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How to shop thrift for gifts

If you are like many and 2020 has been difficult on your wallet, why not save money this holiday season by shopping thrift for gifts.

Here are inside thrift tips on how to take advantage of thrift-store treasures this holiday season.

Shop new secondhand items

One of the most exciting parts about thrift shopping for Christmas on a budget is that while you are buying items secondhand, it doesn’t mean that they have been used or previously worn. It just means they have secondhand prices!

If you want to shop thrift for a great way on how to save on Christmas gifts but don’t want others to know you did, search exclusively for items that are new with tags.

Plus, buying preloved items not only saves money but it has the added benefit of helping the Earth by reusing an item that would have otherwise been thrown out.

By buying secondhand, your money will go further. You won’t even come close to the limit of $35 that you set for spending on Aunt Marie when you find that new-with-tags Gap cardigan sweater that has comfy written all over it and is a thrift-store score at $8.99.

Auntie will appreciate the great find, and you’ll appreciate the savings!

Take advantage of great deals by thrift shopping online

If you have someone on your list with expensive taste or who enjoys collecting such items as milk glass, you will find endless options at

Goodwill locations throughout the country, including Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin, have listings on the e-commerce site. You’ll find name-brand purses, top-of-the-line jewelry, must-have electronics, irresistible artwork, fine collectibles and more.

Search at the top right for items you are shopping for and scroll through the listings. If you want to save on shipping, do an advanced search and filter by seller. (We are listed as WI-Appleton-Goodwill of North Central Wisconsin and offer free pickup at the Shiner Center on Spencer Street in Appleton.) Some are auction listings and others have a buy-it-now option. Either way, you will find deals upon deals!

For other online thrift options such as Goodwill NCW eStore locations with curbside pickup and other marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay, visit

Theme it up with a gift basket

Gift baskets are tailor-made for the recipient and will bring joy to the buyer as well. Not only are they easy and affordable, but you can save by shopping secondhand for as much as you want.

Once you know the recipient and what she likes — travel, the spa, chocolate — the theme part of a themed gift basket gets so much easier.

Not sure what she likes? Come up with an idea that pretty much anyone would love, like a stay-warm-in-winter theme with blanket, slippers, bath bombs, wine glass and bottle of wine; or a game night one with a big popcorn bowl, puzzles, games, playing cards, dice, snack mix, hot chocolate, mugs, candy treats.

Buy all the items that go inside first and then get your basket or other container so you know that everything will fit. Top it off with a beautiful tulle ribbon, tie an ornament on it or attach a tiny picture frame or clip.

Here’s a thrifting pro tip: Take advantage of the 50% off color-of-the-week tag and really save on baskets, tins, wood crates or dishes you can use to put your gifts into. Think outside the box, so to speak, and don’t just put it in a gift bag. Presentation is everything here!

Some themes and gift ideas:

  • Baker: Spices, kitchen towel, spatula, whisk, oven mitt, measuring spoons, recipe cards. Put it all in a mixing bowl or bread tin.
  • Book worm: Variety of books, magazines, chocolate, candle, fuzzy socks, bookmark, homemade cappuccino mix. (Keep in mind that no one minds a used book. It’s the concept libraries are built on!)
  • Coffee addict: Coffee mug, candle, travel coffee mug, coffee, chocolate-covered spoons, blanket, biscotti.


DIY fall décor

Now is the time to decorate your home for fall with new-to-you thrift finds. When shopping for decorations, don’t limit yourself to just traditional items.

Grab some unique pieces — think vases, plaid scarves, candles, greenery — from your local Goodwill thrift store and let the decorating begin!

Step 1: Gather supplies

  • Vases and pitchers
  • Candles and candleholders
  • Plaid or fall-colored scarves
  • Small decorative items
  • Fall greener and sprays

Step 2: Coordinate your look to complement the room.

Here are some tips:

  • When decorating, think in odd numbers, with three or five pieces.
  • Arrange decorations with a range of height in mind.

Fashionista: A Halloween costume made for a princess

Halloween is upon us, and if you need a costume head on over to Goodwill!

Being that I am a GW fashionista, it’s a no-brainer that I chose to be a princess. I love my beautiful gown with its yards and yards of tulle and sparkly beading. All I needed was my crown and a wand and found it all at Goodwill.

I wish it could be Halloween all month because I love that dress so much. And my granddaughter loves anything Disney princess, so I really do it for her. Wink-wink!

If you want to be an evil princess then be the Disney icon we all love to hate — Cruella De Vil. She is wealthy so an extravagant dress, long gloves, black and white wig, statement jewelry and a long cigarette holder would complete the look.

Take your creative ideas and have fun putting together your own homemade costume. And, hello, no high spending on those outrageously flimsy costumes from big-box stores. When you say HALLOWEEN you say GW!

Cost breakdown: Light blue tulle and sequined dress, $14.99; and tiara and wand in a package, $5.99.

I love being a legit princess on Halloween. Happy Halloween shopping at Goodwill.

About Therese Bishop: Therese is Goodwill’s fashionista and always is on the hunt for her next great treasure. She writes regularly about her fashion finds.



Halloween costumes inspired by pop culture

By Sophie Leppanen

It’s 2020. While we can’t control time or predict the future, let’s take solace this year in celebrating some iconic characters whose beloved stories and valuable lessons transcend time itself.

Hua Mulan

This year, Walt Disney Pictures brought to the world a live-action adaptation of its 1998 animated film, “Mulan.” Disguised as a man, this heroic female Chinese warrior goes to battle in place of her father, Hua Zhou. The character of Mulan was first celebrated in Chinese folk songs dating back to the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 A.D.). Girls have rocked the planet a long time, and you can, too, this Halloween!

Wardrobe ideas: Dress up in true ancient Chinese warrior fashion. Red robe, tan pants, brown boots and a silver-plated skirt (tinfoil works well). Your hair can be up in a high bun or down for the windblown warrior look.

Prop: Remember you’re going to battle so don’t forget your sword. If you’re sweet on the ’90s’ version of “Mulan,” you might incorporate Mushu into your costume with a stuffed animal dragon from Goodwill’s toy aisle. If a lucky cricket is more your style, check out Goodwill’s home décor section for a candle lantern or bird cage.

The Baby-Sitters Club

Originally a series of novels by Ann Martin from the 1980s and remade into a TV series this year, “The Baby-Sitters Club” teaches us about friendship’s important role in helping us overcome life’s challenges. This story also captures something wonderful about the American entrepreneurial spirit, with four young friends venturing into a start-up business together called the Baby-Sitters Club. The four original members are perfectly suited for their club roles. Get your friends together for a group costume this Halloween and decide whose personality fits who best!

President (Kristy): Forward-thinking, trend-setter
Wardrobe ideas: Yellow sweater, gray turtleneck, jeans, sneakers, hair with a center part
Prop: Wear a backpack

Vice President (Claudia): Creative, bold
Wardrobe ideas: Big earrings, colorful scarves, a fashionable onesie
Prop: Carry an old-school corded phone, which is one of her contributions to the club (see what you can find in Goodwill’s electronics section!)

Treasurer (Stacey):
Personality type: Sophisticated, good with numbers
Wardrobe ideas: A print blouse, classic jewelry (think pearls), hair down
Prop: Wear reading glasses on top of your head

Secretary (Mary Anne): Serious and by the books in the best way possible
Wardrobe ideas: Jeans, button-down cardigan and classic braids
Prop: Carry a notebook and pen

Tiger King/Joe Exotic

This might be the one exception … Joe Exotic from “Tiger King” is definitely the first of his kind to ever walk the planet Earth — unapologetic, uncensored and unpredictable.

Wardrobe ideas: Blonde mullet, handlebar moustache, animal-print shiny button-down shirt (keep a few of those buttons unbuttoned), baseball cap or sunglasses over the head, brown working boots, necklace, leather fridge jacket, leather gun holster, silver hoop earrings.

Prop: A tiger stuffed animal or “Vote for me” pin

Couples costume: Who better for Joe to walk with than Carole Baskin? Any and everything animal print will work for her costume. And be sure to tell the story of how you met your first husband the entire night.

Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson from “Grease”

These two characters depict a classic American high-school couple from the late 1950s. Most remembered by the 1978 romantic comedy film starring John Travolta (Danny) and Olivia Newton-John (Sandy), “Grease” the film was inspired by a musical written in 1971 by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. Looking for a fun duo costume idea this Halloween? Look no further!

Wardrobe ideas: Black leather jacket or long-sleeve black hoodie, T-Birds logo paper cutout taped to the back of the jacket, a white T-shirt, rolled-up jeans and slicked-back (“greased”) hair
Prop: Carry a comb and use it often

Wardrobe ideas:
Ankle skirt, white blouse, button-down cardigan (try to match color of skirt) and ankle-strap wedges or sturdy heels
Prop: A notebook or “No smoking” sign

Halloween costumes for your pets

When it comes to getting dressed up, our beloved pets are in for a real treat this Halloween.

Dogs, cats and other pets are getting in on the Halloween fun by being dressed up for this sweet holiday as pet costumes continue to gain popularity. Nearly 18% of celebrants — or 29 million people — plan to dress their pets in costumes, according to the National Retail Federation.

Popular pet costumes this year will be pumpkin, hot dog, superhero and cat, according to the NRF.

Here are a few costumes found at Goodwill fit for our four-legged friends.

Snow White: Your pooch will have bragging rights as the fairest of the land with this bright and cheery look fit for a princess. Is there a prince in pup’s future?

Witch: Scare up some fun with this traditional costume that’s complete with a hat. This costume is meant for a child, but works great for your pooch!

Yoda: Let your dog feel the power of this legendary Jedi Master. He is small, but he is mighty!

Fashionista: Favorite fall look

Summer is gone, and my favorite season — fall — is now here. It’s time for layered looks, chunky sweaters and a cup of cinnamon tea.

I was on a hunt for something warm and comfy for my annual trip to the apple orchard. And like I always say, GW has it all! I’m never disappointed.

I found this warm sweatshirt with faux-patched sleeves and a little detail on the front. I live in soft leggings into winter so I was excited to find a neutral tone that will go with just about anything. Did I say how comfy they are? I thought out of the box by turning the belt into a necklace. You can tie it on the back. So cute! If you aren’t feeling it, you can use the belt as originally intended because of the belt loops on the leggings.

It’s such a simple look that took me 15 minutes to pull together. My next trip will be chunky sweaters so stay tuned.

Cost breakdown: Wine-colored top with fun suede details, $6.99; neutral-toned soft leggings, $4.49 with 50% off color tag of the week; mustard-colored tasseled belt, $2.99.

Have fun shopping all fall apparel at GW! You’re all set to make that apple crisp! Don’t forget the ice cream.

About Therese Bishop: Therese is Goodwill’s fashionista and always is on the hunt for her next great treasure. She writes regularly about her fashion finds.

How to host a virtual Halloween party

If loads of sugar from the Skittles, Starbursts and Snickers you’ve been attacking since they hit the store shelves aren’t giving you the mood boost you are desperately seeking, why not host a virtual Halloween costume party for family and friends.

Just because Halloween might look a little different this year because of the coronavirus doesn’t mean we all don’t deserve a treat. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, 17% of consumers say they plan to celebrate virtually.

Here’s how to throw a virtual Halloween party.

Pick the platform

Not all platforms offer the same features so do research beforehand, keeping in mind the number of guests you are inviting, how long you anticipate the party to last and ease of use.

For example, the no-cost Zoom option offers video conferencing for up to 100 participants, provided the party runs for no longer than 40 minutes at which point attendees are booted off.

What other platforms should you consider? FaceTime (all need to have Apple devices), Microsoft Teams (call time is unlimited) and Google Hangouts (10-person limit and all must have a Google account) are among the most common and likely familiar with your guests.

Plan the fun

Here’s where your creativity can shine! It might be a virtual party but it’s a party nonetheless so make sure it feels like one.

Establish a theme and ask guests to dress like their favorite Disney character, TV show icon or superhero. Or host a zombie apocalypse or an ’80s-style fright night flashback. Find everything you need to create a one-of-a-kind costume at your local Goodwill, the Original Halloween Headquarters.

Award prizes for the best costumes. Have all guests participate by telling them in advance to have paper and pen in front of them. When it comes time to vote, give everyone a minute to write down their answer and then count to three and have everyone reveal their answers — and the big winner.

How about designating a few word rules? When someone says pumpkins or pandemic, he or she receives the designated punishment, which could be having to sing a specific song or break out in a dance.

It’s not a party without food and drink so share a recipe ahead of time for a scary-good beverage to sip throughout the gathering and get things started with a spooktacular toast. Find some fun cocktail ideas here.

Other entertaining ideas could include a Halloween trivia contest or Halloween who am I? game.

Send the invite

Let everyone know you’re throwing a party – a virtual one – and include the specifics, like date and time, and any details about what the guest should wear or bring to the party. Don’t forget to send a link or information on how to log on.

Make sure it’s a success

Here are some tips and tricks to guarantee your guests will be clamoring for you to plan the next virtual party.

  • Keep the length of time to no more than an hour to avoid having guests dropping out. That’s a vibe killer!
  • com suggests setting an agenda to keep the excitement level up and the guests engaged. Share it ahead of time. “Online parties are easy to set up, but to guarantee their success, they might need a little more organization than a typical party. This is because at a virtual party, everyone is online together.”
  • Anyone who has worked from home, especially the past six months, knows all about muting your microphone when others are talking. Even if you aren’t speaking, the microphone picks up background noises.
  • Be mindful of camera lagging, according to com, and wait a couple of seconds after someone speaks to make sure you’re not talking over one another. “Camera lagging is pretty typical when video chatting, but don’t fret. If you have a spotty connection, give your friends and family a heads up beforehand so if your camera goes out, they’ll know you’ll be right back as soon as you can.”
  • Place your camera at face level, whether using a laptop or a phone. Holding a phone gets old pretty quickly so try propping it up against another object for stability.

There are plenty of fun ideas to celebrate Halloween with family and friends and host a costume party in traditional or nontraditional ways. The bottom line is you are spending time together, and that’s really what counts. Plus, no matter what it’s going to be one for the ages!

Cute and cozy crewneck thrift upcycling project

By Megan Roshak

Whenever I thrift, I like to purchase basic pieces that I can style in a variety of ways. I purchased this black crewneck a while back from Goodwill NCW and have enjoyed the piece for layering, but I recently got inspired to change it up with a simple and cute DIY.

To flip my current crewneck, I grabbed pearl craft beads, a needle and thread. You can find these supplies at a craft store if you don’t already have them.

I started at the top of one shoulder with my needle and thread and began to sew on pearl beads one by one. I worked my way down in a linear pattern until I felt like there was enough decor for my shoulder. I then repeated this pattern on the other shoulder.

Adding the embellishments allowed me to upgrade my crewneck in a simple and affordable way. If you have a crewneck that needs a makeover, try this out! And if you don’t have a crewneck to upcycle, head to Goodwill and score a thrift find for this do-it-yourself project.

About Megan Roshak: A lifestyle blogger from Green Bay, Megan loves style, a good deal and supporting her local Goodwill. You can find her on Instagram @megan.roshak.

From basic to super extra: best thrifted DIY costumes of 2020

By Sophie Leppanen

We love Halloween because there is no limit to how creative you can get with your costume. For the creative type, Goodwill is THE place that inspires and pulls together Halloween costumes that regularly win best-in-class. Sometimes building your costume idea around a beloved find from Goodwill is your best place to start.

Whether you want to make a quick DIY costume or are committed to getting super extra this Halloween, here are some of our favorite creative costume ideas of the year.

Superman/Clark Kent

Not to blow Superman’s cover, but you easily can dress up as heartthrob Clark Kent this Halloween with a few easy-to-find items at Goodwill: thick-framed black glasses, a button-down white shirt, an old-fashioned tie and a bit of hair gel. Don’t be shy; keep a few of those buttons unbuttoned and draw the eye down to a Superman tee peeking out of your white shirt. Be sure to practice your Clark Kent stance and facial expression leading up to Halloween so you can land it Every. Single. Time. throughout the evening.

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Now here’s a festive costume idea! Transform a dress, smock, sweater or turtleneck into a flashy and colorful cactus costume this Halloween. As long as you’re in some shade of green, you can pull this off. You decide what your sweet little prickles should be made of — try pipe cleaners, clothespins or tan yarn. Add pops of color to your costume with floral blooms made out of pink and yellow tissue paper. Tape the biggest of your flowers to a headband and wear the other two around your wrists secured with rubber bands or string. We want to see those arms at 90-degree angles at all times!

Get thrifty: Can’t find a green clothing article? No problem. Brown also will work. Just tell people you’re the cactus that didn’t get enough water.

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Nesting dolls

Want to doll up in a fun group costume this Halloween? Try Russian nesting dolls! One benefit of this costume is that even if there is some variation across everyone’s outfit, the essence of Russian dolls still will come across. Everyone in the group will need jeans and a light-colored top. Halloween in Wisconsin is chilly, so you’ll probably be most comfortable in a long-sleeved shirt or hoodie.

Next let’s talk hair. Matching hairdos wrapped in matching scarves or bandanas is an essential part of this costume. Try French braiding each other’s hair for fun!

Complete the look with a waist- or bib-style apron featuring a painted doll or Rosemåling pattern on its front. Luckily, you’ll find plenty of both apron options at Goodwill. Just remember everyone needs to have the same style of apron. For tips on how to paint fabric, check out this tutorial.

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Rocket Man

The rocket man costume is a labor of love and takes some time to make, but we promise you will be thrilled with the result. Start by sourcing a blaze orange pair of pants. Think construction, deer hunting or even reflective jogging pants. Fasten long pieces of red and orange felt or tissue paper to the pantlegs to create a fire stream effect and voila! — the blast-off part of your costume is complete!

Next, you’ll need to make a jetpack. Tape two 2-liter soda bottles together face-down and make two slits in each bottle to hold straps. Spray-paint the bottles gray and fasten backpack straps within the slits so the jetpack can sit comfortably on your back. Secure a few pieces of felt or tissue paper into the bottle holes to look like flames shooting out from the bottom.

The costume really comes together with this last step. Stuff a pair of pants with newspaper and secure socks and shoes to the end of the pants. If you want your rocket man’s legs shaped in a seated position, line the pants with sturdy wiring like bent clothes hangers. Fasten the waistline to your belly area using heavy-duty safety pins. Find a loose-fitting sweater or T-shirt and layer it on top, making sure it covers the top of the pants. Finish your look with a bike helmet, which you can explain to the neighbors helps protect your oxygen supply.

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Do you have a sweet little crawler at home? Turn them into a creepy little crawler this Halloween, complete with eight legs and big spider eyes. All you need is a black onesie (or shirt/pants), black socks and two pairs of black infant tights. Stuff the tights with newspaper and secure them to baby’s belly with plastic safety pins. Finally, glue two googly eyes to a black-bowed headband or black cap and secure it on baby’s head. Ready for the best part? Put baby belly-down on the floor and watch that little spider scoot!

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Halloween costume ideas that incorporate face masks

Face paint, masks and makeup traditionally are key accessories to putting together a Halloween costume that’s a howling success.

This year is no exception. While Halloween is a little different this season, we can play up the role of the face mask by incorporating them into our winning look. Stop by your local Goodwill for those one-of-a-kind pieces.

Here are five fun costume ideas complete with face mask to get you started.


This one loads on the cute factor and purr-fectly incorporates a face mask that girls will want to keep wearing long after the sugar buzz wears off.

Get the look: Black shirt or sweatshirt, black leggings, tutu, sparkly shoes, cat ears headband and tail.

Find the face mask: Black with pink nose and white whiskers and mouth,


Because of its simplicity, this bare-bones costume idea has mass appeal and works for children and adults.

Get the look: With some do-it-yourself skills, you can stencil and paint white bones onto a black shirt and pants using freezer paper. Find instructions on this low-cost technique here: Other options include iron-on skeleton bones or vinyl stickers.

Find the face mask:


Little princesses can be the belle of the ball this Halloween by playing dress-up and going as their favorite Disney character.

Get the look: Find gowns and dresses in the color of choice (Cinderella-blue, Aurora-pink, etc.), crown and sparkly shoes.

Find the face mask: and search princess mask or for a specific one

Candy bandits

Perfect for trick-or-treating, little ones or the whole family can get their fill of treats by using a pillowcase as part of the costume and also putting it to work to carry the candy haul.

Get the look: You’ll need a black and white striped shirt, solid black pants or leggings, black Converse or canvas shoes, a pillowcase with a dollar sign drawn on and black gloves.

Find the face mask: black bandana mask,


Superheroes are always super popular, and this year is no different. Let the little ones play up their super strengths with this mighty costume. The spiderweb-patterned face mask really plays up the mystery factor.

Get the look: Find the one-piece already made jumpsuit at your local Goodwill or get creative by pairing a graphic tee with a tutu and leggings.

Find the face mask:

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