Tips for First Time Shoppers

Added by on August 4th, 2011 @ 12:17 pm
Today Ashley from Sweet William shares some Goodwill shopping tips – what to look for and how to maximize your dollar. Ashley is part of SWAPmaine and helped us with our swap this past spring! Check out Ashley’s previous blog post.

Creative Shopping Tips

If anyone is familiar with my blog, Sweet William, you will already know my love for Goodwill. There are very few places in this world where you can get the trendy pieces, wardrobe staples and unique finds all at an average price of under $5 an item – and all while helping a local nonprofit get people back to work and be self sufficient.

Well, maybe you could at a clothing swap like SWAPmaine, but that is only a special event each season! I have no trouble finding the latest trends and classic pieces that I am dying to have. Most of the time, the quality far succeeds that of chain stores. I can recreate runway looks for pennies on the dollar. Not to mention, each experience is fun. You are on the hunt for hidden treasure.

Working as a personal stylist, having Goodwill is great for those clients that don’t have a lot of extra money or those that want something different than the cookie cutter styles at the chain stores. It may be overwhelming the first few times you shop the store – the amount of clothes in the space and how many different styles, colors, prints, patterns, shapes and sizes is staggering. Once you learn how to navigate the store and know what categories you have the best luck in, you are good to go.

My strategy is to start at dresses, skim the tops and pants, go through skirts, then to blazers. I pull out anything that catches my eye, regardless of size. I definitely get a cart because I always fill it up. I try on everything. If something doesn’t fit quite right, you can always turn it into something else. And adding a belt to something a little too big is always a quick way to give it some shape. This is where you can get creative. You are not spending a lot of money, so if the reconstruction does not work out, there’s no need to worry. Just be careful when you go into the fitting room, you can only take 6 items, so keep a close eye on your cart. I have had other shoppers snatch really great finds while I was in the fitting room! Unlike shopping at other stores, you can usually buy everything you like! I rarely spend over $30 and leave with over 5 items!

Being a lover of high fashion and always trying new styles, one would think you need lots of money. For me this is where Goodwill comes in. With little to no budget for clothing, it allows me to buy more ‘trendy’ items and give crazy things a chance without worrying about the money.

Tips for shopping Goodwill stores:

  1. Always go in open minded
  2. Eat something first to keep up your energy levels
  3. Bring inspirational photos of outfits to recreate
  4. Make a list of tops trends to look for
  5. Start in one section and slowly make your way around the store, always saving bags and accessories for last
  6. For dresses, pants, skirts, and blazers, look through all sizes. Sizes of the past do not always correlate with sizes of today.
  7. Try on anything that speaks to you. Whether it is totally your style or something crazy new to try, just do it!
  8. The shirt and tee shirt section is always the largest and isn’t always filled with the best stuff, so just skim those racks and pull out anything that jumps out at you. This is always the quickest section for me to go through
  9. Remember anything can be altered or reworked. Turn a dress into a top or pants into a skirt. The possibilities are endless when only spending a few dollars.
  10. Keep your shopping cart close and your favorite finds closer! Don’t let anyone take advantage of all your hard work!
  11. Have fun! You will be surprised at how many cool things you can find and how little you will spend.


Ken Christian
Senior Director, Communications
Goodwill Administrative Office

Updated 12 months ago by Calvin Gilbert

Personal Growth & Goodwill NNE

Donations & Goodwill NNE


Born and raised in Portland, Maine, Ashley Jordan, 27, has always had a love for the creativity of fashion. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Ashley has quickly emerged as a pre-eminent purveyor of fashion knowledge in the Portland region. Ashley has worked as a Buyer & Merchandiser for Sun City, a Visual Manager at Abercrombie & Fitch, Assistant Buyer, Social Media Lead, and Style Consultant for Akari, and offers her services as a personal stylist in her own time. Most recently, she has become the Women’s Department Manager at Urban Outfitters in downtown Portland.