I have long been a lover of charity shops – in a culture of fast fashion, it is the most ethical way to shop. I even volunteered in my local Age UK charity shop in my teens for my Duke of Edinburgh Award. Sometimes I go on day trips to places which have good charity shops – normally small towns with wealthy populations are best. So chances are, if you see me, I’m probably wearing charity shop clothes and I’m not ashamed. If you say ‘hey I like your top’ my response will probably be ‘thanks £3 from a charity shop’. You’ll either judge me, or be super impressed, and here’s why.
Charity shops are a great way to shop on a budget. Prices are low and choices are high and, unlike high street brands, you can’t rule out a store for ‘not fitting your shape’ or ‘being too expensive’ – although some charity shops are cheaper than others. From experience, I find British Heart Foundation, PDSA, and local charities such as hospice’s to be the cheapest. I also find Cancer Research, Oxfam, and Octavia Foundation to be more expensive – but, on the flip side, I would be more likely to donate to these ones as I know my items will be sold for a good amount. Prices totally vary in different areas. For example, in the charity shops in Marylebone (though stocked with designer and top end high street goods) it is not uncommon to find items for £20. Whereas, in London suburb Finchley where I used to live (more high street brands), most items will be under a fiver. Some volunteers clearly know their brands but others don’t have a clue and will price Primark and Karen Millen the same.
Because the items are cheap, it means that you can justify choosing items you might normally put back.
It is completely pot luck, and I think that is partly why I like it – you never really know what you’re going to find. I normally go with an idea or two of what I am after, like ‘black jeans’ or ‘white top’, though you can’t be too specific and must go in with an open mind. I’ve found gems like Levi jeans for £2.75 (British Heart Foundation) and a Cos dress for £6.50 (Cancer Research). Once I found some brand new (!) UGG Boots for £40 and a DVF skirt for £8! There’s a certain thrill you get when you find a real bargain, but also outrage when you find a Primark top for £4.50 – you could buy that cheaper in store!
Because the items are cheap, it means that you can justify choosing items you might normally put back. Try out new colours, different styles, and don’t feel restricted by size; I often buy oversized shirts or baggy jumpers to wear with leggings. Remember to check the men’s (assuming you are female) and children’s sections too for hidden treasures – my sister is really good at this. Sometimes I try to find items so ugly they’re good, which is quite fun!
Always buy your books from a charity shop! It actually blows my mind that people pay £7.99 for a paper back in Waterstones when charity shops sell them from 99p. Popular fiction is often well stocked; books like the Richard and Judy book club picks start emerging a month or so after they’ve been announced. There are always copies of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ and the ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy. Cookbooks, travel books, and old text books are usually quite well stocked too, and are always worth a look. The other week, I picked up a copy of ‘Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals’ for £2.99. If you want a really good selection of books go to an Oxfam bookshop, though prices are usually higher here (eg. £2.99 for a paperback).
Charity shops are a great way to shop on a budget. Prices are low and choices are high.
Other items worth looking through are bric-a-brac. Living in a shared house, we always seem to be missing all of one item of cutlery (normally teaspoons). They may not be matching but who can say no to a collection of 10 for £1? Odd items of crockery, pots and pans, vases, and fun mugs can also be picked up cheaply. I always buy my sister a teapot for her birthday (long story) and normally find the annual purchase in a charity shop.
Keep an eye out for anything, and everything, else. I’ve picked up a pair of wellies two days before Glastonbury before. I’ve bought suitcases, too, and, when studying fashion, used to buy old curtains and sheets for mock ups as they are much cheaper than calico! DVDs, CDs, and even vinyls can also be found – though you might need to route around for a while, these are usually cheaper than downloading from iTunes.
Remember, it’s worth shopping around. Don’t rule out a shop if it wasn’t good that one time, because stock always changes. Don’t be too stingy – remember, the money all goes to charity. I always round to the nearest pound when paying. Finally, don’t forget to donate back – shops rely on donations, so let’s keep the circle turning!