8 thrift store shopping hacks

It’s hard to say which is more rewarding — the thrill of the thrift shopping hunt or the good feels you get from knowing your purchase helps provide job training and other opportunities for your community. It’s like instant gratification and delayed gratification rolled into one amazing experience.

If you don’t know what you are on the hunt for, we suggest going through your closet first and weeding out the items that don’t spark joy, as our favorite Netflix queen of tidying up says. That way you won’t feel compelled to buy more of the same. You only want items that bring excitement and happiness to your wardrobe.

As Marie Kondo says, “Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.”

That’s what we call guilt-free shopping! Here are 8 thrift-store hacks to help you be the best thrifter you can be!

Shop between seasons

If you are looking for the best selection while thrift shopping, shop between seasons. Now’s the time when everyone has spring fever and is on the hunt for short-sleeve shirts and jean shorts. Swim against the tide and score! You can nab something now like a cool wintery poncho because everyone else is looking for stuff to pack for a spring break trip.

Pick your favorites

Pressed for time but in a shopping mood? If you only can dedicate 30 minutes but you need your fix, don’t comb the entire selection of thrift clothes. Instead, check out the category or categories you love most and stick to those. Focusing while shopping isn’t a bad thing and could pay off with a big reward, like scoring a vintage Harley leather jacket.

Seize the opportunity

The key to thrift shopping is if you think you might want something, grab it. If you are on the fence about it and pass it over only to come back to get it later, chances are someone else will have snagged it. That’s a downer you want to avoid.

Pro tip: Goodwill is in the business of donations, and what is donated to us is one of a kind. That means you might never see anything like it again. So, go ahead and take it home.

Check back often

Becoming a regular has itsivileges. When you stop by frequently, you will find some amazing thrift clothes and other items and will get an understanding of the kinds of finds available. You’ll also learn to recognize a good deal when you find one, apparel brands you prefer and opportunities too good to pass up — like a new-with-tags pair of Paige jeans.

Learn what day stores change the color tag of the week

Most thrift shops use different colors for the tags according to when the item was put on the floor. Each week typically the color tag of the week is changed, and that color is an additional 50% off the budget-friendly price already listed on the tag. For example, if you found a chambray shirt for $5.99 and it featured the color tag of the week, that means your find is now $2.99!

Pro tip: Our Goodwill color tags of the week change on Sundays. Check out our calendar here:

Check every rack, regardless of size

Take the time to look at all the different size sections and racks. You’ll have much better luck if you do. It might not be what you think until you put it on. Plus, if you keep an open mind with sizes, you might find an oversized sweater that might not originally have been intended to be oversized, but it sure is stylish!

Watch for NWTs

Seek out items on the floor that still have the original tags on them. One way you get the biggest bang for your buck at a secondhand store is by finding merchandise that only hung in a donor’s closet, not on their body.

See the potential in everything

Don’t judge items for what they are but see them for what they could be. The entire store is your canvas and even though you might not wear that wool sweater from the 1980s, it sure would be perfect for you DIY mitten project.

About Goodwill: Goodwill NCW is a not-for-profit human services organization that in 2017 helped improve the lives of more than 70,000 people across 35 counties in north central Wisconsin. Goodwill NCW is one of four companies in the nation to be honored with a Platinum Well Workplace Award from the Wellness Council of America, which recognizes our commitment to wellness in the workplace. The organization includes 27 retail stores and training centers in communities from Manitowoc to La Crosse, 24 human services programs, a unique shopping experience at its Appleton outlet store, plus online shopping at, a women’s apparel website, and It offers four Donation Express sites and 10 convenient donation bins throughout the Fox Cities. Goodwill NCW is a Platinum Level member of, the world’s largest source of nonprofit organization information. Visit

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