Shopping in the Goodwill stores is a lot of fun especially if you love surprises or enjoy treasure hunts. Here are a number of tips to share with you but some may not apply due to the differences from one area to the next. I live in the Central Arizona Goodwill district and they distribute their merchandise in ways your local stores may not. I would love to hear some of your tips so we can share them with other buyers as well as other Goodwill stores.
Video Tips (YouTube)
Come Shop With Me At Goodwill – Shopping at thrift stores is so much fun! When you go to a goodwill store you are going to want to look for things like pink tags so you know what savings are available on top of the good deals you are already getting. The toy section of a thrift store can be really good. Just clean it off.
$5 Goodwill Challenge: Summer Edition! – My goal was to find “Target inspired” home decor items for summer and stick with a budget of $5. I went slightly over with tax (about $5.30).
$5 Goodwill Challenge – Fall 2015 Invite – Ahh, it’s the most exciting day of the year! The Fall edition of the $5 Goodwill Challenge! As the rules state, your goal is to spend $5 or less at any Goodwill, thrift store, garage sale, etc., and search for some home decor you can use for the season. You can either use an item “as-is” or do a little DIY.
Goodwill Haul! | Organizing Finds – Making better use of your time when thrifting in your local Goodwill stores by finding items to help you better organize.
How to decorate your home from the Goodwill and Dollar Store – These are some ideas for decorating your home with class but without breaking the bank. Aka: VERY CHEAP! Everything you see in this video was either from the Dollar Tree or thrifted.
Super Goodwill Scores: Goodwill Shopping Tips – Here are some of my favorite beginners tips for shopping at Goodwill. There are so many great finds to be hand for your home, whether you want to organize or decorate. It’s seriously addicting! Leave your comments below with your favorite thrifting tips 🙂
How to determine a shirt sleeve length when it is not printed on the label.
There are many instances where a sleeve length or a pants inseam may not be published on the clothing tag. In this case, I will find a good example of each and use it as the standard to which I measure those that don’t provide that measurement. For shirts, hold each sleeve at the point it is sewed to the shoulder and pull the wrists together to see if the one you want to determine the length comes up to the one you know the length on. See the photo to the right and notice that one is longer than the other. I wear a 37” sleeve so it is harder to find than a 35-36” sleeve.
How to determine a pants inseam when it is not printed on the label.
Much in the same manner as the shirt sleeve length determination, find a manufacturer’s pair of pants you know is accurate for your wear and hold it up to another pair you do not have the inseam measurement where the inseam comes together and pull the pair of pants alongside each other for comparison. This helps weed out the obvious pants that are either way too short or way too long. The best test is to try them on in the changing rooms with a mirror or buy a pair and if you need to make sure you don’t remove the label and return it for a store credit within 14 days of purchase with the original receipt. I was holding a pair of pants to my side waist band to waist band and heard a small voice say, “too short”. It was from an older woman and she was absolutely right. The pants came to the top of my shoes but after putting them on in the changing room they magically rose above my ankles. She was right. From now on, I don’t consider the pants long enough unless the hem falls below the pair I have on.
Learn the labels – The Manufacturers
Several manufacturers offer different levels of quality. As an example, Ralph Lauren has more than six labels I am aware of, probably many more. His highest quality is his Purple label, the next is the Black label on down to his Green label which has his Ralph Ralph Lauren and his Lauren Ralph Lauren. It is quite confusing just trying to make sure I have the correct colors. The same is true for the Armani family of labels. From the expensive to the less expensive, there is the Armani Prive, Giorgio Armani Black Label Uomo, Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani, Armani Collectioni, Armani, Mani, Armani Exchange (A|X) or something like that. Some labels are of lesser quality where others are catered to the different age groups. Now, I see that Haggar has their black label and premium quality as do several other manufacturers.
Learn the labels – Countries of Manufacturer
There is much to be said about knowing which manufacturer will provide you with the best wear for the article of clothing you are looking for. China makes a lot of our clothing and can do it cheaply. I have found that some of the clothing is good and some not so good. Vietnam is now hitting the American market heavily and you will see some name brands made here as well as China. My personal preference is to find items made in Italy, Hong Kong, England, Canada and the USA. You will also find a number of manufacturers using the expertise of the work force in countries such as Lithuania, Poland, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, Bangladesh, Thailand, Phillipines and Costa Rica to name a few. If you have a choice, learn more about the quality and the finish of the product. Take a look around the belt loops of pants, button holes and the inside of the clothing for stray thread. Check the stitching to see if it is close together or spread apart to save a little thread. Educate yourself and you will get more wear out of your clothing for no more cost or little extra. You will find the lower end of Ralph Lauren, Van Heusen, Joseph & Feiss, Joseph Abboud, and Kenneth Cole made in some of these countries. Take a look past the label to where the clothing is made and become familiar with the Registered Identification number (RN) required on current clothing.
Learn the labels – Type of Material and Blends
The natural products are preferred by the discriminating wearer. Cotton, wool, alpaca, cashmere, silk, linen, leather breath and hold up better than most synthetic blends. One of the more popular synthetics is a combination of 60% cotton and 40% polyester. As an example, looking through my spreadsheet at the more expensive shirts, I see that almost all are 100% cotton. The better of these are of Egyptian cotton. I’m now beginning to see more bamboo used in expensive items, especially from Tommy Bahama. The advantage of the blends is that some offer the “iron free” label it and resistance to stain. They are also less expensive to produce and therefore this is passed on to the consumer.
Learn the labels – Manufacturer’s Different Labels
There are too many labels to list them all so I will list the prominent ones I know of. Instead of listing all of them here, it would be better to list the parent company and link to those pages where this is already broken out. Some are difficult to find but here are some links to what is available online right now. Let me know if you find better information.
Just added a new page showing some of my favorite brands with their associated secondary and diffusion lines: Manufacturer’s Labels.
If you are interested in which labels to search for in suits as to the most expensive, check out this page for The Most Expensive Suits and Tuxedos in the World. They are in order of most to least in this article as follows: Kiton, Brioni, Canali, Bottega Veneta, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, Anderson & Sheppard, Oxxford Clothes, Jay Kos, and Issey Miyake.
The most expensive clothing lines according to the article The Top 10 Most Expensive Clothing Brands of 2013 are starting from the most: Gucci, Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana, Prada, Armani, Versace, Dior, Valentino, Guess and Fendi.
Some of the better names to look for can be found with the “seven-fold ties”. Most seven fold ties will cost you between $100 and $300 each. Some of those you might consider looking for from low price to high are
Turnbull & Asser ($100-$150) the famous men’s clothier located on London’s Saville Row,
Borelli ($150-$200) which makes beautiful stripes and patterns,
Marinella ($250+) an Italian boutique designer that has apparently dressed many men in the oval office including Bill Clinton and Bush,
and last but not least the Italian brand Kiton ($200 – $300) which hits the top of the list for ties you can purchase in a store.
For my benefit as well as yours is a good website on the basics of ties, both formal and not as formal: tie-a-tie.net
Without looking in the women’s sections, I have found some great Giorgio Armani jackets for my daughters. One such jacket was purchased for $19.99 (yes, I paid full price) at a local Goodwill and I found it on the Neiman Marcus website new listed for $3,625.00. Now, that I can afford and it was in the men’s coat section. Found another more formal women’s Armani coat in another Goodwill in the men’s coat area once again that needs to see the dry cleaners but otherwise is beautiful. My point here is to look around other areas of the store while you are there. You may find that special surprise in an are you don’t expect. Look around.
Another example I like to tell people is when I found a great Valentino jacket. I recognized the stylized “V” and quickly put in the cart after verifying that it fit me. A little later on, while in the men’s pants section, I found the matching pants. This worked out great since I paid $16.98 ($9.99 for the jacket and 6.99 for the pants) instead of the usual $19.99 for a suit combination. Oh, even better, it was half price Saturday so I picked up the two for a total of $8.49, tax free. Not bad for keeping my eyes open, knowing what to look for and spending the time checking out the usual areas of interest. Look around!
Cuff links and earrings are typically put in the same box beneath glass so you need to ask the attendant to let you browse through the “other” box. Swallow your pride and you can walk out with some nice cuff links or earrings depending which sex you are. Ask to look around.
Sizing it up. Most Goodwills will sort their clothes by size but many times a shirt or pair of pants will be put in the wrong area by a customer who doesn’t want to walk back down the row to put the clothes back. Also, don’t go by the size on the Goodwill tag all of the time as these will be sized wrong so check out what you are looking for and then look inside the garment for the correct size. Look around the other racks for what you would like to carry out with you.
Tag color rotation (Central Arizona)
The clothing is tagged a certain color depending on when it is brought onto the floor. You can tell by the date of the tag as well as the week by the color on the tag. If you are color blind, the color is printed in text on the tag. A new color begins on Friday after the Dollar Day Thursday that helps clear out all tags for that week’s color. If a Dollar Day color is left the following Friday, it is removed from the floor and sent to the Clearance Outlet where it is sold by the pound. In Central Arizona, things are done a little differently so this may not apply to your stores. Here are the colors I’ve found that occur weekly one after another and then back again.
Blue (then back to Purple)
A great tip provided by the lady in the blue shirt at Goodwill was that on Dollar Day, be sure to check the rack next to the changing rooms for clothing that didn’t fit someone looking for that great dollar value. You will see a great number of the week’s color tag hanging here. Thank you to the lady in the blue Goodwill blouse!
These items are typically small in nature and easy to pocket for those of lesser scruples. You will find these usually locked in a glass cabinet toward the front of the store near the cash registers. If you are looking for earrings, watches, gold and other valuables, this is the place to find these. I located a glasses case with the magical words “Gucci” on it. When the employee handed the case to me inside were a pair of Gucci bifocals that worked better than my usual pair of glasses. The price offered was within my budget at $12.99 and were on my head as I walked out the door. I also look for tie tacks and cuff links in this area since these are typically fairly expensive otherwise.
Cuff links, tie tacks, tie bars, shirt studs (for tuxedos), watches, rings, earrings, are often found at the Goodwill of high quality. You need to educate yourself on what is good and try to get there before the gentleman with the “loop” does.
Looking for a leather couch but not too concerned about the color or need a bookcase and would like to have it made of solid wood? Check out your nearest Goodwill and if you don’t find it right off, continue checking back and you should find just what you need. There are two Goodwill stores in the Phoenix area that sell furniture only. The quality is top notch for the majority of what they have and so is the price.