Save big bucks when you pay by the pound and shop at a Goodwill Outlet

by Katy on May 19, 2017 · 26 comments

The following article first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com. 

You may have started to incorporate thrift stores into your shopping routine as part of a plan to minimize spending, and to that I say “bravo!” as there are more than enough goods on the second hand market for all of us. However, you might have noticed that thrift stores are not as cheap as they used to be. So for those of you who want to bring your spending down to the absolute minimum I recommend that you check out your local Goodwill Outlet store.

Goodwill Outlets, a.k.a. “the bins” are completely unlike any other type of retail establishment, as you pay by the pound for most items, which means that lightweight items can be insanely cheap. (Think mere pennies for a blouse or baby clothing.) These stores are located throughout the country, but are not for elite shoppers who care more about artfully arranged displays than bargains, as all the merchandise is dumped into blue roller bins and only slightly categorized. However, the brag worthy deals can make it worth any inconvenience.

The New York Times recently published an article about the Goodwill Outlet in Long Island City which focused on the competitive culture between the regular shoppers who resell their finds. I have found this to be true of the Goodwill Outlets in my area of the country as well, although I’ve learned that I’m able to avoid potential drama by avoiding the bins when they’re first wheeled out. Instead I shop from many bins that have been on the floor for more than 30 minutes, yet still find wonderful bargains. I’m always a bit overwhelmed when I first walk into the building, as the sheer amount of stuff can be intimidating, but instead of letting that reaction be a barrier, I simply choose a bin and get to work.

Here you can see shoppers waiting patiently for a new row of bins to be wheeled out:

And here they are moments later grabbing shoes by the pound:

Shopping from a Goodwill Outlet is not ideal for those times when you’re looking for a specific item, but don’t let that get in your way. You may not know what you’re going to find, but that can be a blessing rather than a curse. My last “bins” trip netted me these items:

The total cost was $33, which is pretty amazing considering that the new version of this Dyson is on sale for $399.99!

And look how pretty the shelf is!

If you’re lucky enough to live in an area of the country with Goodwill Outlet stores, you should give them a try or two. The bargains rival any other retailer and you might even score something beautiful, useful or simply hilarious.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Beth May 19, 2017 at 11:36 am

I love shopping at the GW Outlet!

I’ve found canvases and picture frames, a mail holder for our living room, a decorative pillow, gift wrap/packaging/decorative boxes for presents, large envelopes for sending pictures to my Grandma, and other random office supplies.

I’ve also found a lot of clothes there for both myself and the toddler. I just found a brand-new pair of ankle boots there last week, and I found my gray winter pea coat there last year.

I don’t find much to resell, but I have found some brand new kids’ clothing that I take to the consignment store for cash (which I then add to my son’s clothing budget).

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K D May 19, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Wow! I guess there is a Goodwill Outlet within about 20 minutes of my home but I feel too intimidated to pursue going there (and I know my propensity for buying “bargains” that I do not need). What a great thing for those willing to take advantage of the opportunity. Thank you for the post Katy.

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Bee May 19, 2017 at 1:24 pm

After reading this article, I searched for the nearest outlet store. Lo and behold, there is one about 15 miles from home. Although it is not in an area of town that I usually go, you have convinced me to give it a try. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I used to be a loyal Goodwill shopper. However, the stores in my area have been in decline for many years, Maybe that is where they are sending the good stuff,

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Katy May 21, 2017 at 9:06 am

Like any thrift store, it’s hit or miss.

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Queen of Fifty Cents May 19, 2017 at 1:27 pm

Maybe it’s just uber-polite Salem, but I haven’t experienced any rude competitors at the bins. In fact one lady heard me say I was looking for linen and she took a dress out of her cart so I could have it!

Latest find: a Mii Collection scarf that would be over $200 (inconceivable, I know) in one of the boutiques that sell them. My price, 17 cents.

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dawnelle May 19, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Katy, how do they decide what goes in those outlets and what goes to the normal stores?

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Katy May 21, 2017 at 9:07 am

The stores are a combination of things that didn’t sell and things that the regular stores don’t have room for.

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Roberta May 19, 2017 at 4:41 pm

I cannot find a Goodwill Outlet, even though I live in a large urban area. I am often jealous of the bargains you find there! (On a related note, I stopped by Goodwill today looking for sunglasses, did not find anything I was willing to wear, and left again without spending anything, so that was a win!)

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Rb May 19, 2017 at 5:37 pm

By us we have an outlet like that but run by St VincentDePaul’s donation center. Its called the Dig N Save. Or The Dig. By the pound and its a little like dumpster diving but indoors and only slightly more clean. I wear plastic gloves. On wed we get half price so its only 50 cents a pound. My husb and I do a bogo at a local coffee place then hit the Dig for the cheapest date ever.

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Gina May 20, 2017 at 2:55 am

Ooh, a St. Vinnies outlet? Nice!!!

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Susan May 19, 2017 at 6:20 pm

I LOVE THE GW OUTLETS!!! We have 2 here in MPLS and it is so fun to go through the bins. My 5 year old comes along and we call it “treasure hunting”.
I have found linen Eileen Fisher dresses, Prana clothing, and too many other awesome things to mention. OK- one more, a still in the box, 6ft. Prelit Christmas tree for 2.99! You are right about the protocol. I have seen people flip a coin when they each have a shoe from a pair and a screaming match between women about a bin. A kindly thrifter clued me in when I was about to dive into a new bin before the whole section was ready. Big no no. 😉
All in all, good fun and great bargains.

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CarolineRSA May 19, 2017 at 9:31 pm

Nothing like this near where I live, and our two local thrift shops are small and not always well stocked. Yesterday, however, my husband found 12 discs of our favourite British comedy for R10 each! Months of evening TV watching for R120. These can retail for R200+ ea. Score!

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Gina May 20, 2017 at 3:01 am

I love the GW outlet stores too! Unfortunately, there are none in my rather large city, but I am in Indianapolis every other Friday and actually schedule in time to visit at least one of the three located there. It’s a scavenger hunt! Yesterday, I actually found a Coach purse in good shape and am going to try to sell it. I rarely spend more than $29. What’s interesting to me is watching the culture of regular shoppers. I’ve seen people grab things for other regulars. And, like you, I stay back and let the seasoned shoppers go first at the bins!

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Gina May 20, 2017 at 3:02 am

Typo! $29 should be $20. Fingers!

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Mrs. Picky Pincher May 20, 2017 at 4:09 am

Before you mentioned it on your blog, I’d never heard of a Goodwill Outlet! But I’m sure that it’s a great way for Goodwill to get rid of their huge stock while making some moolah. 🙂 I’m gonna go see if I live near an outlet!

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Diane May 20, 2017 at 4:50 am

Definitely wear gloves! Mine always looks like an array of physicians working the blue bins with surgical gloves. And wash items immediately. This advice coming from someone who has had a bed bug invasion.

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Grace May 20, 2017 at 5:12 am

Love the GW outlet. I do have luck finding things that I am specifically looking for – most recently it was a Casio electronic keyboard for my grandson to use when he visits this summer. I had to order a power cord for it, but the total cost for the keyboard and cord came out to less than $15. Wearing gloves there is critical, lots of broken glass, so bring the kind with neoprene protection, not just surgical or latex gloves.

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Kelly May 20, 2017 at 7:38 am

the bins (we have 2 in Portland,Or) are great. treasures and trash. But one of the best places ever to people watch – you’ll see it all. Men in business suit, punk-rockers, moms and kids, Little Russian grandmas – fun to talk to people there.
There are jean and book resellers – artists. you name it. It’s highly entertaining. And I have found good stuff there. But I can’t do the shoe bins, just something about it grosses me out.

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Liz B. May 20, 2017 at 2:35 pm

I recently found out that there’s a GW outlet not too far from where I live (it’s in Dayton, OH), but the reviews dissuaded me from going….people fighting over items, broken glass, etc. I’ve been a thrifter for 20+ years, so things that need to be cleaned/washed/etc don’t bother me. I may need to grab some neoprene gloves and give it a try.

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Katy May 21, 2017 at 9:09 am

I’ll have to remember that if I’m ever in your neck of the woods. I went to college outside Dayton and may meander through there some day.

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Liz B. May 21, 2017 at 11:29 am

I had no idea it was there, until one time on my way home from somewhere else in Dayton (it was maybe 6 months ago) I drove past it. There was also a Vietnamese restaurant on the same street, but not near the outlet…..I considered making a lunch/shopping trip, and may still do that one of these days.:-) Where did you go to school? I live in Lebanon, Oh.

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Heather May 21, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Go anyway! If you are seasoned you’ll be fine…if it is really bad you never have to go again!!

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Liz B. May 22, 2017 at 1:22 pm

You’re so right, Heather….the worst that could happen is….I win’t find anything. And I can have a yummy Vietnamese lunch, too!

Katy May 22, 2017 at 7:58 am

Antioch College, bay-bee!

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Liz B. May 22, 2017 at 1:20 pm

My hubby almost went there! (Had his mind changed for him due to a minor family crisis at the time….that was 20+ years ago).

Heather May 21, 2017 at 5:51 pm

I love to watch “Goodwill Hauls” on YouTube. Some are from the bins. I really love “Nicole STATE” on YouTube. She and her husband go to the bins daily and the both make a full time job of it. They resale on Ebay and other sites. They share lots of tips of the trade plus they are nice people and interesting to boot!! The next step is dumpster diving…stuff for FREEEEE!!

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