How To Shop at Goodwill & Thrift Stores

This is our most recent purchase. $20 and it's the biggest picture I've ever seen.

This is our most recent Goodwill purchase. $20 and it’s the biggest picture I’ve ever seen.

The boyfriend and I make an almost weekly trip to the Goodwill near our house. Sometimes, if we have the time and are in the mood, we will go to all the thrift stores and Goodwills near us to look for furniture, trinkets, art, etc. and sometimes we come home with nothing and sometimes we come home with a lot of things. It’s a hit or miss situation.

There a couple basic reasons why people shop at thrift stores.

  • You can’t afford something, but you need something new.
  • You want to buy something new, but want to save money.
  • You aren’t looking for anything specific, but might spend some money if you found something good.

Shopping at thrift stores can be overwhelming and disappointing, so, since we have so much experience, I thought I would share my philosophy about thrift store shopping. (For fun, I took pictures of most of the things in our house that were purchased at thrift stores.)

1. Be Realistic


$40 from the thrift store — we looked for a couch for about 3 months.

Sure, sometimes people walk into Goodwill the second that nice, perfect couch is put on the floor and, la-de-da, they have the perfect couch. However, more often than not, when you traipse around your Goodwill you are going to see a lot of stuff you don’t want, because it’s old, broken, dirty, has a funny smell, and/or is super hideous doesn’t go with your home decor.

Be realistic about thrift store shopping. If you are looking for a specific item – a couch, a lamp, a coffee table- remember that you can head to a normal store and buy one, like, now. Thrift store shopping requires you to wait until that item actually arrives, if it ever does. But, if you can be patient, you could save some major dinero. So, be realistic when you open the Goodwill doors.

2. Be Patient & Persistent


This hutch, brown baskets included, wasn’t on our list of must-haves, but when we saw it for $25 we scooped it up.

If you’re thrift store shopping because you need something new, but you can’t necessarily afford to buy it, then you have to be patient. Again, you can head to any store and buy that item immediately. Thrift store shopping requires patience because you must wait, and wait, and wait to find that item in the store. The boyfriend and I spent a good five months looking for a new coffee table before the right one appeared and we bought it for $15. If thrift store shopping is the way you’re choosing to shop, make sure you have enough time to wait to buy whatever it is you’re looking for.

Persistence is key. You never know when someone donated that awesome looking kitchen table, and, chances are, if it’s great, someone will buy it right after it’s put on the floor. Don’t give up. Keep popping in the thrift stores to check out what’s new.

3. Be Picky


We had to have another seat in our apartment, so we had to buy this 70’s looking chair when we saw it. We couldn’t afford to be super picky.

Thrift stores can trap you because you’re like… a candle holder for only $1.50?! I’m getting it! And then your entire house is filled with random junk that clutters up your bookshelf. Have specific items in mind when you go thrift store shopping and do your best not to deviate from the plan.

Even the best laid plans can go awry, however, so if you do see something you just have to have, go for it. But be picky. Not every single nightstand is really the nightstand you’re looking for. (Unless you must have something right now, like you can’t wait, and you must have it… then you may have to be a little less picky.)

If you can stick to these rules, I think you’ll have some luck shopping at thrift stores. It’s a great way to save you some money. We also really enjoy the thrill of never knowing what we might find. Anyone else have any thrift store shopping tips or great finds at Goodwills? Happy shopping! (All the stuff pictured below came from Goodwill!)

tv standwhite tiny shelvesmantleisland

shower flower

porch flower


Well? Thoughts?

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