10 tips on how to be a savvy charity shopper


Most people are aware of the unfortunate stereotypes surrounding charity shops. Okay, so they might smell like a combination of old peppermint and dust, and yes, I admit, around 80% of the time that I go into a charity shop I don’t actually find anything. But that’s what’s misunderstood about shopping in charity shops: it’s not about finding something every time, it’s about the hunt. Students are notorious for running out of money quicker than you can say “loan”, and charity shops beat the prices of Topshop and even New Look hands down – and even better they’re original. What’s more, shopping in charity shops means your money actually goes to a good cause, so not only are you grabbing yourself something unique, you’re also doing your bit to help others. If you’re a newbie to the charity shop scene, don’t worry – here’s ten top tips to prepare you for your first charity shop hunt!

1) Take your time

Shopping in charity shops isn’t the same as running into River Island to find a dress to wear to Sugar on a Friday night – it takes time. If you’re in a rush it’s unlikely that you’ll find anything, so set aside at least an hour to browse through the rails and see what you can find.

2) Don’t expect miracles

Shopping in charity shops is a continuous process: it’s about seeking out that one-of-a-kind velvet jumper and the tweed granddad jacket that you’ve imagined wearing for ages, not buying a new top every time you shop. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t find something every time.

3) Use your imagination

You might be lucky and see something that instantly grabs your eye… or you might not. But don’t panic, just use your imagination. Yes, the boldly patterned men’s shirt might help you out for a “shite shirt” fancy dress theme in the future, but instead imagine it draped over skinny jeans and teamed with converse and a leather jacket for the day, or even tucked into those adorable velvet shorts you own and worn with heaps of gold jewellery for  a night out. That sounds better, doesn’t it? Ladies – don’t be afraid to venture into the men’s section to bag a bargain: it works, trust me.

4) Try things on

Most charity shops have changing rooms and it’s for a reason: they don’t accept returns. If you’re hesitant just try it on, it might take an extra two minutes but you’ll thank yourself when you realise that the top you just picked up leaves less to the imagination than you may have hoped for.

5) Explore them all                         

Lancaster has over ten charity shops so make sure that you find them all and have a browse. If you’re not successful in the first one that you find then don’t panic, simply move on to the next one!

6) Look at the label

Unless you’re after something specific (which really defeats the point), avoid high-street labels. When shopping in charity shops it’s actually a good thing if you’ve never heard of the designer on the label – the more authentic and unique the better.

7) Have a wash

Please remember to throw your new purchases in the washing machine before wearing them! Unless you have an odd fetish for the distinctive musky smell, remember that other people have worn the clothes before you so give them a wash before making them your own.

8) Remember the cash

Another useful tip: most charity shops don’t accept card payments under £5.00, so have a bit of cash handy before you start your search.

9) Be daring

Try something new! If you’re used to wearing plain or dark colours or you’re currently obsessed with cream knitwear then step away; avoid what you’re comfortable with, step outside the box and pick up the red dress that ‘you couldn’t possible wear because…’ – yes, you can.

10) Have fun!

Lastly, remember to have fun! Enjoy yourself, have a browse and see what you can find! If you bear these top tips in mind there’s no doubt that you’ll be addicted to shopping in charity shops in no time – good luck!

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