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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Discount Thrift Stores? That Almost Sounds Too Good to Be True!

94 cents plus tax
So where does a frugal woman go for shopping when she's on a super tight budget? How about a discount thrift shop? Yes, there is such a thing in my area. It's where surplus thrift store merchandise is sold at a steep discount.

I had been vaguely aware of the Goodwill outlet for a while, but I assumed it was too far or inconvenient to get to from my house. Then one of my daughters heard from a co-worker that we had one in the town to the north of us. Still thinking this was a bit far, I asked my daughter to google map it for me. It turns out that our local Goodwill outlet is even closer to our home than the regular Goodwill store.

Okay, so how does the Goodwill outlet work, you may wonder. The merchandise is primarily clothing, but they also have some small hard goods and a section full of furniture. Nothing is on racks or shelves, but it is all contained in huge, wheeled bins. Clothing is not sorted in any way, all sizes and genders mixed together. It is piled high, and you have to dig through the piles to search. There is no way a person could see it all. That may sound like a bad thing. However, it means that some "good stuff" will still be there, undiscovered. Just an example, in my own search, I came across two 100% cashmere sweaters in great condition and in my size after a bunch of people had plowed through that bin. As the bins get picked over, the employees wheel them out to the warehouse and replace them with freshly-stocked bins. There are no dressing rooms. However, they do provide a power strip for testing small electric appliances. It's a bit noisy and chaotic. However, I found the other shoppers to be very courteous.

When you've found what you want, you take it to the cash register and your items are weighed by category. There's a large white board at the registers that indicates the price per pound for the various categories of merchandise. Everything is sold by the pound; any tags are irrelevant, merely reminders of where items were previously for sale. Shoes were selling for $1.15 per pound yesterday. Clothing and linens were selling for $1.59 per pound. And small electronics were 59 cents per pound.

75 cents plus tax
So, what did we buy? I carried around a pile of clothing for a while. At the end, I sorted it all and tried on what I could. I had dressed in leggings and a slim-fitting long-sleeved knit shirt, so I could slip items on over my clothes. There were no mirrors, so my daughter used her phone to show me how I looked in the garments. (If you have a smartphone, do you do that? Use your phone as a mirror?) Anyway, after discarding about half of my pile, I settled on one dress for myself and three items for my husband. In between looking through the clothing bins, I checked out the hard goods. I came across a handheld mixer to replace our broken hand mixer. It was missing it's beaters, but it was still in working condition. I have found that for the most part, the beaters for American brand hand mixers are interchangeable from one brand to the next. I have 2 sets of beaters leftover from hand mixers that have died. And both sets fit this new-to-me mixer.

The old Goodwill price tag on the mixer said $5.99, but I paid 94 cents. The dress that I bought is a Calvin Klein. I found the exact same style listed on ebay for $29 as a previously-owned dress. I paid 75 cents for it. I have my summer dress, now, and it barely put a dent in our budget.

The prices were fantastic -- I can easily see us going back and searching the bins again. In fact, the next opportunity I get, I'm going back to find a white cardigan or jacket to throw over this dress.

Does Goodwill have an outlet in your city? To find out, check this Goodwill outlet locator page.  Happy thrifting!


  1. I don't think I've ever heard of a Goodwill outlet store. You sure picked up some bargains! Sounds like you had a fun day.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Did you check the webpage link at the bottom of my post? There are a couple in your state. I don't know how convenient either would be. I don't think the Goodwill outlet stores are very well advertised. But it might not be your thing at this stage in your life. You do have a full plate right now.

    2. I did check the link, but it would be a good 45 minute drive for me to get there. You are right, I'm not at the right life stage for doing that sort of thing. But it's good to know they exist!

    3. Knowing your own limits is a very good thing, Kris.

  2. Whoa, I've never heard of this either. Sounds like the available stock isn't any more picked over than a regular Goodwill store--they're just saving money on labor by not having to sort and display items, so they're able to pass savings onto customers. I love this business model.

    I'm guilty of using my phone as sa mirror all the time, probably most commonly to check for food between my teeth after a meal. I could dig through my purse for a makeup mirror...but my phone is always already in my hand! Shameful millenial behavior.

    1. Hi Allie,
      From what I've read, the outlet stores are the last places before items are auctioned in lots or sold as rags to manufacturers. Even so, I still found several things that I liked, and was super pleased to find the hand mixer. "One man's trash, another man's treasure."
      The phone as a mirror thing is very clever, I think. It simplifies what you need to carry around.

  3. I, also, have not heard of a Goodwill outlet store and I see there are none in my state. If you have more time than money, it sounds like a great place to shop. Or if you just like the thrill of the hunt and the excitement of finding something for almost nothing, it could be a lot of fun. I see that this store may become a regular part of your rotation.

    I don't use my phone as a mirror, but I don't use my phone much. Sounds like a good idea in a pinch.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      you're right about more time than money. Some people use the Goodwill outlets as a source for items to resell. So, for them, the time involved is part of their business "expense." For me, I can see this place being a good first stop on a thrift route. I can be fairly quick in sorting if I have an idea of what things I'm looking for. I can size up an item in the seconds that it takes to lift an item from the right and place to the left, or vice versa. But this may not work for everyone. I found the best way to shop there was to carry around what was a possible purchase, then sort and choose at the very end. That way I didn't have to waste a lot of time deciding while in the process of going through the bins.

  4. I'm with the rest of the group who have never heard of a Goodwill Outlet. I checked the link and there is one very close to my home. I am going there tomorrow on my day off.


    1. Hi Alice,
      A couple of tips -- verify that the spot you're going to is still operating before going out, bring some work gloves and a tape measure, and if you're shopping for clothing for yourself, dress in as slim-fitting of clothing as you're comfortable so you can slip items on over your clothing. I didn't bring any gloves, but now see that is recommended by some people. I can imagine if you're sorting through the hard goods that wearing a pair of outdoor work gloves would make handling a jumble of items safer and easier. While there, I had wished I had a tape measure to see what might fit my husband. Some items didn't have sizing info on them, so I had to pass them up.
      Most of all -- have fun!

  5. There's one quite near to me, and it's very popular. I think some folks are stocking up to sell on eBay or flea markets. I check it out when I need materials for a project, but I've also found nice linens and clothing for DH and myself.

    1. Hi,
      I was thinking this would be a great source of cheap fabric for craft and sewing projects. I was kicking myself, after the fact, for not buying the cashmere sweaters. I could have turned those into a nice scarf or two.
      I'll have to search the linens. I wasn't paying much attention to non-clothing textiles. I'm glad to hear that the outlet has been a good source of items for you.

  6. I have heard some crazy things about the Goodwill outlets (especially about the cheap cheap prices!) and unfortunately there aren't any near me... But, I will definitely try to stop at one whenever I travel to a place that has one. Thanks for sharing!
    -Jenna ♥
    Stay in touch? The Chic Cupcake

    1. Hi Jenna,
      From what I've read, some of the Goodwill outlets can be more chaotic than others. Where I went, most everyone was pleasant and courteous, but I've heard that is not the case in some of the outlets. The prices were amazing, and to me at least, worth any trouble that I could have endured. But my experience was all good.


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