10 Tricks To Charity Shopping

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10 step guide to finding the best treasure.

How to do a charity shop haul to rival the high street.

Charity shopping can be an overwhelming task. It takes some vision but style can be found anywhere if you’re willing to search for it. These shops are never going to have the clean lines of Cos or the infuriatingly cool mannequins of East End boutiques. You’re more likely to get car boot sale worthy displays with Magic FM playing off a CD player behind the till. Less like shopping, more like digging through boxes in the attic. Here's a ten step guide to tackling this strange new world.

1. Be persistent

Charity shop rummaging is a bit like sorting through sale rails in TK Maxx. Colour coordination doesn’t exist here. A place where Mulberry bags can sit squashed up next to 50 pence DVDs and unwanted Christmas presents. Do not be defeated by this chaos. The outfits are there, but they can take a while to find. I strongly advise taking a snack with you…  

2. Travel further afield 

The best stores aren’t necessarily around the corner. With over 10,000 Charity shops in the UK there's more than enough to choose from. Experience has taught me that smaller towns away from the big cities are hiding the best stock and even better prices. 

3. Speak to staff 

If you don't ask you don't get, right? Customer service in charity shops often goes above and beyond. I’ve had staff happy to scavenge around the stockroom to help me out with an item. If you can't find any sunglasses or you desperately want a faux fur hat in mid summer then mention it. What have you got to lose?

4. Search out the sales  

Sale season in the charity stores is a thrift shopper’s paradise. The home of insane bargains. YMCA often have rails of stock all for £1 and Sue Ryder do a buy one get one free deal on anything in store. I walked away with a brand new Ghost slip dress totally free of charge.  

5. Take some cash  

Some lesser known charity shops aren't quite up to speed with technology and they didn’t get the memo about card machines. Always have a little cash in your pocket so you don't miss out on those £5 flares.

6. Do your research  

If you're heading to a new area then 5 minutes of research on the bus will go a long way. Unlike the high street stores, charity shops are often on the outskirts of town so make Google Maps your best friend and plan your route. 

7. Cover all bases

Check out the whole shop. If you're looking for sportswear or oversized jumpers then your best bet is to check out the men’s clothes; they also tend to stock a cooler selection of t-shirts. Confusion often occurs and leads the children’s department to become a hotspot for mini backpacks and bucket hats. 

8. Haggle for a bargain 

Charity shops, like the fruit and veg market, are a place to try your luck haggling. Prices aren’t fixed so put on you best smile and you might be able to get a few quid off, especially if you're buying a good bundle of items. 

9. Try it on 

Accuracy is often ignored when sizing products. Items can be marked incorrectly so make sure you try things on. Too many times I've arrived home with trousers that no amount of belts are going to make fit. 

10. Know what you're looking for

A vague idea goes a long way. Think about what you’re looking for. Do you want branded items? Maybe you need a little black dress? This planning speeds things up and makes rummaging feel more manageable. It’s a quick way to sort the polyester jumpers from the Burberry shirts. 

Oh and don’t forget to take your Bag For Life - you’ll need to haul that treasure home.


The outfits pictured are 100% secondhand. Everything from the jewellery to the sunglasses have been handpicked from charity shops in Essex.