How to get a £1,000 dress for £42 without leaving your house

I don’t know if it’s because I’m older (or just more boring), but binge drinking and parties don’t excite me like they used to.

These days I like to browse the charity shops. The buzz of finding a hidden gem that would normally cost an arm and a leg, for a few pounds, is like bagging that elusive Beyoncé concert ticket 30 seconds before it sells out.

Thrift shopping has become my forte since having a baby and moving from a one-bed apartment to a house.

I learned very quickly that spending a lot on baby stuff is a fool’s game; the best-case scenario is that the new item lasts for a few months, while the worst-case scenario is that it sits in the cupboard gathering dust because it never adjusted in the first place.

We’re out of money after the move (I blame the baby) so secondhand is the only option if we don’t want to sit on the floor until she’s four and I can quit to pay childcare costs.

Charity shops now understand the power of carefully curated and highly desirable online collections – whether it’s high-end but pre-owned designer clothing and accessories from Vestiaire Collective, or hand-picked vintage beauties for the youngest on Depop.

The used game has changed, it has become digital.

I discovered charity shopping online a year or two ago (a rare lockdown positive) and have been hooked ever since I managed to buy a silk Dior scarf for £15. Here are some of my insider tips.

Read more: 20 easy ways to save money

Don’t be afraid to go for the best treasures, says Charlotte


Crisis is a charity that helps the homeless. Online is one of my favorites second hand websites as it is visually appealing and easy to use compared to some others. Delivery is £3.95 for everything, or free if you spend over £50. Here are some of the great deals I found:

Crisis often hosts online sales and offers coupon codes from time to time. It’s worth signing up for the Crisis newsletter for those extra discounts.

Research against cancer

Cancer Research currently uses eBay, Depop, Asos Marketplace and Vestiaire to sell items that have been donated. His Cloakroom account is especially tempting if you like high-end designer items.

Here are some examples of items you will find:

  • Louis Vuitton Chantilly leather shoulder bag£500 (was £595).
  • Burberry cashmere scarf, £70 (or £50 if you use the discount code, which gets you £20 off when you sign up). A new one costs £390

Depop caters to younger people and sells “cooler” items, often from the early 2000s. You’ll find lots of Vans sneakers, vintage sportswear such as Kappa and Adidas, and high street items such as River Island on the Cancer research account.

You will also come across second-hand flights at asosand there are a lot of people eBay store where you can compete against other bargain hunters in a bidding war.


Barnardo’s has an online store with mostly new items, but its eBay store is where you can hunt for luxury second-hand items.

Some items you can bid on include:

If you’re more interested in in-store shopping with Barnardo’s, top brands such as Koi Footwear, James Galt, Gibsons Games and French Connection all donate new items to the charity to sell at a fraction of the price.

A Boden cardigan for £2

Sue Ryder

Sue Ryder offers two different ways to buy used items online, with 100% of profits going to the charity’s palliative, neurological and bereavement support.

His Depop shop is where you’ll find specially curated vintage, retro, designer treasures and other pre-loveds, from 1990s puffer jackets to Dr Martens.

This vintage adidas jacket for £25 it’s very cool and much cheaper than the price you’d pick it up at one of those hipster curated vintage stores.

At Sue Ryder’s eBay store, there are a wealth of treasures – from wedding dresses and collectibles to jewelry and musical instruments – that have been handpicked from Sue Ryder’s charity shops. To give you an idea:

The online store holds sales twice a year, in January and August, with up to 50% off.


The RSPCA hasn’t been shy about selling online – with a presence on just about every savings platform I can think of. It has a main eBay storebut other sales accounts appear to be run by individual charity shops.

On the main site, you can currently bid on:

The charity has a Vinted account (which, by the way, is my favorite place to buy used toddler clothes), and Depop accounts (managed by different stores).

This is not an exhaustive list of online charity shops. Most have one, including Age United Kingdom, Oxfam and faraall of which have beautiful sites with brilliant designer deals.

Don’t forget smaller, more local charities that may also sell online and have less competition for bargains.

Read more: 10 ways to start saving money

Don’t fall for the designer’s dupe trap

When buying second hand designer items there will always be an element of risk that you are not actually buying a genuine designer piece. That said, there are things you can do to protect yourself.

If you’re thinking of spending the big bucks on a second-hand designer item, perhaps stick to luxury resale site Vestiaire Collective. Every item offered for sale must go through a rigorous authentication process, including shipping each item to its French headquarters for verification.

If you think you’ve bought a fake on eBay, you’re first advised to contact the seller to sort things out for you (and they’re a charity – so they’re unlikely to be unscrupulous ). However, if that doesn’t work, you go to the eBay resolution center to fix the problem. It’s always worth paying with PayPal if possible, as your claim entitles you to a money-back guarantee.

If you think you bought something that isn’t genuine on Depop, you’re covered by its buyer protection system. You will get a full refund if you report the problem to them within 180 days of the purchase date.

As a general rule, if you are spending more than £100 and less than £30,000, consider using a credit card in order to qualify for Section 75 cover. This means your lender is also responsible for you. refund if there is a problem.

It’s always nice to have that extra layer of protection if you’re shopping for designer items online.

Read more “What I learned from trying to save a third of my salary”

A brand new Zara children’s knit

Prefer to go to a charity shop? Here are our top tips

If going to the shops on your local high street is more for you, here are my top tips:

  1. Hit the fancy zones

The more affluent the area, the more likely it is that you can pick up high-end items for a fraction of their RRP.

Just last week I was in the Welsh town of Cowbridge, where I managed to pick up JoJo Maman Bébé shorts for £1 and a mint condition Sarah Louise dress for £4.99, while they usually sell for £60-£60. 70.

  1. Find new premium brands in Charity Shops

Some charity stores have relationships with high-street brands where new items that haven’t sold out will be available at a lower cost.

In my area, there’s a cancer research store that French Connection donates items to on a fairly regular basis, and a British Red Cross that had a ton of Zara clothes with tags.

It’s worth talking to the volunteers at your local charity shop, as they have a wealth of knowledge and will be able to tell you which brands they have a relationship with.

  1. Find last chance shops

When an item has been in the store too long, some charities will ship it to another part of the country, where it will end up in a ‘last chance’ store before being destroyed or sent overseas. These stores are usually massive and everything comes at a price.

There are two such thrift stores near me – one where everything is £1 and another where everything in the store is under £3. I grabbed a leather Boden bag for a quid and a Joules cardigan for £2.

  1. To be coherent

Most charity shops make new donations daily, so you shouldn’t wait until the weekend when there’s more competition. Hit the main street during the week.

  1. Continue the cycle

Charity shopping is becoming a more enjoyable experience as items become more and more upscale. If you want to keep the cycle going and help those in need, donate good quality items yourself to be reused and loved.

*Prices were correct at the time of writing

About Valerie Wilson

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