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10 Goodwill Shopping Secrets Employees Won’t Tell You

Thrift-store shopping can be a real rush—finding a diamond in the rough, getting a great price. Follow these Goodwill shopping secrets to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the volume of selection.

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Teenager shopping at a flea marketArtMarie/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Donations Arrive Daily, and Inventory Moves Fast

Goodwill stores operate on an endless cycle: people bringing donations, employees putting them on the floor and customers swooping in. The inventory changes just about every day. If you ever strike out, then try visiting another day. Simple but effective, it’s just the first of our Goodwill shopping secrets.

Check out our top flea market finds, too.

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Young woman shopping online in cafe using lap top and credit cardfiladendron/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Don’t Forget to Shop Online!

Employees say that some of the higher-value items that get donated to stores don’t end up on the shelves—they’re listed online. Goodwill’s online shop offers a variety of housewares, electronics, clothes, toys and more, sometimes sold by auction.

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A worker is using a furniture repair marker to color fix a scratched cherry table surface. Three repair sticks rest to the left.BanksPhotos/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Know What’s Easy to Fix…

Look for valuable items at Goodwill. An ugly frame around a great piece of art is easy to remove (or vice versa!). A table with a chip is simple to correct with a furniture pen. A missing knob from a cast-iron pot is often replaceable. Picking up items with minor defects can save tons of money.

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Vintage toned portrait of a young beautiful brunette woman in London second hand marketplace. She is wearing casual Autumn clothes, an olive green parka jacket, browsing through the stuff in the market.lechatnoir/iStock/Getty Images Plus

…And What’s Not

Scratched nonstick cookware is actually dangerous. Cracked wooden bowls or utensils can harbor bacteria. Wobbly chair legs might always annoy you. Smells are difficult to banish. Slow down and take time to assess your items for flaws that will keep them from being useful.

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Man in thrift shop - second hand storeknape/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Donations Are Big on Weekends

When do most people have time to swing by Goodwill with bags full of stuff? The weekend, of course! Time your shop for Monday or Tuesday to see the spike in inventory. Arriving early in the morning generally lets you beat the rush.

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pile of household things, various dishes and decorative objects at boot sale for second hand, recycling or over-consumption society at outdoor welfareSophie Walster/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Look for Special Occasion Items

One of the best secrets about Goodwill? The cache of quality, special items. Think nice glasses, vases, plates and table settings. Cool retro items, like patterned Pyrex dishes, often go for a song. Don’t forget to check for holiday items, too, from ornaments to tableware, which go for a fraction of the price of new.

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various kitchen utensils on wooden tableMagone/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Single-Use Appliances and Tools Are Big

Lots of people get certain single-use appliances and tools and wind up never using them. Think waffle irons, electric skillets, avocado slicers, lemon squeezers and juicers. If you’re in the market, check a couple local Goodwill stores first.

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Variety of assortments in store of antique furnitureJackF/iStock/Getty Images Plus

You Can’t Always Pick It up Later

Buying something large, like furniture or electronics? If you can’t carry them out right away, be sure to ask how long the store can hold them for you. In some cases, the store has a limited window, after which they may sell the item to someone else.

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Look for Quality

Cast-iron skillets are famously better the longer they’re used, even if they’re rusty. (Here’s how to fix that.) Look for heavy-bottomed pots and pans; fitted lids are a bonus! Name brands are a good sign for most products, from electronics to cookware. For clothing, check the tag for natural materials.

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A senior African-American woman in her 60s working in a clothing store. She is standing in the menswear department at a rack of clothing, holding a clipboard.kali9/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Check for Discounts

Many Goodwill locations offer discounts for military members, students and seniors. They also offer coupons and email discounts. Check your local Goodwill for details.

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Woman holding Clothes with Donate Box In her room, Donation Concept.chokja/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Donations May Be Seasonal

People tend to clean out their houses during certain times of year. Summer, when yard sales are popular, is generally a good time. Busy periods, like holidays or back-to-school time, often see slow-downs in donations.

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