Next to Goodwill, the Salvation Army is my second favorite thrift store chain in my area, one that I wouldn’t have found if it hadn’t been for my zero dollar budget to dress my drama club kids. You see, my school isn’t very well funded to begin with, so coming up with money to fund the drama club isn’t always of the highest priority. Thankfully, I am creative (otherwise, why would I direct drama?).
Salvation Army is a wonderful place to be creative on the cheap. Their pricing is quite different than Goodwill’s set-up, and there are differences in policies. Different, however, can be good.
The Salvation Army is a religious, socially driven institution that provides help to those who have fallen victim to disasters, be they personal or weather-related. They receive funding to support those in need through their seasonal kettle drives (you know you have seen – and hopefully donated to – those people ringing bells with the red kettles during the holiday season), through sponsorship, and through their retail stores. It’s very similar to Goodwill’s mission, but seems to have more to do with the church.
One point of controversy that can come up when you research the Salvation Army online is their stance on the gay community. I’m not 100% sure of what their specific stance is, but because of their religious affiliation, I think I can safely assume that while they do not openly support gay rights (which is dumb, and if I lose readers because of this, so be it), they don’t ask people what their sexuality is before trying to assist them. I could be wrong though. If you know for sure, please let me know. As much as I love their retail stores for thrifting, I don’t want to support an organization who does not support the ones I love. Plain and simple.
Salvation Army’s pricing structure is different from Goodwill’s, and it took me a little bit to get it. In all honesty, I still don’t completely understand their schedule, but I will explain it as best as I can. The basic price structure is pretty simple. All prices end in .99, and the overall price is typically based on its assumed worth. For example, a shirt that is in great condition from a big name brand is going to cost more than a shirt that is from a cheaper brand. While not always true, it is more common than not. Every price is marked on a colored tag attached to the item for sale. Unlike Goodwill, there are no common base prices; everything is priced individually. On the other hand, the price of each item reflects the tax bracket of the area, just as it does at Goodwill. If you are in a richer area, you can expect to find fewer items marked at $0.99 before sales.
To go along with the individual prices goes colored tags. While everything may have a different price, the prices are written on colors that correspond to when the clothing, etc. came into the store. The tags can be yellow, pink, green, blue, or white. These tags will help you figure out what clothing is on sale.
Tricks of the Trade
This is one of the toughest adjustments to make if you are only used to Goodwill. There is no organization of size at the Salvation Army. You have to dig to find the size you want. Think of it as more of an adventure (but make sure you plan to spend more time here). The organization structure is based on what type of garment it is (shirt, sweater, jacket, jeans, skirt, trouser, etc.) and color. When they can, the workers organize each clothing type into a rainbow-like assortment. If you want an orange shirt, there is a section for that. Want some purple pants? If they have some, they will be lumped together. It is very helpful that way.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a discount card that SA. They do, however, have two types of sales: 50% off a color and the $0.99 sale. They also host family night where families can get a certain deal if they bring in a bag of clothing to donate before shopping that day. The main two sales, though, are what drew me in. And when they overlap? Look out!
The 50% off sale is what it sounds like. Each week, a certain color tag goes on sale for 50% off. They have what color it is each week posted somewhere near the front door so you know before you get elbow-deep in browsing. If it isn’t posted, just ask. The employees will definitely be able to tell you.
The $0.99 sale is the best thing ever. Who doesn’t like getting awesome clothing and accessories for $0.99 or lower? Every week, a separate color from the 50% off sale goes on sale for $0.99. Everything, no matter how high it is marked, goes on sale for $0.99. You could score a jacket that was originally marked at $15.99 for $0.99. Um, yes please! So what if something is already marked at $0.99 before the sale? Well, it jumps down to $0.79. Awwweeesssoommmmeee. I have gone $0.99 color tag shopping before, and I walked away with ten items for $10.
Sometimes these two sales happen at the same time. I usually find that this happens at my local store on Saturdays. This is completely up to the individual store, though, so I would check the schedule at your local retail shop. Take advantage of being able to get 50% off and $0.99 pieces. It’s great and cheaper than Goodwill.
Know the Goods
I like to know what I can find at each thrift store. In my local area, I know that if I want to buy home goods, I need to skip Salvation Army and go to Goodwill. The Salvation Army near me doesn’t carry very many home goods, and what they do carry is pretty mundane. If I’m looking for a better selection of purses or ties, though, I will probably go to Salvation Army. Take the time to get to know what types of merchandise your local stores carry the most. This will save you time and frustration in the future.
Have you tried the Salvation Army lately? What have you found?