What can you buy for £40 when out clothes shopping these days? A dress? A couple of pairs of jeans? A pair of shoes? Maybe, but often even these basics cost a lot more. It’s what has put me off retail therapy in recent years. It’s no fun unless you can actually afford to buy some things. Most of the time I resort to supermarket clothes, but even then £40 doesn’t go a long way. Why am I saying £40? Because that’s roughly how much I spent in the past couple of weeks on clothes for myself and Penny. But I didn’t just get one or two items. I got a whole load more than that by shunning the high street and even the supermarkets and embracing my love of charity shops.
I may not have much in the way of spending money, but I am lucky in two ways. Firstly, I have lots of good charity shops near me. My recent haul was just from Bromborough, Eastham and Heswall. Secondly, I have lots of time. Not the sort of time that means I can write a bestselling novel or even get the housework done. But I can pop Penny in the pushchair and have a good wander around the shops for ages as long as there is plenty for her to look at and I stop for the odd fancy coffee so she can have some milk and a bit of a wriggle (perhaps I should factor a couple of caramel lattes into the overall spending spree cost).
So this is what I have bought over the last two weeks…
A collection of denim jeans, dungarees and pinafore dresses for Penny. Some in her current size, some to grow into. I find these the most versatile and practical clothes to put her in so I like to make sure she always has some.
I couldn’t resist this kids muppet t-shirt. It’s aged 4-5 so will have to go away for a few years and was originally from Asda so not a huge bargain. But I loved it and knew if I didn’t get it I would regret it later.
A really lucky find for me. I had been after a hat to go with my dress for my brother’s wedding in a couple of week’s time. This is perfect and in immaculate condition. It must have only been worn once.
Here are my top tips for shopping in charity shops.
1. Know your areas. Generally, the classier the area, the better quality things you will find. But this doesn’t always follow, and sometimes the prices will be higher in posher areas, so visit an area a couple of times to get to know what the quality of the stock is. Even if there is nothing that interests you on those occasions you will be able to judge what sort of quality stock they get.
2. Visit regularly. New donations arrive daily so stock is constantly changing. It’s worth popping in whenever you get the chance.
3. If you want it, buy it. Good items don’t stay long. If you go away and think about it the chances are someone else will have snapped it up before you go back. If you just can’t carry the item at that time most shops will gladly hold items for you to pick up later once you have paid for them.
4. Check the labels. While some shops have a ‘quality labels’ rail. Most have everything mixed in together by size and/or colour and often a standard price for a type of item. £3 for an M&S skirt is a much bigger bargain than £3 for a supermarket one. Of course, if you really like it, it’s still worth getting.
5. Keep an open mind. You can nip in and out of charity shops very quickly if you are just after a specific item. However, more often than not that one particular thing you want will elude you (I was extremely lucky to find such a great hat). If you have a good browse you never know what you might find.
6. Don’t get carried away. While prices are cheap, they do add up and it’s easy to get carried away if you get lucky with the stock that’s in. As I said before, if you leave it, it may not be there when you go back. So stop and ask yourself three things; 1. Do I like it? 2. Will I wear/use it? 3. Can I afford it? If you can say yes to all three then go for it!