How to charity shop – six tips!

14 December, 2012

There was a while when I used to work in a charity shop as a volunteer on Saturdays. I would be out the back, in the sorting room. My “sorting” usually went “One for me, one for the shop. One for me, one for the shop.” I used to leave every night with two bin bags of stuff- it was a bit of a drain on my pocket as I didn’t even used to get mates rates!

I have always loved charity shops- identifying them as a young teen as a way of getting better and more bang for my paper delivery buck. (I was the WORST paper girl in the world, I would do my whole route half asleep on my bike, and then have to go back after school to retrieve and swap them all around until everyone got the right one.) But it gave me about £2.70 each week and even as a 14 year old I would delight in people’s expressions as I gloated “Oh, these Lee jeans? £1!”

I like to think of myself as a charity shop connoisseur. I have honed my art over the last 2 decades, I know the London shops like the back of my hand, and am gathering a charity shop map of the UK in my subconscious as we dabble in charity shop tourism!

Here are my top 6 pointers!Six Tips for Charity Shopping

Have a list

What are you looking for? It can be intimidating wandering into a massive room crammed with stuff. Have a list of 5 items that you always scan for, and then you can be in and out super quick. Mine include: good shoes that fit, vintage tea cups, wooden toys, cheap lace and embroidery,  dominoes, scrabble and Lexicon! With that list I can be in and out in 4 minutes flat, making charity shopping something I can do while I wait for the next bus.

Keep it regular

It does take a certain amount of commitment this charity shopping lifestlye malarkey. You can’t just waltz in twice a year and hope to strike gold. Little and often is the best way, dash around your locals on your lunch break at least once a week. Sometimes you can even get to know the volunteers and bust out the old cheeky “Anything out the back?” question!

Play the long game

Forget instant gratification -you have to be in it for the long haul. Have a list and be prepared for it to take weeks to find things on there. And have a little storage spot for things you need in the future. I have a giant suitcase of gifts that I have found and can pull out when the person’s birthday rocks up. January is THE BEST time for charity shopping new stuff, as everyone gives their unwanted pressies away. Buy them up, store them, and give them away!

Fabric tests 

I try to have a No Polyester rule. It tends to hold people’s sweat and catches on my dry fingers, so I avoid it. And if I find some 100% wool going for a song I nearly always buy it. 100% wool is always a winner both for warmth and also crafting (once felted in a hot wash) and hard to buy economically from anywhere. However, I hate to be grim but do SCOUR for signs of moths. It is possible to bring them into your home with a vintage wool purchase- but you can usually spot them. Figure out the quality fabrics  and classic items you want to fill your wardrobe with, and always scan for them.

Hokey kokey rule

If you are going to get buying from charity shops, also get giving. I kind of have a loose “one in, one out rule” when it comes to clothes. Otherwise I would be buried under a mound of 100% wool. Freely give and freely receive! (Totally mashing up  drunk wedding songs and scripture references here, this is how I roll.)

The lay of the land

The fact is, if you charity shop in posh parts of town you will have to accept higher prices- but you WILL find better labels and better quality stuff. If you like a good rummage and would rather take your chances on finding a dusty gem on a groaning shelf then head out of town and hit up those £1 rails. There is some kind of rule about charity shops paying less on certain streets, so very often if you are wondering where to start just search some of the big name charity shops and you will almost certainly find a run of loads of them. Charity shops don’t like to be lonely.

Be philosophical about your dosh

Your first few forays into charity shops COULD surprise you. You will inevitably find clothes that could be cheaper in Primarni. Sometimes it can be baffling. Don’t dwell on it. Think about the huge amount of goodness these charity shops are doing, by selling on these clothes. I kind of think they almost have a responsibility to get what they can from the things we donate. I pretty much count every penny I spend as a donation, rather then a bout of consumption. (Although, I have been known to have a proper grumble about it sometimes, so I understand, I do. I do.)

Rock Up in Red British Heart Foundation

Wearing my latest secondhand finds including my only red top in honour of Rock Up In Red. It is a bit dull, but jollied up with this awesome vintage scarf. And also a little chance to show off my 5 month bump which popped out a bit more this week- so much more actually that Tim had the audacity to Poke.My.Bellybutton. *throws up* (I’m phobic of bellybutton touching and he has known that for 7 years. Outrageous.)

One of the big hitters on the high street is the British Heart Foundation. I especially love their Hammersmith shop- nestled towards the end of a huge string of charity shops on the high street. In the last few years three precious family members have experienced serious, in one case fatal, heart conditions. Every time I buy something from their charity shops I think about the British Heart Foundation’s huge and ambitious fight against heart disease.

On 1st February 2013 they are hosting a “Rock Up in Red” day – a chance for individuals, workplaces, youth groups, schools etc to raise cash for a future filled with healthy hearts. It is a simple idea- get everyone wearing this most racy and bold of colours for one day and get small donation from each person – but is could make a massive difference in people’s lives. Hey, why not make your first delve into charity shopping a search for some lush red garments for Rock Up in Red?  You can download a fundraising pack and get loads of help with planning all their website. And blog your fancy red outfit!

Thanks, now come on, reveal all- what are your charity shopping tips?

PS If you love charity shops you will probably enjoy this round up of the UK’s BEST charity shops from some thrifty bloggers!

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Noor Umm Yahya 14 December, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Thank you for this nifty little guide – just what I needed! Have a lovely weekend :)

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 16 December, 2012 at 5:04 pm

      My pleasure, hope it helps you find some thrifty goodness…

  • Reply angalmond 14 December, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Brilliant post. Can I just mention this website
    If I am visiting somewhere new, I usually check out beforehand in case there are any good little CS off the main streets!

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 16 December, 2012 at 5:04 pm

      Oh fab, thank you! Will bear that in mind too. xx

  • Reply beshlie 14 December, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    i have always charity shoppped. my son was brought up on charity shopping and now at the ripe old age of 18 he will quite happily while away his time searching for books and other treasures. we are lucky to live near a fantastic community charity shop which not only stocks the most amazing vintage/retro futniture (bought my friend a fantastic ercol – esque sideboard for £7.50) but has a great rummage/jumblesale feel to it – so rare these days. most of my crimble pressies for friends and family are second hand, even for the die hard materialistics!! happy shopping guys!

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 16 December, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      A jumble feel is my favourite kind, really, I just LOVE it!

  • Reply raych 14 December, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    You are the only other person i know that is also belly button poking literally makes me heave!!beautiful picture.Xx

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 16 December, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      Argh, just the thought of it. Blurrgghh.

  • Reply lifeloveandlivingwithboys 14 December, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    What a lovely, useful post. I will keep your tips in mind next time I visit the charity shop. My hubby would definitely like the one in one out rule 😀 You look fab with your gorgeous bump!

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 16 December, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      Thanks so much. I wish I could stick to The Rule more often!

  • Reply lally Young 14 December, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    I totally love charity shops and I buy the majority of clothes, oraments and homewares from the ones in our village. The best one for me is age Uk they have a pound rail and in our local nearby town, we have a £1 age UK shop!!! the little lady dives into the 25p clothing bin and picks out items for herself. She has been picking out baby clothes.
    I used to pick at my mums scout jumble sales and do car boots with her, except I used to bring more stuff home!!! Hence my home is kind of second hand crap as my DH calls it. But my home is full of things I love. Okay yes I do have lots, but it cost so little and I have a unique home.
    DH wont let me bring furniture into the house, as I once brought in a flea infested chair, except I didnt know it was full of fleas at the time. Well you learn.

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 16 December, 2012 at 5:02 pm

      25p bin? *swoons*

  • Reply jennastobbs 14 December, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Yay finally a bump picture? Its going so fast!!! My tip for charity shop shopping would be to always make sure you have some cash with you!!!!

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 16 December, 2012 at 5:02 pm

      It IS going fact. Great tip too – shivers, nothing worse then finding something for 2.60 and then having to spent 3 more to get it over the minimum £5 card spend!

  • Reply Nina Gora 14 December, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    it’s so exciting to see your belly so big!!

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 16 December, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      Hehe, it just happened. So cool!

  • Lucy
    Reply admin 14 December, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    Hello nice new blog!

  • Reply LondonHeather 15 December, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Love these tips! I have a friend who is also a champion charity shopper, who gave me a little lesson on finding ‘treasures’ when I visited her in the US earlier this year. Their thriftstores are crazy – so big! – but her tips were very similar to yours, particularly the ‘keeping it regular’ and ‘playing the long game’. Love that you’ve written them all down – a very handy guide indeed.

    Also loving the bump picture – beautiful!

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 16 December, 2012 at 4:58 pm

      Oh man, to charity shop in the states- amazing, they are like warehouses eh! x

  • Reply nyssapod 15 December, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Great tips! My parents were always hunting for things in charity shops when I was growing up, so I have inherited this from them.

    Lovely photo of you and your bump too.

  • Reply Liz Burton 15 December, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Rocking the bump laydee!!

    Great post. I wrote one back in the pre MM days, see, you and I are cut from the same cloth. I’m sure I’ve exclaimed about this before on another of your posts, but I’m totally FREAKED out by belly buttons too. Nobody comes near my belly button.


    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 16 December, 2012 at 4:57 pm

      Should have know you’d have done one, you Chazza Goddess! GREAT tips though- amazing we only had one double up! It must be the golden one- to do it regularly!

  • Reply The best thing about blogging is finding new stuff 16 December, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    […] also enjoyed this post from Lulastic recently. All about how to shop in charity shops, it’s full of useful tips from the Queen of […]

  • Reply Chelsea Williams 16 December, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Great post! Amazing ideas, really inspired me to stop going and buying things new just because!!! Love it x
    Chelsea Williams recently posted…I Finally Started The Fight.My Profile

  • Reply Ali 13 November, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    I just moved to London from a small town in the states and this is so helpful! I’m new to thrift stores and charity shops since my town in the states was full of college girls and the few thrift stores there just stocked overpriced secondhand Abercrombie shirts!
    Ali recently posted…Yogi Bear(ly)My Profile

  • Reply Javed Siddiqui 17 December, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    Good Post!!

    Great charity shop will be presenting there
    Javed Siddiqui recently posted…Coming SoonMy Profile

  • Leave a Reply

    CommentLuv badge