Ex-Goodwill Employee Shares How to Save DOUBLE at Thrift Stores

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blue goodwill sign on store front outside

Get the inside scoop!

We’re sharing tips & tricks from an ex-Goodwill employee on how to save big bucks at Goodwill! Plus, some important things you definitely want to know before you shop there.

Hip Tip: Before I jump into all the juicy details, it’s important for you to know that all Goodwill’s are individually owned. Therefore any sales, special deals, or coupon values, will vary for each location and some locations might not have them at all. Additionally, all stores are unique in what is available since items are all donated. 

Here are all our insider’s tips and tricks she shared to save BIG at Goodwill:

1. Stay up to date with your local store to grab freebies.

laptop screen with goodwill locations

First and foremost, she shared that staying up to date with your local Goodwill is the key to knowing the inside scoop on daily, weekly, and monthly sales. Sounds too easy, but believe it or not, not many people do this. So make sure to sign up for their local mailing list so you’re always in the know.

It’s also a good idea to keep up with your local Goodwill’s Facebook page (if they have one) as they often post current sales, coupons, and special events. As an example, here’s the Goodwill of Southern Nevada Facebook page.

Not only will you be the first one to know about special sales, but you’ll also receive coupons on occasion and learn when they have store freebies. For example, last week at our insider’s store, teachers could get a free book with any purchase and they also hosted a kid’s club where all kids could score a free toy or book with any purchase! 😍

2. Go to the weekly color tag sale days and pay as low as $1!

blue and cream floral dress with red tag

That’s right! Every week some Goodwill locations have a special color tag sale day so make sure to keep up to date on their website or next time you head in-store.

For example, here’s a specific Goodwill store page that lists their current and upcoming sales. You can expect to see sales anywhere from 30%-50% off and sometimes even tags that sell for just $1 each!

3. Be a loyal Goodwill shopper to save more.

clothes from goodwill

The more you spend, the more you’ll save! If you’re apart of your local Goodwill’s loyalty program, chances are you can score coupons on a future purchase if you spend a certain amount.

“My Goodwill has a loyalty program and you earn $5 every $100 you spend. Clothes are usually in decent condition, we have colored tag sales. Last month the store had a back to school sale and clothes, shoes, and backpacks were 15% off. I scored 50% off the blue tags, 15% off on top of that, plus it was triple points day!!” – Christina 

4. Be the first person through the door!

red and white izod tag on blue white stripe shirt

It’s probably no news to you that some people make a living on buying cheap stuff at Goodwill and selling it for a profit. Sometimes stuff is priced for way less than it’s worth (unknowingly) therefore the good stuff is sure to fly out the doors.

Since employees price new items at night, make sure you’re the first person in the door so you can get to the really good deals first. And don’t forget to always ask an employee about current sales every time you shop!

5. Shop at a Goodwill clearance center and pay only by the pound!

peach orange baby gap floral cardigan

Something a lot of people don’t know is that Goodwill makes an effort to ensure items don’t end up in landfills so one major way you can contribute is to shop at one of their Clearance Centers. Here you will pay a low cost by the pound, rather than paying for each item individually. So if you’re stocking up on some pretty lightweight stuff, be prepared for some big savings! For more info on their clearance centers, click here.

To find your nearest Goodwill Clearance Center, head to their store locator and type in your zip code. You’ll then need to scroll down until you find a store that’s called a “Clearance Center”.

*Note that Clearance Centers are temporarily closed due to COVID, but we’re anticipating their reopening!

6. Save extra cash if you’re a senior or military member.

man standing by Goodwill sale sign

In order to save on your future purchases, you’ll just need to sign up for Goodwill’s free rewards program, which you can do at your local Goodwill store. Note that these sales and days stated below can vary by location, so make sure to check out your location before you head to the store.

  • For military members: At my local Goodwill, military members can save 10% every day on all their orders.
  • For seniors: If you’re a senior over 55 years old, you can shop certain days to get anywhere from 20% to 40% off.

7. Shop every other Saturday for an extra 50% off.

children's sizes sign at goodwill

At our insider’s store, you can save an additional 50% off when you shop every other Saturday! Of course, this will vary per location, however, most stores have something similar during each month that you should keep your eyes peeled for.

“My Goodwill has been doing ‘bounce back’ coupons…a coupon for $5 off a $20 purchase valid the following weekend on the bottom of your receipt…pair that with the Sunday dollar deals and I often score awesome items!

My most recent exciting purchase was a beautiful form fitting burgundy Calvin Klein wool peacoat – for a grand total of $1! Plus, I have a goodwill discount card and it was my birthday month, so I got an extra 30% off one purchase, bringing the peacoat down to .70!” – Sarah

8. Find out the best day to make donations.

Goodwill boxes in living room filled with donation items

If you’ve been avoiding a drop off at your local Goodwill, now is the perfect time to find out what the best day actually is. At most Goodwill locations, they host special donation days, where you can receive a pretty sweet coupon to use on your next shopping trip. It’s a win, win – drop off your unwanted goods and received money off when you’re ready for something new.

If your store doesn’t have this, you can still ask for a receipt and claim your donations during tax season for a write-off. Sweet!

9. Expect the unexpected when you shop.

wrapped mattress store with sale sign

There’s definitely a unique collection of goods at every Goodwill store. However, there’s stuff you may not realize could be there – and for super cheap! You can likely score great deals on sports equipment and even find brand new mattresses if you’re in the market for a new bed!

11. Sign up for text alerts to save even more!

hand holding a phone with goodwill texting tuesday to save money

Once you find your local Goodwill location, sign up for text alerts to receive coupons and be the first to hear about sales. About every other Tuesdays each month, you can expect to receive your location’s latest news.

“I do love our Goodwills and actually get a large portion of our family clothes there. We get sent text coupons every other Tuesday which usually gives up an additional 10-20% off!” – Sarah

Here are 10 things to ditch in your home right now so save BIG!

Sara is a self-taught blogger and photographer with 5 years of experience having work featured in various building, travel, and fashion publications, most notably Bassett Furniture and Fossil.

Join The Discussion

Comments 165

  1. Angelica

    I like to shop on the goodwill online. I find some pretty great deals on the website. I’m addicted and I check it every day.

    • Jamie

      Me too 🙂

    • Yvonne

      I like shopgoodwill.com too but the shipping for certain items is just crazy.

      • Edith dannemiller

        Only shop for local items and pick up in person.

      • Veronica.

        Ask if they offer combined postage. And request a combined invoice.

  2. Mona

    In Houston Goodwill Stores are way overpriced. I can find better deals at Kohls or Walmart — perhaps even Dillards outlet – than Goodwill. One other thrift store starts with clothing marked down to $1.50 on Monday and decreasing .25 per day until only .25 on Saturday. However, I am amazed at the number of people purchasing clothing at Goodwill when Kohls and Walmart are an arms length away.

    • Rebecca

      I prefer thrift shopping because I can get better quality stuff (J Crew, LL Bean, etc.) than Walmart, and I like the idea of reusing clothing that’s still in good condition. It’s also the thrill of the hunt because you never know what great stuff you’re going to find! It is hard sometimes though, because you can’t trust sizing – you never know what’s been shrunk or stretched out so everything has to be tried on.

  3. Elaine

    I work for Goodwill in Florida and our CEO does not make millions. That was a rumor passed around some years go. We are a non profit who support a lot of programs. Some programs are the homeless program, Traumatic Brain Injury, Adult Day Training, Mentoring youth who are labeled as failures, Charter School for persons 13 to 22, Deaf Services and Lighthouse for the Blind and Autistic Program. If you’re interested in seeing our programs in detail, go to gulfstreamgoodwill.org There you will see what we do with the money we make in our stores. It’s true every Goodwill is different, but the stores we have in Palm Beach County are amazing and there are tremendous deals.

  4. Shannon

    Why are all the comments deleted on this post? People arguing?

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Be sure to click on “older comments” to find all of the others! It seems there is more than one page of comments for this post. Hope that helps!

  5. Ann Stokman

    Excellent tips!

    • Brenda Schoenberger

      Clothing is marked thru out the day not at night. There were other things mentioned that are not 100% true! I work for Goodwill so I know!

  6. Pat

    Not all Goodwills are the same. Ours never have coupons, never have sales, other than the $1 color tags every week on clothing. They are the worst thrift store for bargains.

  7. Rebecca

    I prefer thrift shopping because I can get better quality stuff (J Crew, LL Bean, etc.) than Walmart, and I like the idea of reusing clothing that’s still in good condition. It’s also the thrill of the hunt because you never know what great stuff you’re going to find! It is hard sometimes though, because you can’t trust sizing – you never know what’s been shrunk or stretched out so everything has to be tried on.

  8. SaraJT

    I love shopping at my local Goodwill store. The town I live in isn’t the biggest so this particular store gets a lot donations from Target of all kinds of items. During my pregnancy I was able to find almost all of my baby stuff here for super cheap. All brand new items in their packages from target such as vibrating seat, swing, bath tub, potty training chair, Carter’s clothing, jumper, baby carrier, car seat covers, etc. I was even able to stock up on boxes of baby wipes and baby diapers of all sizes! I’m so grateful for this store. I don’t think I could have paid full price for everything at Target. No need for coupons here 🙂

  9. Erica

    My local goodwill stores do not have $1 days, we have 50% off one day a month and its a mad house. Things are so overpriced, $5 for jeans $3 for kids, $8 dresses…its gotten ridiculous. I can go to the TJ Maxx or Walmart clearance aisles and get new stuff for the same price if I look often enough.

  10. nancy

    Goodwill Stores are privately owned. Therefore they live well from your charity. I donated for years thinking I was helping the needy. Not so…A new store was added in Lou, Ky… prices more than doubled. There are charities that clothe needy families and help people with home furnishings. Hosparus has stores that help the sick people they provide care for. Know what organization is really for helping others

  11. Patricia Faulks

    I am glad to know that they have goodwill online shopping I like shopping online.

  12. Patricia Faulks

    I love shopping online at goodwill

  13. Kerry M

    Goodwill Boston offers weekly “colored barb” sales-but I’ve seen them physically pull those particular color coded items and re-tag them. It’s rare to actually get items on their discount days-most are pulled and re-tagged.

    Additionally-I was charged double for a $7.99 dress today and I was accused of stealing (re-tagging an item in the store) last week.
    for an organization that claims to do great things for the local community I find them to be a horrible place to shop. I no longer donate there.

    • alderaan20

      I’m pretty confident they do that at our Goodwill stores in Solano County (CA). I don’t even make shopping on their “sale days” a priority, knowing I will only occasionally score something half off. Tucson was great for those sales, though. I miss that place.

  14. anne

    None of these tips are applicable to the Goodwill’s in my area…. no big senior discounts ( only 10% one day a week), and no big discounts. Most of the time I can buy the item new and on sale for our Goodwill prices.

    • Nancy

      Same in my location. 10% off to Seniors on Tuesday’s only. Saver’s gives 30% off to Seniors every Tuesday. I see employees removing the 20% color discounted items quickly off the shelves. Why is that???

  15. hollyp1234

    I love to thrift shop. I used to thrift a lot in high school with my Mom, but I kind off fell off that wagon with Amazon. I’m getting more back into thrifting and love to go to Goodwill, Plato’s Closet and a few local little shops. Thanks for this post!

  16. Yenti

    Our local Goodwill (St Robert MO) does almost NONE OF THIS. Sadly they dio NOT offer a military or senior discount and they are 6 miles from a Military base. They NEVER offer free ANYTHING….manager said they are NOT A HANDOUT for the poor. I’ve seen people come. In And ask if they could pay less for their child a coat(because they didn’t have the $$) And manager would say no we have to pay for some of the stuff that we get we can’t be a handout. And the items (except clothes and shoes) they disposed of in a dumpster behind their building by using a compounder to smash it. So NOT ALL GOODWILLS ARE THE SAME. OURS SUCKS AS FAR AS CUSTOMER CARE

  17. Mimi

    At the Goodwills in Katy & Houston Texas, they remove all the color tag sales items for the week. It’s laughable. You search the whole store & can never find any tagged items even on DVD’s.

  18. Pamela Ray

    The Goood Will in my town prices are way 2 high and you wouldn’t believe the things they throw away

    • Sara

      Oh no, Pamela! I’m so sad to hear that. I really don’t like the thought of it going to a landfill. What a disappointment!

  19. Lainie

    I don’t think our local Goodwill offers any deals or specials. They are also outrageously overpriced and their staff is grumpy.

  20. Melissa

    Goodwills in central NC sort their clothes by color and not size. Often times I will skip looking at clothes because it is overwhelming and time consuming to search through each color and hope you find something in your size. I just don’t understand this system

    • megancurl

      They think that they are Platos Closet. lol

  21. megancurl

    Here’s why I stopped donating to or shopping at my local Goodwill: 1) they never, ever have decent stuff; rarely name brands and everything in awful shape, 2) I brought in a Pottery Barn table that was in VG condition to donate, but because I had removed the legs (to fit it in my car), they refused it because “it was too much work” (I later sold it for $350 on OfferUp), so for 15 minutes with a Phillips head, they could have made at least that amount, and 3) I noticed that the store manager was driving a fairly new Mercedes (see item one – which also goes to the good stuff never made it to the floor). Disgraceful!

    • DawnNJ

      Why do you care what kind of car the store manage drives?! Your story about the table is not believable.. why would you have tried to donate a table you later sold for $350?

  22. D wilson

    As if July 30 2021 here in Chandler Arizona local Goodwill stores have color tag sales with 50% starting on Fridays. On Thursday that color tag goes for a $1.00. Tuesday is senior day with 25% off and I believe military and students day is Wednesday with 25% off. We also get a 20% off coupon online we can use for our whole purchase not on sale. This coupon can be used once a day. You can sign up online at http://www.goodwillaz.org. We also have a outlet pay by the pound in Phoenix area. Not as nice as our old one in Salem Oregon.

    • Stacy F (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Wow, thanks for all the helpful tips, D Wilson!

  23. Jaded

    None of these tips apply to the Goodwill stores in my area. They have done away with the colored sales even. What a joke they are! I’ve seen them try to sell the socks you get in a hospital (for FREE) prior to surgery for $2.97. They also sell Dollar Tree items for $2.97 even though the actual Dollar Tree store is next door and customers could walk over and purchase the exact item for $1.00. My store is greedy and disgusting. The manager is a nasty human being. They have no qualms about selling obviously broken items for exorbitant amounts of money. Shirts are now $4.97. Pants are $6.97. Those are ridiculous prices. Families that have relied on Goodwill cannot afford to shop there. I’ve tried submitting feedback to them that if they lowered prices, they would sell far more in quantity. Someone needs to come in and take over.

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