5 Insider Tips for Shopping the Goodwill Outlet

Goodwill Outlet Des Moines Iowa

Written by guest author Mary Brannen.
Instagram: @thebermgalow

My story is not unique to many. I have hard working parents that provided, but we lived with little or no disposable income for most of my childhood. However, when you long to be a fashionista, like my mom, you learn the best tricks of the trade and that is one of the many lessons I can thank the MVP for teaching me.  For as long as I can remember paying for my own clothes and decorating my own pad, I’ve been bragging about the pennies, or hundreds, saved and influencing my friends and family to do the same. The thrill of the hunt is in my blood and the big blue bins at the Goodwill Outlet have the best opportunity for bragging rights. With the boom in resale apps like Facebook marketplace, Mercari, and Poshmark, some people are making a nice side gig out of flipping as well. Now well into my 30s, thrifting has kept me out of debt and truly become a lifestyle. If you are new to the game, or even a seasoned thrifter, here a few of my best tips to make the most out of your day at the Goodwill Outlet. Grab your cart, a must have, and let’s go!

P.S. Due to the unique nature of the Goodwill Outlet, they are currently requiring both a mask and gloves for all shoppers. Read all of the guidelines for shopping at the Goodwill Outlet here.

1. Dig for name brands.

Although you may find a few gems with tags still attached, most items are gently used. To get the most out of your purchases, hunting for name brands is not only a better value, it is also better for the longevity of the item in your own closet. And the best part, when you pay by the pound, YOUR investment is the same!

2. Know your sizes.

Because there is no fitting room, and you can’t make returns, unless you are planning to resell, you need to know the sizes for whoever you might be shopping for and in your favorite brands. Make trips to the retail store to try things on so you know how Madewell fits vs. J. Crew and keep note. If you know your child will need a winter coat next year, make note of that too. Buying out of size for kids and keeping them in a trusted black and yellow tub can save you time and money when they hit a growth spurt overnight and their ankles and elbows are showing. You’ll be glad you snagged that pair of Cat & Jack’s or Under Armour’s with no knee holes to throw them in.

Items found at the Goodwill Outlet in Des Moines, IA.
Items found at the Goodwill Outlet in Des Moines.

3. Inventory what you need.

Looking for a desktop lamp, a pair of high waisted jeans, and a wall of baskets? Keep a note in your phone of all the items you are in search of to refer to right before going in and as a reminder when you’re knee deep. It can become overwhelming and you can end up overbuying, so this is key. Also, if you are a seasonal decorator, I have found its surprisingly best to shop during that season.

4. Just put it in your cart.

Everything is one of a kind at the bins and regrets aren’t good for the soul. Put all maybes in your cart and then when you are finished, go through what you have. Hot Tip: Most people do this at the bin right next to the register – solid gold – or they dump clothes in the housewares. Also, if you are on a budget, they will let you pre-weigh your cart, so you don’t overspend.

5. Time. Time. Time.

This is not a “stop quick on the way home” kind of thrift store. This is a pack a snack and water bottle kind of experience. Make sure you know the hours of operation and plan to be there for at least two so you can take your time. You will see people ravaging like they are on Supermarket Sweep, but if that is not your speed, don’t feel like you must keep up. There is plenty of goodness to go around.

So that’s it, you’re ready! If you are on the fence, give me a jingle or grab your best bud, and make a day of it. You’ll be so glad you did.

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