The cost of living crisis is making life, well, pretty miserable at the moment. It seems everything has got more expensive, and the small joys in life seem to be slowly depleting away as we look to save money at every available opportunity.
Clothes shopping is synonymous with cheering a Brit up, but let’s face it, none of us have much spare cash to update our wardrobe as the season changes. But there is a much cheaper and certainly viable alternative – charity shops.
Charity shops can be incredible for finding bargains sometimes, that is if you know when and how to play the game. Trendy clothes can go for as little as £2 if you don’t mind wearing second-hand and putting it through a wash first.
Sometimes people have reported haggling in charity shops, although this is more a moral decision than a financial one. Founder of Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, believes: “This is about charity, so it’s the one time paying full-price (if it’s reasonable) is a good thing to do. Yet if you’re on the breadline and this is your only route available, then offering to pay what you can afford isn’t wrong.”
Here are their nine top tips for making sure you strike gold in charity shops:
Head to posh areas if you’re after something flashy…
For swish bargains, head to charity shops in swanky areas, such as Chelsea in London, known for its wealthy residents. According to MoneySavers, hot spots include Bath, Brighton, Edinburgh, Oxford, Tring and St Andrews.
Forumite carriedoesn’tlivehere says Alderley Edge is a paradise for WAGs’ cast-offs:
For anyone living close to Alderley Edge, south of Manchester, I can recommend the charity shops on the high street. This is THE place for designer rejects from Cheshire ladies who lunch! I’ve spotted DKNY, Jimmy Choo, Armani and Prada.
… or look in areas where your hobby is popular
Got a niche interest? It’s worth going to areas where that pursuit is popular. If you’re in the market for say, surf gear, head to Newquay or for horse-riding gear, the Cotswolds.
Music fan MSE Kelvin recommends Camden in London saying “I often drop into charity shops in Camden Town for a rummage – being an area steeped in music history and chock-full of gig venues, it’s great for band T-shirts and records I’d never usually expect to find in charity shops elsewhere.”
Go often – and on weekdays – to boost your chances
It pays to pop in regularly. The good stuff gets snapped up almost as soon as it’s brought out, but that same faded Atmosphere T-shirt stays on the rack for an eternity.
Weekdays are slower than weekends, so you’ve more chance of bagging treasure then. Popping in first thing in the morning can yield bargains too.
Charity-shop from your sofa via online outlets
These days lots of big name charities offer their wares via online outlets. Oxfam ‘s online shop is a treasure trove of clothes, books, toys, homeware and more. You can search for your favourite brands.
Delivery is £3.95 (or more for some bulky items). It does seem to have wised up to items’ values though, so true bargains may be harder to spot – but, of course, it’s all for a good cause.
Many organisations now sell on eBay too, including British Red Cross , British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research. See eBay’s charity shop page for more. Items can usually be delivered.
The downside for buyers is bidding wars break out over many auctions thanks to eBay’s size. Most items are auctioned, but you can occasionally pick up a buy-it-now bargain – and it’s all going to charity.
Get touchy-feely to check garment quality
One of the quickest ways to sort Chanel from C&A is to feel clothes as you rifle through the rails. Of course, at the moment, you should refrain from being too hands-on with stuff you don’t intend to buy, but it’s still worth a cheeky feel before you part with your cash just to check fabric quality.
Go for classic items in natural fibres such as silk, cashmere and merino, which are more expensive new than synthetic. You’d be surprised how quickly you learn to find the nicer bits just by touch.
Go to specialist charity shops, eg, books, furniture and bridal – for better choice when you need something specific
Many charity shops have specialist branches. If you’re doing up your pad, British Heart Foundation has 185 furniture and electrical stores across England, Scotland and Wales (not Northern Ireland). While its shops have reopened it advises to check opening hours before heading out, as some have changed.
Sue Ryder has shops specialising in vintage and retro clothes, homeware, bric-a-brac and more, as well as stores where everything is £3 or less. You can search for these online.
Do you often shop at charity shops? Let us know in the comments
Oxfam is known for its fantastic book and furniture shops. Got your heart set on a designer wedding gown? It also has 12 specialist bridal boutiques which stock dresses from £30.
“I bought my wedding dress from Oxfam in Leicester. No one had noticed it and it was a fraction of the cost of a new one. It was in great condition, I felt good about giving money to charity too. I also got my bridesmaids’ dresses second-hand – got two lovely dresses for £50 each!” one person said.
Volunteer at a charity shop – get first dibs on stock
One of the perks of volunteering in charity shops can be first dibs on the best donations. Of course, we’re not generally talking about paying less than customers, just getting to choose from the widest range of stuff. But in some cases you may get a fixed staff discount too, eg, 10% or 20%.
Get to know shop staff – they may let you in on secrets
Establish a rapport with your local charity shop volunteers. Ask them which days they put out new items and when seasonal stock will hit the shelves, for example. Are they getting any big donations from manufacturers?
If you’re looking for something specific, such as a toy, it’s always worth asking if they’ve got any out the back.
Turn your phone into a barcode scanner to find what old books/CDs etc are worth before buying
Found something in a charity shop with a barcode on it and want to know what it’s worth? If it’s in original packaging or just has the barcode printed on it, there’s an easy trick to see what identical items have fetched previously.
Download the free eBay app, open it up and tap the search bar followed by the barcode symbol. Your mobile now becomes a barcode scanner, via its camera.
Point your phone’s camera at the code and you’ll see it on screen – the app will scan the code and then list identical items for sale. To see what items have fetched in the past, select the ‘sold items’ filter.