5 Thrifting Mistakes You’re Making at Goodwill


If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times, “You find the cutest stuff at Goodwill. I never find anything.” Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have any magic Goodwill pixie dust or magic thrifting power. If you’ve read my Tips for Gold Digging and still leave the store defeated and empty-handed, you may be making one of these five thrifting mistakes!

  1. You don’t have a plan. Goodwill is big, really big, like Forever 21 in Times Square big. The vast size and inventory at most Goodwills can intimidate many newbie and virgin thrift shoppers.  You need a plan of attack as soon as you walk in the door. This varies by store because each Goodwill store is laid out differently. If I walk into a new store, I scope out the sections first then prioritize based on time. If I’m short on time, I always go to dresses or shoes first.
  2. You don’t try everything on. I know the dressing rooms are a little cramped and not too fancy, but you can’t skip trying on your finds! I usually have a buggy full of clothing and can easily narrow my haul in half after trying on. This is also a good time to inspect each garment carefully any missing buttons, broken zippers, frayed hems, or holes.
  3. You are too distracted. Yes, there are McDonald Flintstone cups from the 90’s, oodles of Bill Cosby sweaters, and tons of other tchotchkes that will take you back to a fond childhood memory. Acknowledge this memory and move on because you have Goodwill gold to find!
  4. You are caught up by the cheap price tag. Yes, it’s cheap. That does NOT mean you have to buy it. This is one of the mistakes I often make. J.Crew sweater for $3? Cool graphic tee for $2? Being mesmerized by the affordable price does not change the fact that the cool graphic tee may hang in your closet unworn for the next 2 years! I set a budget for my shopping trips and force myself to stick to that budget to ensure I only buy items I really like or need in my wardrobe.
  5. You are in a hurry. Time is an invaluable commodity. We live in a society where busyness is glorified and we’re all in a hurry. You cannot have the same mindset when you walk into a Goodwill store. If I’m making a serious trip, I try to allocate at least 2 hours in the store. I know it seems like a lot, but you would spend just as long at the mall or TJ Maxx. I make quick trips if I’m looking for something specific, but I always leave feeling like I left treasures on the racks.

 Are you guilty of making any of these thrifting mistakes?  I hope my tips help you become a better Goodwill shopper! Share your finds on Instagram with the hashtag #goldwilldigger!

Pin on PinterestShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someoneShare on Tumblr


  1. October 24, 2016 / 7:34 am

    Vintage shopping or places like Goodwill tend to overwhelm me … but probably because I’m making ALL of those mistakes! Love these tips!

    xo Jen
    Skirt The Rules

    • November 1, 2016 / 3:31 pm

      They can be overwhelming! I hope these tips are helpful!

  2. October 28, 2016 / 10:34 pm

    I hear from people all the time who don’t have much luck at the thrift store too. These are great tips! I have a similar strategy. I have specific things I look for, like ugly 1970s neckties and vintage fabric that I upcycle. Since I am basically looking for vintage stuff when I shop for clothes, I use the”stick and move” strategy – only grabbing the things that jump out at me from the rack.

    • November 1, 2016 / 3:31 pm

      That’s a great strategy, and I think that skill comes with time and thrifting experience. I can easily tell if I like something or not within 20 seconds.

    • November 1, 2016 / 3:29 pm

      Thank you! It’s so easy to spend hours in there!

  3. November 1, 2016 / 9:01 am

    These are great tips! I always spend a few hours in goodwill when I’m there!

    Lee – leethrifts.com

    • November 1, 2016 / 3:29 pm

      Thank you! It’s so easy to spend hours in there.

  4. November 4, 2016 / 8:07 pm

    These are great tips! I also get asked about my ‘abilities’ but really I think you can’t underestimate experience. Thrifting often gives you the knowledge and familiarity with a shop to really be successful. I’m definitely popping by your blog again!

  5. November 5, 2016 / 11:10 am

    Great tips! My sister and I hear the “I never find anything” complaint all the time. These things can be hard to put into words when you’ve been thrifting for so long you can’t remember what it’s like to be new to it.

  6. November 9, 2016 / 9:09 pm

    You had great ideas here. I love Goodwill. I know before I go in though, how much time and money I have. I know what I am looking for so everything else is not allowed in my cart…except things for the grandkids. ..then it’s okay.

  7. Sophia
    January 14, 2018 / 11:58 pm

    I was raised on goodwill shopping (and now work there as a cashier) and I honestly can’t buy anything from a retail store. I think a lot of people don’t realize that it takes time and strategy to ruffle through things before you can find anything. But that’s what makes shopping there fun; that moment when you find that nice jean jacket you’ve been wanting, and double score, it’s 50% off, is such a thrilling moment. I also think a key thing here that I’ve been trying to teach a friend of mine is that if you like it (even if it’s not your size or gender), put it in the cart. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or whether you’re on a budget, chances are only about 25% of what you try on is going to fit or look good. But this goes hand in hand with trying stuff on (!) New clothes are very different than used so chances are you might end up fitting into a small when you’re normally a medium so it’s always better to just try it on. These (and the tips mentioned above) are definitely cardinal rules for me.

    • January 15, 2018 / 8:59 pm

      I agree 100%! I always say that even if I won the lottery, I would still shop at Goodwill! This is a great tip too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *