Charity Shopping Trade Secrets, by a Self-Confessed Addict


Charity-shop-chic is cheap, individual, eco-friendly and pretty fashionable these days, but lots of people don’t seem to know where to start! Well look no further. I’ve been raised on charity shopping and pride myself on having a pretty much exclusively charity-shop sourced wardrobe. These are the reasons you should be charity shopping, followed by my top tips and trade secrets!

What’s in it for me?

It’s cheap. Obviously. Anything you find in a charity shop is always going to be cheaper than its original high-street price, which is brilliant news for a student budget.

A warm fuzzy feeling. Rather than lining the pockets of some multi-national chain with questionable values that will survive without your custom, you can rest easy knowing your money will do good, and you get something out of it too! Indulging your need for new clothes without a guilty conscience, what more could you want?

You’re recycling. These days we’re all concerned with our impact on the environment, and buying from and donating to charity shops is a brilliantly way of recycling.

It’s different. Don’t you just hate it when someone is wearing the same top/dress/shirt/anything as you? With a charity shop purchase, you can be pretty sure that will never happen. You can also find some really quirky, distinctive pieces that are much more your style than whatever the current high street fashions are.

How do I go about it?

Dedicate time. Allocate a few hours for a meander down a street full of charity shops, as this is an exercise that should never be rushed. Take the time to sift through all the sections, as the good stuff is inevitably going to be hiding between the, well, not so good stuff. No pain, no gain, as they say.

Get out of your comfort zone. Try everything and anything on. Something that looks terrible on the hanger might look fabulous on. Don’t be afraid to mix up your style and go a bit brighter and bolder than you normally would. Life is too short to wear boring clothes. Charity shops aren’t the place for playing it safe!

Don’t go looking for something specific. A broad category, like a cocktail dress or a shirt, is fine, but be open minded when it comes to colour and style. If you have a set idea in your head of exactly what you want, you’ll go home empty handed. Don’t forget to check out the other sections while you’re there as it would be a tragedy if you missed out on a bargain.

Choose the right area.  The selection on offer can vary depending on the affluence of the local area. In Southampton, Portswood is surprisingly good, but the gems are well hidden so you have to be determined. Why not make a day trip out of it and go to Winchester, Salisbury, Romsey or Lymington for a charity shop (and perhaps pub) crawl?

Support independent shops. Lots of national chains have put their prices up extortionately in the last couple of years. £7 for a second-hand Primani top? No thanks. Independent shops or local chains offer amazing value for money and are the charities most in need of support. Everybody wins!

Take things back. If something doesn’t fit or you decide you don’t like it, don’t be afraid to return it. You’re not a bad person; treat it like any other shop! They’ll either refund you or let you exchange it for something else and they’ll sell it again!

Look at the fancy dress section. Something the staff consider only fit for dressing up might actually be the height of hipster fashion right now. Make sure you don’t let it slip through your fingers!

Find cheap Christmas presents. Before you go out and spend stupid amounts on Christmas presents, have a look around and see if anything catches your eye in the charity shops. If you know someone well enough you shouldn’t have a problem finding them the perfect gift. Cashmere jumpers abound in charity shops and are always a good bet if they’re in good condition!  After a novelty tie for your dad? Last year’s cast-off stocking fillers should do wonderfully! Your friends and family will appreciate the extra effort you’ve put in sifting through charity shops and the fact that your money has been put to good use!

And don’t forget to donate clothes too.  Have a clear out to make space for all your new purchases and encourage your friends to do the same. The shops need all the donations they can get!


Travel addict and linguist! In my final year of BA Spanish and Portuguese. Spent my year abroad working in ecotourism in Bonito, Brazil and travelling South America. Passionate about all kinds of travel, be it a day trip, a weekend break or a year long voyage of discovery! Have a peek a my blog:

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