS in the fabric
  • SWEATER PILLS. If there are not too many, consider investing in a fine sweater comb (or a flea comb at your local Pet store works just fine) to remove them (caution: sweater shavers aren’t recommended as they usually leave holes in the fabric);
  • BONUS POINTS for items which still have the original store’s tag!
  • Quality material (look for cashmere, silk, wool, linen, etc.)
  • Will this require frequent, costly dry-cleaning?  Consider dry cleaning alternatives like dry-el or fine laundry soap to clean for less money.
GOOD FIT.  The right color, size and flattering fit - try it on!
GOOD PRICE.  Most items should be $4.99 or less.  Some new items or brand name items have higher prices at Goodwill.  For example, a Michael Kors sweater might be $7.99, and a Kenneth Cole New York handbag might be $19.99.  But considering those same items would cost much more even at discount stores like Marshall’s or TJ Maxx, then they may be worth getting.  Those are also good opportunities to use a GoodWill coupon or your rewards card savings deal.
Brand new yellow  JCrew purse I purchased at Goodwill for $4.99; Brand new Calvin Klein scarf with original tags on it - I purchased at Goodwill for $1!

Inside of the yellow JCrew purse

  • This is not a “must” but certainly a better value for your money when Goodwill often charges the same prices for brands like Ann Taylor or Banana Republic as they charge for brands like Target or Kohl’s.
  • Familiarize yourself with brand names and their corresponding prices.  Check your favorite department store’s website for their list of brand names (such as Nieman Marcus, Nordstroms or Macy’s).  Then when you find that brand name item at Goodwill, you’ll know exactly how much money you are saving and what kind of bargain you scored!


  1. This is such a well written article with really good tips! You have inspired me to shop at Goodwill. I have found so many nice pieces to add to my closet. Thanks!