Goodwill Gifting Ideas

I need to buy gifts for family and friends. How can Goodwill help with that?

Word is out on shopping at Goodwill for home decor, especially during the holidays. The same is true for those looking for some special holiday fashion. (Think ugly sweaters as well as cocktail wear.) But some shoppers have a more difficult time envisioning secondhand Goodwill gifts for their family member or friend.

Well, we reached out to our team members for their best gift giving ideas and will share their thoughts below. But before we get to that list, take a moment and think about the worst gift you've ever received. Chances are the gift you found so horrible was given by someone who didn't take the time or pay attention to who you are, what you love and what you want to have around you. The key to excellent gift giving is knowing the receiver and taking the time to make the gift special to them.

If you have a friend who likes photography, gift them something that highlights their hobby or makes accessing their hobby easier.

If your friend is into books, think about how that person reads. Do they sit with a cup of tea? Do they cuddle up with a soft blanket. Do they only read real books and shun anything electronic?

What about the friend who likes to cook? Do they have a favorite chef or technique? Do they want to learn a new technique? Do they love cooking while wearing unique aprons? Are they into retro hand appliances? Do they spend a lot of time making and distributing treats to others?

Knowing who a person is, what that person loves and what they want to have around them is how you up your gift-giving game no matter if you craft something yourself, buy full retail or shop secondhand.

So, what do Goodwill of the Heartland team members suggest you buy when shopping for secondhand gifts? Let's take a look.

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Toys & Games

I can't imagine our top pick being a surprise. If you have children on your shopping list you should be shopping at Goodwill. As one team member said, "Families can save a ton of money shopping at Goodwill for gifts for their little ones."

What will shoppers find? Nearly everything imaginable. A number of items are donated in their original packaging, this is especially true for collectors of vintage or series items.

Goodwill offers a large selection of board games and puzzles, most in like-new condition. Our shelves have held many brain teaser games, some in wood and metal. Dolls, cars and action figures are frequently donated, as are children's tool and dish/kitchen sets.

Keep in mind that older toys may not have been subject to the same standards of safety we have now. Also, if you are purchasing toys meant to be played with (instead of sitting on a shelf as part of a collection), check closely for wear like chipping paint or sharp edges. Inspect the toy or game for any missing pieces or operational defects. But don's shy away from vintage games and toys. Introducing a child to something that was special to you when you were young is a gift that keeps giving.

Be ready to safely clean and sanitize what you bring home.

Games & Puzzles
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 New With Tags / New In Box

Sometimes people buy things in the wrong size or change their mind after making a purchase. What do locals do when they have something they don't want or can't use? They often donate it to Goodwill.

Walk through any of our retail stores and you're bound to find a variety of donated items either still in their original boxes or with their original tags. Walking through one of the Cedar Rapids stores I saw new with tags clothing for women and children, outerwear accessories still in a gift box, a handbag with its new tags, and a number of puzzles and CD sets that had never been opened. And that's just what I noticed while browsing. At other items I've spotted new wall art, small electronics, shoes and office supplies.

Within the past month, our Marion Store received several new with tags Christmas stockings ("Baby's 1st Christmas"), and the Fairfield Store had complete sets of holiday dishes and matching accessories in their original packaging.

While some designer clothing and higher-end merchandise can still be found in our retail stores, if you are looking for something specific click over to our online auctions at for harder to source merchandise. If you want to save even more on your purchase, skip the shipping costs by choosing to pick up your item from our Iowa City facility.

"New parents tend to receive a lot of infant clothing and sometimes it is just too much for them to get to it all, or it may have been gifted before the child's gender was determined. Some of those items, new with tags, are donated and they are a huge bargain for families wanting to stretch their dollar further," said one of our retail team members.

Another added, "When my girls were younger, they were really excited about clothing from a certain store. So I got really excited when I found some of those clothes at Goodwill with the tags still on them. But even without the tags, if I put them inside pretty paper, my girls were thrilled. I think finding those with tags was more about what I wanted than what they wanted. They just wanted the clothes with the label."

Dishes, New in Box
Stockings, New With Tags
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Added Value & DIY-able

Value added items are those that blend seamlessly with something else - either something the gift giver has made at home or something that isn't available through resell. DIY-able merchandise is ready to be polished, personalized or otherwise customized to meet the needs of the gift giver.

For instance, have a look at these two tea cups I found in one of our Goodwill Stores. These could be separated into two gifts, perhaps boxed with a favorite tea or coffee blend for a value-added gift. They could be given to someone along with a canister of their favorite cocoa mix and a new bestseller.

An easy DIY would be to grab some wax and wicks and turn these tea cups into candles. For an added touch, include a few drops of the recipients favorite essential oil.

If you like making homemade cookies or fudge, one of our team members recommends you shop our shelves for fun serving trays or plates.

"Find one-of-a-kind dishes and mugs that will be fun and show off the personality of the recipient. The possibilities are endless," another writes.

One of my favorite holiday tips is to pick up inexpensive containers from Goodwill that you can use after dinners or parties to send food home with your guests.

Vintage Tea Cups
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Homemade Gift Baskets & Treasure Boxes

Did you know Goodwill of the Heartland retail stores carry a select assortment of new goods? We do and their affordable prices will make your holidays even brighter.

A favorite gifting tip from our team members is to pair some new goods with donated goods. For instance, find a unique donated basket, grab some of the beauty supplies and add a towel or two from the new goods. I recreated this assortment in the picture on the right and added some silk flowers and an inspirational sign, both from donated goods. The total cost of this gift basket was less than $20.

And these gift assortments can really be aligned with the recipient's personality. For instance, find a basket or wooden crate, toss in a couple of cookbooks, add an apron and some new goods oven mitts and you've got a gift for someone who likes to cook.

Find a comfy throw or afghan and pair it with house slippers and the latest bestseller for that bookworm on your list.


Goodwill Gift Basket
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Final Thoughts on Goodwill Gifts

More team member comments:

"I'm in my late 20s and have loved vintage and resell clothing for as long as I can remember. But now nearly all of my friends are really into secondhand finds and unique items. Not only do you usually wind up with an outfit no one else has, but keeping clothing out of landfills is important for the environment."

"I love to purchase two really nice glasses at Goodwill and gift them with a bottle of wine."

"Goodwill is my go-to for ugly holiday sweaters. One of my gifts to friends is to entertain their kids at an ugly sweater crafting party so that they can go holiday shopping without their entire family in tow. The sweaters and most of the decorations we use are all from Goodwill and the kids have a blast making and wearing them."

"A couple of years ago I had a friend who was just crazy about a certain band. I shopped Goodwill and other local resale shops and bought up t-shirts from the band. When I had enough shirts, I cut them up and sewed them into a blanket. The friend might have used it as a blanket once or twice, but it was quickly hung on the wall as a tapestry."

"Most of the infant shoes you find at Goodwill look like new."

"Grab and decorate a frame from Goodwill and insert a special photo."

"I'm convinced you could rule the world with Goodwill and an endless supply of Mod Podge."

Holiday Home Decor
Holiday Home Decor
t-shirts for unique goodwill gifts
children's toys for goodwill gifts
ugly sweaters Goodwill gifts
Holiday Home Decor
toys goodwill gifts