Goodwill Hunting: Frugal is the new Black

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Pictured: My new Lily Pulitzer trainers.  They are so comfy and only $7.99 (photo: M. Hall)

Feeling the economic blues? Lost the will to shop? It’s time for a new will, the Goodwill.  Today I went behind the Orange Curtain, deep into the recesses of the Orange County (Costa Mesa & Huntington Beach) to do a little Goodwill hunting.  Clearly, not all Goodwills are created equal.  I was amazed at the values I saw.  Oh, there is lots of junk too, but there are also some great finds.  The stock at Goodwills has changed as retailers are donating their clearance items that don’t sell to the stores (props to them for not dumping items.)  Goodwill staff told me they receive many new items from Walmarts and Target stores every week. The charity stores are no longer the place that old, decrepit, stained items go to die. The shelves are teaming with items that are still  in the box, and new with tags. And because the items are new, and some are designer, there didn’t seem to be any embarrassment among the Goodwill shoppers.  No one seems to be  looking around to make sure their neighbors or co-workers are lurking in the store, and will see them. The day has finally arrived when frugal is the new black.

The OC Goodwills offer much more upscale merchandise than many of our Los Angeles stores. I saw Lily Pulitzer shoes for $7.99 (above), Burberry (a rare UFO like sighting), Vera Wang Lavender Label, Target’s Liberty of London comforters and rain boots, designer handbags, Zack Posen for Target, Target Home collection items, Perrier Jouet hand painted champagne glasses, Betsey Johnson, plus clothing from Talbots, Loft, Anne Taylor and Banana Republic.  For some time my friend Robin has been telling me about all the great things she has been finding at the Goodwills.  Robin’s house is full of Goodwill treasures.  Her closet even has Moschino and a Louis Vuitton Vernis bag from Goodwill ! It was hard to believe when she would talk about the items from high end stores with the tags still on that she was able to pick up, but seeing is believing.

Pictured: My friend Robin sitting pretty at Goodwill with her Coach bag and designer skirt, all purchased at Goodwill.  (photo: M. Hall)

Since Robin is such a Goodwill expert, I decided to take her up on her Goodwill tour offer today do a little Sunday shopping. It’s not a quick trip to go through all the items at a Goodwill, but if you have the patience, some amazing values can be found.  I spent about 4- 5 hours today digging through the Goodwill racks. Check out some of today’s bargain sightings:

Pictured:  A Burberry skirt, new with tags, kept in the Goodwill display case along with designer handbags. (photo: M. Hall)

Pictured: A Dooney & Bourke Handbag, priced at $13.99. (photo: M. Hall)

Pictured: If you need appliances, look to the will, they have brand new Gida De Laurentiis Food Processors, Oster, Rival, Paula Dean Kitchen stuff and more! Most are under $35.00. (photo: M. Hall)

Pictured: Zac Posen for Target adorns the designer racks at the will. (photo: M. Hall)

So after a hard day of bargain hunting, I ended up with the following : Liberty of London Target rain boots for $ 5.99, a Vintage black sweater made in British Hong Kong for $6.00 (will look great with one of my vintage Chanel Pins),  a 3 piece wrought iron Bistro Patio set new in the box for $44.99 (retail over $200.00), 3 hand-painted Perrier Jouet Champagne Glasses for $1.99 each,  new “Classic Home” bathroom shelves for $39.99,  BCBG shoes for $13.99, Lily Pulitzer shoes for $7.99 and a 45 piece set of new flatware for $7.99.   Pretty incredible, huh? Best of all, there is no sales tax at Goodwill. Some additional perks are Sundays and Tuesdays seniors (age 55 or over)  get an extra 10% off.  There are also racks with color codes on them, that offer additional savings. Look for the color coded racks. Of course, as I witnessed today, Goodwill can be addictive. You may think that because everything is deeply discounted, that you need to load up.  I would discourage weekly trips 🙂

To find out where the best Goodwills are in your area, have a look at YELP!  The reviews can give you the low down by location.  Of course, not every trip can be a great one, but if you have the patience, you’re bound to find some good deals. My new wrought iron Bistro set was heavy, so one of the Goodwill employees helped me load it into my car.  I told him, I couldn’t believe how many great things I got for just a little over $100.00. He said, “It’s almost like stealing isn’t it?” Yeah, almost 🙂

Best of all, when you shop at Goodwill, your purchases create opportunities for people with disabilities or other barriers to become independent and support themselves, and their families

PS: I didn’t go to the Goodwill empty handed. I donated several items at the store, that I haven’t made use of, some new in the box. If you need help Goodwill hunting in Southern California, leave a comment here for Robin on the blog.


Since 2008, Mary Hall has been the author of The Recessionista Blog, which is read by thousands of regular readers in over 160 countries. An internationally recognized expert on the art of the living the good life for less, she has been a commentator on local, national, and international radio and TV shows. Her advice has been featured in over 2,000 media outlets, including The New York Times, Reuters, Life & Style magazine, ABC News, NBC News and now The Huffington Post, among many others.


  1. MH

    July 26, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    testing to see if Comments are back working here!

  2. ShakeupYourMakeup!

    July 26, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    I love the goodwill! Of course, mine is definitely hit or miss on such nice items as that, but there's nothing quite like being on the “hunt” for some good bargains!

  3. ShakeupYourMakeup!

    July 26, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    I love going to Goodwill! Of course, mine doesn't quite have the great buys like the ones you just posted, but there is something about being on the “hunt”, and every once in a while being satisfied with a coach purse or some Lilly! It's definitely one of my favorite destinations!

  4. Susan

    July 26, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Wow! Not only does your Goodwill get in good stuff, they price them well too! As soon as a Dooney or Coach bag hits ours they price it at 60+!

    I was in San Francisco recently and picked up a great Kate Spade/Maira Kalman bag for $40 – brand new. That's about my best deal as of late. 🙂

  5. Diane

    July 26, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    I thoroughly enjoy your blog! But I must say that Goodwill in the OC definitely IS NOT Goodwill in Tennessee or Maryland. Glad you found some wonderful buys! As one who is single and fast approaching 2 years unemployed, I can't afford anything other than Goodwill. And, actually, right now I can't afford even that. Happy hunting!!

  6. Heather

    July 27, 2010 at 12:23 am

    This is very helpful, cause I'm about to give up on LA goodwills. OC-here I come!

  7. Denise

    July 27, 2010 at 1:33 am

    Wow!!! Goodwill in the OC is fantastic!! Definitely beats the Windy City. NWT Burberry?!

    The prices in the OC seeme to be a bit higher than in Chicago. I can't imagine paying over $6.99 for anything!!

  8. Target-Addict

    July 27, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Congats on your fab finds! I never made it over to Goodwill yesterday, but perhaps today I'll hit it after work. 🙂

  9. Trude

    July 27, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    I've been meaning to go, and now I really have to (especially since I live in the OC)! 🙂 Thanks for sharing, and congrats on your great deals!

  10. Sandra @

    July 27, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    You done good Mary! I love Goodwill, actually a bit more than Salvation Army. I went to GW yesterday and scored a Betsey Johnson dress and gold foil vintage clutch. Yesterday, the manager asked me if she could take my items and set them up front and get me another basket. Nordstrom customer service at Goodwill! Gotta love it!

  11. Jonita

    July 27, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    For any West Coast readers, Seattle's Goodwill hosts an annual Glitter Sale, supposedly stocked with some of the best Goodwill gems.

    I haven't been (yet!), but I've read about some amazing finds. Here's a link to more information:

  12. tr.monday

    July 28, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    I live in Fairfield County in CT, and we have a Goodwill that has CURATOR. They have a “boutique” section and put high-end and designer items there, or in a large glass case. I don't care if they're Prada, worn shoes are worn shoes and aren't worth $200+ dollars. Goodwill and Salvation Army have missions to provide reasonably priced goods to those in need and create jobs for people who may otherwise not have them, Do you think any of the employees at this goodwill will ever make enough money to shop in the “boutique” section? I used to love thrift-store shopping for amazing finds, now I am saddened that even at Goodwill, class rules.

  13. Diane {}

    August 1, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    LOVE a good bargain!

    I look forward to meeting you on Thursday at McCormick and Schmick's