Embrace the Charity Shop: How to bag the bargains

I can remember clearly the day my auntie invited me shopping with her, I was perhaps 12 years old, having a sleep over with my favourite aunt and she explains we will be going shopping in the morning. ‘YES!!’

My auntie was a fashion inspiration to me growing up, not because she was quirky or different, she just always dressed well, in fashion and on trend, so I loved being a part of that on the weekends that we would spend the day shopping together. However, this time was different, we were going to some charity shops!

My life drained from my little body and I was frantically trying to find a way to say that I didn’t want to go without sounding rude! I didn’t need to. My face said it all. She tried her hardest to persuade me:

“Some of the stuff is brand new!”

“You can get designer stuff really cheap”

I realised, if I can’t beat them, I had better join them, and after all, I was away from the town that my friends were in so at least I wouldn’t be seen!

I can safely say, 14 or so years later, and I am an avid charity shopper! I know the stigma is still there, trust me some of my friends will stand outside, or pretend to not be with me, but frankly, I must save 90% on my shopping so I don’t care!

I thought for the purpose of this blog that I would make a list of my favourite tips on getting charity shopping right. Although I love it, not all shops are the same and not every week will you walk out with a bargain.

  1. Ditch the stigma

You don’t need to go over-board and walk the streets with signs that declare your love for charity shops but leave the preconceptions at home. My analogy is to ask yourself, when you visit a high street clothing retailer, how many people have tried on that item before you buy it? how many people have played the classic trick of buying it, wearing it and taking it back?

In this time, the stores wont be washing the clothes in between, however, more often than not, people who are donating their clobber to charity shops make sure its washed first. Realistically, the last time you received a donation bag through the door, did you fill it from your laundry basket or your freshly washed and pressed wardrobe?

2. Spotting the ‘unworn’ items

The number one giveaway is when the store label is still present, this is always great to see your exact saving, I remember purchasing a Karen Millen dress many moons ago and I must have paid 1% of the RRP – seriously!

Another trick to watch for, is items which has the labels cut out. This is a trick often played by high street retailers, many of them have agreements with local charity stores that the surplus stock left over after a sale is donated directly to the store, un-owned and from the shelf at New Look, straight into the Barnados store next door.

3. Have a creative mindset

I wont deny that there is often a level of rumbling involved in finding the right item but if you have an outfit idea or inspiration in mind when you go in, this helps you to be more creative and look at how you can piece an outfit together from what is available.

Thinking outside the box helped me on my latest visit as I had been looking for a denim shirt to wear with some white jeans and a plain tank top, maybe flash it up with some nice statement jewellery pieces. I then visited one of my local stores and saw what was in fact a men’s denim shirt and I bagged it for £2!! It also added to the haul that it was a big brand name too!

4. Check in regularly

Obviously, items are all near enough one-offs, they will only have available what has been donated at any given time so sizes and styles can vary quite considerably. With this in mind, it is important to check in to your local stores regularly so that when they have an item that meets your needs, you’re able to bag it quickly because once its gone, it’s gone!

5. Befriend the staff

This ties in great with my last point. Once you get to know the staff in the store, they get ti know items that you like and that you buy regularly so when something is donated that would be of interest to you they will often give you the heads up when something similar has come in and hasn’t made it to the rails yet.

Essentially you get a personal shopper!

So, what do you think? Are you going to put these into practice?


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