How to get the best out of charity shopping

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Whenever I mention to people that I love to visit my local charity shops, I either get one of two reactions; a grimace followed by “I thought they are full of tat” or a “but I can never find anything nice in charity shops”. And admittedly, yes, both of those thoughts have crossed my mind on occasion, but with a bit of perseverance and patience, I have managed to find plenty of gems in my years of charity shopping. With this season’s trends being very focused on past eras (the 70s especially), it’s the best time to get charity shopping for some treasures. Chances are you’ll be surprised at how much cheaper these finds will be than what is sold in your favourite vintage stores.

Tips when charity shopping:

1. Go into the shops with an open mind. Don’t be afraid to try out different colours, prints, or shapes to what you tend to reach for. Think outside the box, you can always customise your finds with things such as different buttons to create a different look. The same goes for altering sizing to fit you and your preferences. North East blogger Lucy Harbon, who posts over at Things The Books Forgot summed it up when we asked for her advice, “It’s all about going with no set expectations and seeing what you like and what works for you. If something catches my eye, I’ll try it on regardless of size, because you never know, it may still look super cute”.

2. While browsing the shop, the best bargains are often found in the wrong place. Like with sale shopping, it’s important to look through all of the sizes, as there’s always that chance something will have been either moved or even marked up incorrectly. I’ve even found some of my favourite finds in the menswear section, looking for an oversized denim jacket this season? That’s where to head.

3. One of the first things to check while scouring the rails are the brands of the clothes. We’ve all had that piece of clothing from our favourite store in past seasons that we’ll always regret not picking up when we had the chance, you know, the ones you have saved searches on eBay for. You just never know when someone may donate it to your local store.

4. Before you go charity shopping, it’s always a good idea to get a feel of what’s in the stores at the minute, as there’s always that chance you’ll find something in a charity shop that’s still being sold at full price just down the road. More often than not, they’re totally unworn which is even better. Believe me, it happens.

5. Whenever something catches my eye, I always go through the same process with each item; checking for whether the items are marked/stained or damaged. You may discover some finds are too good to be true, and sometimes, sadly they are. If you notice something unmarked, such as a small tear or make-up stain, it’s easily fixed and most shops will give you extra discount if you ask.

6. When out shopping, no matter what time of the year it is, keep an eye out for items for the next season. If you’re interested in fashion, chances are you’ll already have a good idea of what trends dominated with catwalk shoes and a little Pinterest pinning spree is always worth a go for piling together for inspiration. As an example, when browsing during the summer time, I often find the best selection of winter coats because everyone has had their spring clean out for the warmer months. And vice versa.

7. Try the clothes on in the store. Many of us shoppers can be a little lazy when it comes to this, but most charity shops don’t take returns and it isn’t worth the hassle. The clothing may be cheap, but if it sits gathering dust in your wardrobe, it was a few pound you could’ve spent elsewhere. Things tend to look different on the hanger, so a quick trip to the changing room is always worth it.

8. Alice Christina, a North East blogger over at Alice’s Wonder Emporium, is a keen charity shopper, having worked in one in the past. So I thought I’d ask her what top tip she has for anyone wanting to bag the best deals: “don’t be scared to ask the staff if you’re after specific brands or items” explained Alice, “We don’t always have space for all of the stock so there’s often gems hiding in the stockroom just waiting to come out. Some stores will even put an alert out if you’re after something specific and those sorting donations will watch out for items”.

9. And finally, but most importantly, have fun. Keep in mind that it’s always going to be hit and miss, sometimes you’ll find nothing, and other times you’ll come away with a bag full of goodies.

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