Why Goodwill Will Always Rock My World

by Katy on September 6, 2009 · 28 comments

Levi's Carpenter Jeans

My day started innocently enough. I spent a few hours pulling all the food from the refrigerator until I found the covert source of smell that was starting to peel the paint from the kitchen walls. Once the offending rice and beans were demoted to the compost bin, I had a bit of free time before needing to drive across town to pick my son up from a sleepover.

Which in my world means — Goodwill time!

I don’t know if it was a back -to-school thing or simply a typical Saturday afternoon at the Portland main Goodwill, but the joint was hopping. The parking lot was full and all the aisles were crowded with bargain hunters. I kind of like having the store a little more to myself, but I figured I’d take a quick look around for my current mental keeping an eye out list. (Backpack, tea kettle, jeans for the 13-year-old, like-new Vans for either boy, Sigg bottle, Pyrex leftover containers with lids.)

I maneuvered myself through the hordes, all the while noting that everything looked thoroughly picked over and was having zero luck in checking anything off my list. I did eventually come across a pair of Levi’s carpenter-style jeans that looked like they would fit my 13-year-old, who is growing faster than should be legal. The price of $4.99 was hardly a fabulous bargain, but they were in perfect condition and I know the pants that fit him at the end of the school year would no longer work. (Goodwill is good about returns, so I could always bring them back if they didn’t fit.)

Once brought home and duly tried on and approved, the jeans were unceremoniously dumped onto a laundry pile.

So this evening I’m putting a load of laundry in the wash, absentmindedly turning everything rightside out and giving the pockets a quick once over.

Wait a minute, what’s that crinkly sound in the front pocket of the new Levi’s? Why, it’s three one dollar bills!

Yup, my son’s $4.99 Goodwill jeans came with $3 in the pocket!

Which I consider to be waaay more fun than a $2 pair of jeans! And is why no one will ever convince me that buying brand new clothing could possibly complete with my sweet, sweet Goodwill.

By the way, those jeans would have cost at least $40 new, as he now wears adult sizes. And yes, that $3 will be joining my ever-growing savings account. Because if this doesn’t fit in the category of unexpected money, I don’t know what does!

Think this is a once-in-a-lifetime find? My sister once found a ten-dollar-bill in her son’s Goodwill pants, and I know a woman who found a diamond ring in the pocket of a Goodwill jacket.

Are you a rabid thrift store shopper? Please share your stories in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathryn Blume September 6, 2009 at 5:21 am

Just got a gorgeous red silk ball gown for a wedding I’m attending. $5.


Jinger September 6, 2009 at 6:19 am

I love it! I want to go thrifting and tomorrow Saver’s is having 50% off!


Cheryl September 6, 2009 at 8:36 am

You have awakened thrift shopping in me. My mother used to take us when we were little. Then I went once when my son attended a school that required a “uniform” (certain color clothing) because I bought over $100 worth of clothes new 3 times and when I washed them there were crayons each time in another pair of pants that destroyed *everything*…Ugh, he does his own laundry now and I still find things in the dryer that should not be there!


Sierra September 6, 2009 at 9:00 am

I actually rarely shop for clothes at all; we get most of our things through community clothing swaps. We do have a Goodwill in our neighborhood, which is my default store when I need to buy something, but it’s not without it’s challenges: http://childwild.com/2009/09/02/conversation-at-goodwill/.

Also, I don’t know if you’re aware that Sigg recently admitted their bottles have been lined with BPA: http://childwild.com/2009/08/26/sigg-bottles-lined-with-bpa/. You may want to look for a different type of reusable bottle if that’s a concern for you.


Donna September 6, 2009 at 10:18 am

I love Goodwill..I once bought 5 pairs of slightly worn jeans all brand names that would have set me back at least say..$200.00 dollars for a mere..20 bucks! I wore said jeans for not one or two years..but at least 5 or 6… work, play going out to social events..I can’t imagine paying full price for jeans.


Tam September 6, 2009 at 11:19 am

I’ve always loved thrift store shopping, but until recently moving back to Seattle didn’t do too much of it (no thrift stores in our CA neighborhood—closest was about 25 miles away and way too pricey!)
I hit up at least 2-3 thrift stores a week…my friends and family know that if I bought it that’s where it came from. My sister in law just saw a Kate Spade bag I have and said ‘Kate Spade? I know that didn’t come from the Goodwill’…she was a little upset as she looked at her designer purse that cost about $500 and mine that came from the Goodwill Outlet for about $2!
I love your story about the $ in the pocket! That’s one thing you won’t find retail!
About a year ago when my son was just beginning to read we were at Goodwill outlet and he found a book that had planets on the outside and wanted to buy it, but it was an astronomy textbook so I said no because we have very little storage space and what’s a 1st grader going to do with that…he kept looking through the pictures and came across a $20 bill. I felt like it’d be stealing to just take the money, so we ended up buying the book for 1.49 🙂


Elizabeth B September 6, 2009 at 11:34 am

Interesting. The Goodwill stores in my area (SF Bay) take returns only on electrical items, only within three days, and only if there’s something wrong with it. And $4.99 for a pair of jeans is actually a bit cheap; mine usually run about $6.99 or more. Though I did score some Tahari and Christopher Blue jeans a while back that ended up costing me about $5 a pop with a coupon. I like to wait for the $2 clothing sales and go nuts then. So cheer up; you could be paying more. 😉


Marlyn September 6, 2009 at 12:32 pm

I love it! That is so cool to find money in the pocket of thrift shop jeans. That’s even better than finding money in the washer after doing a load of laundry!



Leah September 6, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Elizabeth is right- Goodwill prices vary. In my hometown pants are generally 6.99, although where I go to college nearly all clothing is under $3.00. But that still beats the ridiculous prices of new clothes- $20 for a t-shirt?!

My recent valuable discovery was from the public library’s “Friends of the Library” bookshelf, where all books are $.50. I found an old hardcover copy of my favorite book, This Side of Paradise, which is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s favorite book. It was a find at $.50 no matter what, but my jaw really dropped when I got home and figured out it was a first edition, making it worth something like $350.


Kristin @ klingtocash September 6, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Wow. It’s like finding treasure. So cool!


Katie April 18, 2012 at 7:26 pm

I once purchased a wallet at my Goodwill for $1.99. I used it for about a month before I realized that deep in the card slot there was a Jamba Juice gift card. I figured it was empty but checked online and found it was still good for $20. 🙂


Katy April 19, 2012 at 6:17 am

That is awesome! I know someone who bought a jacket and found a diamond ring wadded up in toilet paper in a pocket.

Not as tasty though.



BarbS September 6, 2009 at 8:33 pm

I recently scored several pairs of flannel pajama pants — 2 or 3 pairs for each family member. I guess that people don’t think of buying them in the summer, so there was a huge selection. 3 pairs still had the tags on them. I’ve also recently picked up 2 pairs of snowpants and a winter coat for my 13 year old. I love having extras of these to use when one set is soaked. Plus, they’ll be handed down to the next child.

The most I’ve found is $2 in a pocket, but a friend of mine found, I kid you not, $100 in EACH front pocket of the most perfect designer jeans at a thrift store. Not only did she save big bucks on the jeans, she found $200. (can you tell that I am jealous?!)


Happy Mum September 7, 2009 at 1:24 am

Maybe this thought is far out there, but I’m interested… What about giving the $3 back to Goodwill next time you’re there, or dropping it into an Oxfam/soup-kitchen/whatever collection box, or…

Is Goodwill a charity? Maybe they could do something beneficial with the money — which maybe, in a sense, isn’t really yours…?


Wendy September 7, 2009 at 5:23 am

I also just scored a pair of Levi’s for my 13 year-old son. The price was $4.50 which is a good deal. However, it was “Family Day” which is every Wednesday; everything was ½ prices so I only paid $2.25! The pockets were empty, however.


Dawn September 7, 2009 at 5:28 am

I have been shopping at a local consignment shop for clothes but have not thought of going to Goodwill. I know there is one in the town I work in, not far from my house, so I will be checking it out this week. I can only hope there are as many great bargains there as everyone here describes. I live 5 miles outside New York City so I don’t think it will be as inexpensive!


Tracy September 7, 2009 at 8:11 am

At my local American Council of the Blind thrift store, I recently bought a new-with-tags pair of dark-wash DKNY flared jeans for $8 (not a great deal for resale, but they price some of the new stuff higher), a great, padded laptop computer bag for $5, a new pair of stretch canvas navy blue Keds for $3.50, and a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo pumps for $4.

I don’t care about labels and brands, but that stuff is made well and always fits me great!


Lisa September 7, 2009 at 12:38 pm

At the consignment store this week I got a pair of Manolo Blahnik sandals and a pair of Born clogs for $10 each and a Coach bag for $40.

I also got 2 sweaters and a top at the thrift store for 4.50 each. Much better than paying retail and no additional packaging to throw away.


laurie September 7, 2009 at 4:07 pm

I have been a junk store junkie, thrift store freak, garage sale queen , etc… since waaaay back when… it’s in my blood, i suppose since my dad always dragged me along (“kicking & screaming” then!) to anywhere he could find to hunt for something cool or odd for cheap (he had an “antique/collectibles” shop which he mainly stocked that way-MY dream now!) There is soooo much waste in this world, and most everything is FAR too expensive. It is ridiculous, ESP. in the US where we are such a disposable society. I heard the statistic the other day that the average “life span” of 99% of newly bought items is SIX MONTHS! (ie: people trash 99% of the things they buy NEW after just 6 mos. of use). No wonder so many people are in debt…ANYway, I have far too many awesome thrift store score stories to list, but most recently, my killer finds have included a pair of BRAND NEW not-a-mark on ’em Columbia Sportswear Co. hiking boots for 99 ceets, alike-new REI snowsuit for my soon-to-be-born grandson for 25 cents, a Baby Bjorn snuggle carrier for a dollar, a Kate Spade purse for $2, and various VHS movies we have not yet seen for a dime each. And don;t even get me started on clothing…I have a huge closetfull and would be hard pressed to find something i bought new! I am thinking of starting a thrift store blog too and now wish I had been keeping a list of superstar buys for all these many years now! I am sort of “addicted” and find lots of “fixes” living in a suburb of Seattle…but I concur that prices at the thrift stores nearer and in the city can be much higher. Back in my hometown of St. Louis, Mo. The Goodwills all had standard prices for each type of clothes (like jeans $3.99, dresses $4.99 whatever) but I find here that each item is individually priced which is a big hassle (and often negates the bargain aspect, for me t least). I am also “spoiled” with the 2 nearby St. Vincent DePaul thrift stores selling all clothing for 99 cents every Sunday…can you guess where I am on most Sunday mornings??! As for finding an extra monetary surprise in an already cheap purchase, I only have one story-I once found $7 in a pair of $1 shorts I bought, which naturally, made my day over & above the excitement of the shorts! Happy thrifting, all!


Karen September 7, 2009 at 6:17 pm

I hadn’t even thought of the packaging issue involved in new clothes–bad me! Well, it doesn’t matter because I hardly ever buy anything new. I love our nearest Goodwill to pieces. The best things there are wonderful picture frames, linens and purses.

I have scored 2 Kate Spade purses there. It’s funny because the last time that happened, the purse was marked 7.99. I took it up to pay for it, and the cashier looked at the price and said, “That isn’t right.” My heart was beating wildly as I tried to calculate what they really meant to mark it, and what my top price would be. But instead of up, the price went down. Shaking her head, the cashier told me it was really 4.99. I felt almost as if I were getting away with something, but it also made my day.


AJ in AZ September 9, 2009 at 8:26 am

I have shopped thrift stores for many years now, and very rarely buy anything new. It really doesn’t take that much time to walk through the store once a week or so, and that is usually the time I find the very best bargains.


Melissa September 12, 2009 at 1:36 pm

I once bought a gorgeous full-length, camel-colored, wool coat at a Goodwill for something like $1.99, and it had about a dollar in change in the pocket! By the way, the Goodwill boutique store in downtown PDX across from the library is fantastic (but not as cheap as the regular GWs). Also, don’t you worry about not donating that $3 back to GW – the ones in our area and the most successful in the U.S. and pay their corporate employees very well.


Magdalena September 16, 2009 at 4:03 pm

When my husband was in hospital long-term this year and I had no income but a few dollars generously donated by friends, I went to the Sally Ann thrift store (britslang for Salvation Army) to get appropriate clothing for his rehab stint – flannel pants and t-shirts. If I’d had to buy new, I wouldn”t have had money enough to eat! I rarely find what I wear (Plain dress) at thrifts, but its a good source for the ankle boots I prefer, at less than $10 a pair.


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