There are many benefits to shopping secondhand. You can save money, find unique and discontinued items, and cut down on waste. Plus, by spending your money at charity shops, you’ll know it’s going to a worthwhile cause.
Here in the UK, there are over 11,200 charity shops with a range of constantly changing stock. So, whether you’re searching for something in particular or just love finding a bargain, it’s worth stopping by your local ones now and then.
To give you some inspiration for what treasures are waiting to be discovered, we’ve pulled together a list of some of the best items you can find in charity shops.
1. Board games
Even today, in our screen-dominant world, there’s nothing like a board game to bring family and friends together. So why not look out for a tabletop game at your local charity shop?
Board games can be expensive these days – with many costing upwards of £20. In fact, the popular game Catan (or ‘Settlers of Catan’, as it used to be called) will set you back £39 on Amazon. But if you keep an eye out while browsing in charity shops, you might find something you and your loved ones will enjoy for just a few quid.
2. Vinyl records
For those who love analogue audio, charity shops can be a treasure trove for all kinds of records.
While new vinyls are still being pressed (for both new music and re-issues of classics), buying them second-hand can save you a fair bit of money – and you may find something rare.
Pressing records also produces quite a lot of waste and uses massive amounts of energy, so buying vinyls from charity shops can be a more sustainable way to enjoy them. Plus, by finding original versions of albums (rather than re-mastered reissues), you can listen to tunes as the artists originally intended them to sound.
And who knows? If you’re lucky, you might be able to find a decent second-hand record player at your local charity shop too.
3. Designer clothes
This entry won’t come as a surprise to many readers, as designer clothes are often a high priority for second-hand shoppers looking for a bargain. Though, there may be more high-end clothes hiding on the rails of charity shops than you think.
It’s worth saying from the off that it’s not necessarily worth buying clothes simply because they’re made by a designer label – but keeping an eye out for them in charity shops can be helpful. One obvious reason for this is that designer clothes can be good indicators of quality, as they’re typically (but not always) made with more luxurious and durable materials.
Looking out for any sort of brand or logo (whether it’s designer or not) is a useful technique when charity shopping. It means you can pull your phone out and do a quick Google search to look at user reviews. Or you may already have a few pieces from that brand and know what they’re like.
With non-branded clothing, quality can be difficult to determine, and you may risk buying something that’ll fall apart after a couple of wears.
If you haven’t spent much time in charity shops, you might be surprised to see how much glassware is available.
From flower vases and carafes to pint glasses and whiskey decanters, charity shops can help you kit out your cupboards for a fraction of the cost of shopping new.
If you’re looking for high-quality glassware, try feeling the weight of items in your hand; the heavier they are, the better the standard tends to be. It’s also worth holding glassware up to the light to see if they’re cloudy or have any flaws. However, imperfections aren’t always a bad sign. Features like bubbles could indicate that you have an antique on your hands.
And if it’s crystal you’re after, try tapping it gently with a fingernail. You might have found what you’re looking for if it makes a bell-like chime. Crystal also creates a rainbow prism when held up to the light.
If you’ve bought toys for any kids in your life recently, you’ll know how expensive they can be. Action figures and dolls often clock in at £20+, and larger sets can cost a couple of hundred quid (this in-demand Barbie Dreamhouse, for example, will set shoppers back an eye-watering £349.99).
But kids grow out of things pretty quickly, and lots of toys end up in charity shops after being played with only a handful of times – sometimes still in the box.
So, if you’ve got grandkids with a birthday coming up, or you want to get a head start on Christmas, it’s worth checking out your local charity shops to see if they have any toys for sale.
If you don’t visit charity shops often, you might be surprised to hear that they sometimes have vintage typewriters in stock.
From a practical standpoint, typewriters may have been made more or less redundant in the workplace by the invention of computers, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve lost their value entirely.
If you’re a fan of history and engineering, you could consider starting a collection, or perhaps restoring them to working condition might become a new hobby. Giving a piece of history new life can be very rewarding.
Alternatively, if you’re simply looking for interior design ideas, you can use vintage models as decoration to add a retro dimension to your living space. I personally have one at home, which I use to break up the books on my shelf.
This blog post from Apartment Therapy has some great ideas for ways to use vintage typewriters as decoration.
Books are another item that cost a pretty penny these days. And while it’s always great to support local bookshops and authors is always great when possible, you don’t need to let sky-high prices prevent you from getting your literature fix.
Luckily, you can pick up some great titles in charity shops for only a couple of quid – from rare genre novels and comics to coffee table books and educational textbooks.
The selection of books you can find in charity shops varies considerably. Some more traditional shops may only have a shelf or two of paperbacks, while there are others that specialise in books, like Oxfam Bookshops.
If you’re looking for a specific title, Oxfam Bookshops will even let you leave your name and number, so they can let you know if (or when) it comes in. Plus, they have an online service where you can order books. You can search by title, author, and ISBN number using the button below.
8. Maternity clothes and baby gear
If you’ve had children, you’ll know what a pain buying maternity clothes and baby gear can be. Spending hefty sums on good-quality items that’ll only be used for a few months or years can feel like an inevitable part of bringing up children.
But it doesn’t have to be! Because the turnover of maternity clothes and baby gear is high, lots of these items often end up being donated. So, if you have a baby or young child in your life, or you know some parents-to-be, why not see if you can pick them up something in your local charity shop?
From maternity dresses to stair gates and buggies, there are plenty of good-quality, preloved items out there.
More and more people are choosing to buy their furniture secondhand. Not only is this a greener option because it keeps pieces in circulation and out of the dump, but it can also help you find great quality items for less.
There are plenty of places to find cheap, pre-loved furniture, but charity shops that specialise in furniture and electricals are certainly some of the best – like the ones run by the British Heart Foundation, St Christopher’s, and Emmaus.
One thing to remember when shopping for secondhand furniture is that the condition doesn’t have to be perfect. Often, minor repairs that you can learn to do at home can breathe new life into a piece.
For example, say there’s an antique chair with a frame that you love, but the fabric print clashes with your wallpaper. In this case, why not brush up on some upholstering skills and swap it for something more appropriate?
10. Picture frames
Whether you’re looking to frame photos of your family or display your artwork in style, picture frames can add elegance to anyone’s home.
But they offer more than just decorative benefits, as frames can protect our beloved artwork, which is especially handy for anything that has strong sentimental value – like a concert poster from our youth or a picture painted by a loved one.
Sure, you can find lots of new frames online for next to nothing, but many of these are very poor quality and come in drab, minimalist styles. So why not look out for good-quality frames in your local charity shop? You might be surprised at what you can find.
Check out this article from Fast Frame to find out some tips for picking the right picture frames for your decor.
11. Leather boots
Leather products are known for their durability and longevity, which is why lots of leather boots end up being donated to charity shops. They often have many more years of stylish service to give, even after their previous owners have decided they no longer need them – so it’s worth keeping an eye out for them.
Some people might balk at the idea of buying secondhand shoes and think it’s a little bit unhygienic. And, of course, as with all secondhand items, there are some products worth avoiding.
But the truth is that people often buy shoes only to discover after a couple of wears that they don’t fit right. These can sit untouched in wardrobes for years before finally getting donated to charity shops.
Although, if you’re worried, you can always get new purchases professionally cleaned and deodorised – they’ll still be a whole lot cheaper than buying leather boots new. Plus, they’ll be less painful because you won’t need to break them in.
While saving money is a big benefit of buying leather boots at charity shops, those looking to make more ethical shopping choices might also want to buy their other leather products secondhand. This is because every new leather piece we buy involves the death of an animal but also uses lots of water and energy.
From vintage typewriters to leather boots, there are plenty of treasures to hunt for in your local charity shop. And while we mention some of the best things to look out for here, it’s certainly not an exhaustive list, as part of the fun is that you never know what you’re going to find.
For more thrifty money-saving tips, head over to the everyday finance section of our website.
Are you a fan of charity shops? If so, what are some of your favourite finds? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.