Written by Jo Smyth aka @Jo_joblogs this post is the first of a two part series which looks at how self-confessed shopaholics can be that little bit thriftier. Today’s post focuses on charity shops but keep your eyes peeled for a post about eBay in the next few days!
As a self-confessed shopaholic, I love the thrill of having and wearing something new! However these days I have to be more careful with my clothes budget than I used to be as bills & the cost of living seem to take more of my income. I also think about what fast fashion is doing to the environment. Too many clothes go to landfill each year and if we all bought second hand a bit more then this current demand for fast fashion would decline. Primark and H&M may be cheap, but you can get better quality clothing on a similar budget just by being smart with charity shopping and eBay.
Over the past few years, since my friend asked me to help out volunteering in a charity shop, along with starting to sell and buy things on eBay, I’ve become a bit of a thrifty shopping guru amongst my friends. In this time I have gained a bit of a designer wardrobe, none of it purchased new, and found some lovely high end high street and vintage pieces for a fraction of the cost.
I’m sharing my tips on Can’t Swing a Cat, as I really admire Jenni’s thrifty determination and I really think good style doesn’t need a big budget.
I often surprise people where I work when they see me in something new and I say it was from a charity shop. In wealthy areas in most cities you can pick up some lovely clothes from charity shops. They are not as cheap as they used to be, but nor should they be. Too many dealers used to use them as a place to buy things to sell on. Many charities are now wise to this and look up prices online and have the knowledge to know the value of things. That is not to say you can’t still find a bargain, so here are my thrifty charity shop tips to find the best bargains.
Go to charity shops as often as possible
I cannot walk past an open charity shop without going in. You never know what they may have. I snagged a vintage Mulberry Bayswater bag one time when I was home from work early and popped into a couple of charity shops on my way home.
Isolated areas and middle/upper class areas have the best Charity Shops
It’s well known that the richer areas have the best charity shops. However, it’s not so well known that smaller towns where there may be more retired people and those who don’t stay very long will also have some hidden treasures. A friend of mine works in a small town in Surrey and keeps telling me about the amazing things she finds there. I also have known people who live in Essex and know the exact shops where footballer’s wives send their last-season cast offs to! I think there are a few equivalents in Cheshire for Liverpool and Manchester footballers also.
Do your browsing on weekdays if you can
It’s often hard if you work in the week, but as the majority of donations come to charity shops on the weekend, it’s likely the best items are put out in the shop during the week, which is also when the shop is quieter.
Don’t be afraid to try something on – even if you think it may not fit
A lot of sizing is totally up the spout. In my book, if it fits, it fits! A lot of vintage clothing is a bigger size than modern sizing. Also, if you don’t recognize the label, it may have American or vintage sizing, so don’t be put off by a number. Some charity shops don’t put sizing on to encourage you to try things on.
Always be friendly to the staff & volunteers
If you go to some charity shops often enough, some of the staff may get to know you. If you’re looking for something specific, for instance say, a new winter coat, they may be able to look for you in the stock room. Please only try this if you’re in on week days. As someone who volunteers on weekends, it’s rather chaotic at busy times!
Always remember – the shop is a charity not you!
I am all for bartering when shopping, but it’s a no-no in charity shops. They are trying to get the best price for something going to a good cause. If you think it’s too expensive – don’t buy it. Someone else probably will. I know some shops will reduce things after a couple of weeks if they don’t sell, so it’s far better etiquette to do this than haggle when you first see something. Also if you do try and bargain with the staff it won’t bode well for gaining their help (see previous point!)
None of the above is rocket science, but this is one of the ways I have acquired a nice wardrobe that would have cost an awful lot more new! You do need the time and the patience though. A month or so can go by and I can go charity shopping and not find anything. I work in quite a posh area in West London and I spend at least one lunch hour a week browsing charity shops!