Employees Tell Me Clever Ways to Maximize Your Savings at Goodwill

Updated March 26, 2024 by Kyle James

I have a love/hate relationship with Goodwill. I love the deals I can find, but I hate having to rummage through other people’s junk to find the hidden gems. So when I set out to write this article, and find some insider ways to save at Goodwill, I honestly wasn’t sure what I was going to discover. But I was VERY happily surprised with the shopping hacks that Goodwill employees gave me, some of which you won’t find anywhere else. Happy savings.

Employees Tell Me Clever Ways to Maximize Your Savings at Goodwill

Look for Student, Military, and Senior Discounts

Sure, Goodwill is pretty cheap, but try not to pay full-price if you can avoid it by using one of these discounts.

The strange thing about these discounts is that I rarely see them posted in the store.

Instead, they make you ask about them and probably hope you won’t inquire and just pay the full asking price.

Student Discounts

One employee told me to ALWAYS ask about a student discount.

She said it does vary a little bit by Goodwill store as some locations have a 15% student discount good for every day while some offer a 25% discount only on Sundays.

She said all you need to do is flash a high school, college, or even a trade school I.D. card.

Military Discounts

Another discount that the vast majority of Goodwill stores offer is a military discount.

Some stores offer 25% off all donated items on Tuesdays and some offer the discount on Wednesdays.

I was told by Jenny at my local Goodwill that they’ll give the discount for both active military and veterans. All they ask for is a driver’s license or valid I.D. with the Veteran or Military designation on it.

Senior Discounts

Those 55 or older will also get 25% off senior discount at Goodwill.

The discount is typically early in the week, on either a Monday or a Tuesday, just ask about it.

You’ll just have to show your I.D. showing your age, kinda like getting carded at the bar when buying a beer.

Not all offer 25%, my local store only offers 10% to seniors, but they offer it every day of the week.

BONUS: Other discounts at Goodwill to ask about include those for teachers, nurses, and first responders.

Look For Mismarked Items and Negotiate

So full disclosure here…I sell stuff on eBay that I find at a discount at thrift stores like Goodwill, Salvation Army, garage sales, and stuff around the house that we don’t need anymore.

One of my favorite tips is to look for items that have the wrong price on them and ask an employee to reprice it.

So, for example, if Goodwill has 3 identical Pyrex bowls and two of them are priced at $9.99, and one is at $14.99, politely ask an employee if they can mark the more expensive bowl down to $9.99 and you’ll buy all 3.

I’ve had several thrift store employees happily do this for me and they usually tell me it’s not a big deal at all.

Also, if the price tag is completely missing, ask an employee to put a tag on it and grab the cheapest similar product as the “example price”.

Show the lower price to the employee and there’s a great chance they will put that price on the unmarked item so you can buy it on the cheap.

See Also: Tips to Learn How to Negotiate at Big-Box Stores and Not Feel Cheap

Look For a Coupon BUT Don’t Always Use It

Goodwill coupon

Be sure to do a Google search for “Goodwill in YOUR TOWN” and hit up their website and sign-up for their emails and they’ll send you a monthly 20% off coupon on your $20+ purchase.

Doing some quick math, the coupon basically gets you a minimum $4 discount. So if you’re only buying $15 or $16 worth of stuff, it’s worth it to grab another item to put you over $20 as it’ll be free.

BUT with all of that said…keep in mind that you cannot stack coupons or offers at Goodwill so only use it when you CAN’T take advantage of a 25% off discount like the student, military, or senior discount mentioned above.

Ask About Price Tag “Color Days”

Goodwill color price tags

Almost every Goodwill has a day of the week where they choose a certain colored price tag and sell it for 50% off the original price.

My Goodwill does it every Sunday.

They’ll pick a price tag color and let shoppers score even better deals on those items.

Ask about it at your local store because they usually don’t advertise it anywhere in the store, YOU GOTTA ASK.

At my store, the black tags are the more expensive items so whenever they offer “Black” discount Sunday I’m there EARLY to find the deals.

Shop in Affluent Neighborhoods or Smaller Towns

The best deal I ever got was at a Goodwill in Lake Tahoe, one of the richest areas in the country known for their winter sports.

About 10 years ago, I walked away with an almost-new Burton snowboard and boots for only $50. They would have cost me over $300 new at the time.

Affluent areas will always have better brands, typically in better condition, because many folks will just donate stuff rather than trying to sell it at a garage sale or on Facebook Marketplace.

These Goodwill locations are great for golf clubs, ski/snowboard stuff, name-brand purses, designer jeans, and like-new shoes.

I literally could go on and on but I think you get the point.

Tip: When on vacation in an affluent area, always hit up the local Goodwill, you’re guaranteed to find some gems.

Also, if you have the choice between a Goodwill downtown in a city, or in a smaller town, ALWAYS opt for the smaller town location.

The prices in cities will almost always be more expensive than at your Goodwill stores in smaller towns.

Don’t Ignore the Goodwill Return Policy

Goodwill receipt

I was checking out recently at Goodwill and asked what their return policy was, figuring everything was probably final sale.

Tonya told me, “NO, definitely not final sale. Just bring it back and get a refund or store credit. Just make sure you have the price tag still on it and it hasn’t been like 2 years.”

So you might be wondering so what? It’s all used stuff, what’s the big deal.

Well, many folks, myself included, don’t want to try-on used clothing in-store. So bring it home, wash it, try it on, then reattach the price tag and return it if you don’t like it.

You can either put the price tag back on with a safety pin, or buy the tool that reattaches them for you for $10.

Know the Quality Brands If You’re a Reseller

If you’re a flipper, or considering reselling stuff on eBay, Goodwill provides some great opportunities, BUT ONLY if you know the brands and products that are easy to resell for a LARGE profit.

As someone who has dabbled in this, here are the BEST brands to look for, especially when it comes to clothing brands, housewares, and even electronics.

– Men’s Clothing Brands: Polo Ralph Lauren (Made in the USA), Howler Bros, Pendleton, Patagonia (especially vintage), Levi’s, Rock Revival jeans, True Religion jeans, Ariat jeans, Carhartt jackets, Rhoback, Arcteryx, CC Filson, Faherty, and Ben Silver.

– Women’s Clothing Brands: Alemais, Dale of Norway, Frank & Eileen, Nili Lotan, Veronica Beard, Doen, Rails, Love Shack Fancy, Moussy Vintage, Retrofete, St. John, AYR, Margaret Howell, and Issey Miyake.

– Kitchen and House Stuff: Pyrex, Lodge, All Clad, Le Creuset, Corelle, Duralex, Libby, vintage RevereWare, Tupperware, Heritage Rock, Pampered Chef, and Reidel crystal.

– Electronics: Anything classic Nintendo, PlayStation console, some Wii games, old controllers in good condition, Bose, Bose power cords, VCRs in good working condition.

Ask the Reader: Do you shop regularly at Goodwill? What’s your favorite tip to maximize your savings? Let me know in the comments.

By Kyle James


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Odester Miller

I love Goodwills, but at some locations you can’t buy something at another store and trade or return.