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11 great charity shopping tips

Fancy giving charity shops a go but not sure where to start? Our guide shows you what to look for and how to find the rare gems!

charity shop tips

On first glance, trying to find clothes that both fit you and that you actually like in a charity shop can seem an impossible task.

Sure, there's always going to be an element of digging to do before you find your treasure, but we're confident you'll be pleasantly surprised by what you find if you put the effort in.

Not only are you likely to find the kind of stylish one-off gems you'll never see any of your mates wearing, but you can also feel good about the fact your purchases are actually contributing to a good cause.

Walk in the door with an open mind and a few of these tricks up your sleeve, and you'll be able to reinvent your wardrobe – without breaking your student budget!

On a serious budget? Be sure to give swap shop sites a try too - you'll be surprised by what's up for grabs.

11 tips for finding charity shop treasures

  1. Focus on timeless pieces

    find vintage clothes in charity shops

    You're never going to find all the latest styles and trends in your local charity shop, so the key is finding those timeless pieces that never go out of fashion.

    While your local Oxfam isn't likely to be full of clothes straight off the catwalk, it is likely to be a treasure trove of vintage and timeless items.

    Start your hunt with an open mind. There's no point in buying basic stuff that you can pick up in Primark for a couple of quid anyway, it's all about those quirky items.

  2. Embrace the thrill of the chase

    charity shop gems

    Credit: 20th Century Fox

    Without a doubt, the most exciting part of charity shopping is the thrill of uncovering a gem. Finding that dream item might seem like searching for a needle in a haystack, but you'll get way more satisfaction from working hard for your discovery than you would picking something off a rail at Topshop.

    It doesn't happen often, but snagging a pair of Levi jeans for a fiver or a Moschino belt for 50p is not beyond the realms of possibility in the charity shop game!

  3. Find the label-free items

    charity shops

    Insider tip alert! Believe it or not, some of your favourite high street stores will have deals with local charity shops to donate stock that isn't sold during sale periods.

    Part of the deal is often that they need to cut the labels off the clothes – perhaps so as not to give the game away, we're not so sure.

    Anyway, it's worth keeping an eye out for items that have had the labels purposely cut off, as these are normally the completely unworn items that have been donated!

  4. Pop in frequently and aim for weekdays

    visit charity shops frequently

    Credit: Warner Bros.

    Unlike a lot of high street stores, you'll often find that charity shops will have new stock out every day.

    Sure, you might find absolutely nothing one day, but who's to say what might be on the rails tomorrow? Weekdays are the best time for charity shopping as there's less competition for the best stuff.

  5. Make friends with staff

    befriend charity shop staff

    Credit: Walt Disney Studios

    It's a good idea to make the effort to be friendly with charity shop staff.

    As well as just being a nice person, an added bonus is that staff will be much more likely to point you in the right direction, or save awesome pieces for you if they become more well-acquainted with your style. It pays to be nice!

    Don't be afraid to let them know what your tastes are - if they know you as a friendly and loyal customer, they'll happily go that extra mile for you.

  6. Be prepared to rummage

    finding stuff in charity shops

    Credit: viviandnguyen_ - Flickr

    While a lot of brands will invest some serious dollar in laying out their shops to look their best, don't expect the same from charity shops.

    Most shops will simply organise items by colour or size, so be prepared to get rummaging.

    This works in your favour, too, as it can make some top items harder to find for other shoppers.

  7. Try online charity shopping

    online charity shops

    Don't fancy leaving the house, or simply can't face the idea of physically rummaging to find your gem? You can now do your charity shopping online from the comfort of your sofa if that's more up your street!

    Oxfam now has an online shop, while charities such as the British Heart Foundation, Sense and the British Red Cross have their own Ebay stores.

  8. Try on clothes and check for faults

    try on clothes

    Credit: 20th Century Fox

    The golden rule of charity shopping is always try before you buy.

    Measurements can vary vastly, particularly with vintage items as bizarrely a size 10 in the 70s is completely different from a 10 nowadays.

    This means you shouldn't rule out clothes which aren't in your usual size, but also shouldn't assume something will fit just because it matches the size you typically go for.

    Check out our interview with Instagrammer The Nifty Thrifter to find out how she manages to make use of clothes in charity shops that are outside of her size.

Before you rule something out for having a fault, think about whether you could upcycle it into something better first!
  1. Location is everything

    charity shop location

    Credit: Channel 4

    You've probably heard that the best shops are in the wealthiest areas of town, as they get all the rich people donations (which often includes barely-worn items or ones that still have a price tag!).

    While it's true that you're often more likely to find designer brands in wealthy areas, it's also true that charity shops are wising up to the fact that charity shop lovers go on pilgrimages to scope them out, and as a result prices can be pretty steep.

    If you find you're getting priced out, don't be afraid to go elsewhere - just because it's in a charity shop doesn't mean it's always gonna be a bargain!

  2. Think outside the shop

    become a model

    Credit: Paramount Pictures

    Charity shops aren't always the most luxurious venues. While high street chains invest in the decor, lighting and music to make their clothes look super glamorous, charity shops can be drab and dull, so you have to use your imagination.

    Try to imagine how the item would look in the front window of Zara, or on your favourite fashion icon. Looks much better now, right?

  3. Donate your own clothes

    donate clothes to charity

    Charity shops rely on a continuous stream of donations in order to survive, so you can't expect to benefit from all those gems if you're not prepared to donate yourself.

    Have a wardrobe clear out and get rid of all those clothes you never wear anymore - you'll free up space for all those new items you come across, and you'll be helping a good cause by doing so!

On the hunt for a new work wardrobe? Here's how you can find work clothes on a budget and what you should be looking for based on the dress code. 


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