The Best & Worst Times to Go Thrift Store Shopping

updated Jul 15, 2020
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(Image credit: Lindsey Kay Averill)

After years of thrifting, and knowing myself, I’ve figured out when it makes sense to head to Goodwill, and when I should just stay home. If you aren’t a diehard go-every-day-as-if-it’s-a-religion kind of shopper, then choose your strategy carefully and save yourself a world of hassle and time.


Right Before Halloween: There’s just no point. People descend like locusts in the weeks before the 31st, anxious to get their Frankenstein, sexy nurse, sexy witch, sexy ghost, and sexy costumes squared away. There’s nothing left. Nothing.

When You’re Hangry: Shopping at thrift stores is not a relaxing event. This isn’t Nordstrom with its wide walkways, friendly music, and stylish displays. You’re going to be battling shopping carts, people trying on clothes in the aisles, and lots of dusty and unclean objects. And Salvation Army plays religious music, so there’s that.

Fridays: Most stores get an influx of items on the weekends, when they have the time to load stuff in the car and drop it off. At the end of the week, there’s not as much “good stuff” left, so wait until Monday or Tuesday after volunteers have had time to sort through donations and restock the shelves.

With Competitive Friends: I have a couple of friends with whom I quietly and subtly battle for stuff. One also has really long legs and can circumnavigate a thrift store in about 1.2 seconds. Which is why I like to go hunting for finds alone. When I don’t have to share like a nice, normal person. And then I can go flaunt my purchases and rub it in their faces later.


Sale Days: Different stores have different sales different days of the week, so know what those are if you want to do some major bargain hunting. Some, like St. Vincent de Paul, will mark furniture down once inventory piles up, so go often if you want to capitalize on those types of deals.

Early in the Day: Before the shelves are picked clean, get in there to see what’s been put out from the night before. If you’re a diehard thrifter who means business, this is your M.O.

Spring: Spring cleaning is real people, and donations tend to spike during April and May. It’s a great time to collect the bounty of everyone else’s unwanted offloads.

On Vacation: I love popping into thrift stores when I’m on a trip, especially if I can find the international equivalents of Goodwill or Salvation Army. I can’t buy anything really large (for obvious reasons) but it’s fun to find stuff that you’d never see in the U.S. It’s also a great way to get inexpensive souvenirs, i.e. vintage Norwegian sweaters.

Want More Advice? You got it:

→ Don’t Buy This Stuff at a Thrift Store

Strategies & Tips for Successful Thrift Store Shopping