I’m a charity shop expert – five items to always buy and three to avoid


AS any charity shopping devotee will know, bagging a bargain can be really satisfying, and can often save you a big sum of cash.

But if you’re not careful, it’s all too easy to get swept up in the moment, and spend money on a purchase you later regret.

Emma Bradley from Mums Savvy Savings has revealed her top tips when it comes to charity shop purchases

The 46-year-old blogger frequently visits the charity shops in Gloucester

We spoke to charity shopping aficionado, Emma Bradley from Mums Savvy Savings to ask her how to make the right choices.

The 46-year-old blogger who lives in Gloucester regularly frequents the charity shops in her local area.

She told HOAR: “The key to making successful purchases is ensuring you have time to think about what you’re buying, and being prepared to do a lot of browsing.

“The good news is, with just a little bit of effort, it’s possible to make some pretty decent savings.

“Equally, by buying second-hand, you’re also doing your bit for the planet, too, by reducing waste.”

Here Emma shares her tips on the items you should always buy at a charity shop, and the ones best avoided.

Items you should buy at a charity shop

Board games

If you have little ones who love board games, or if you like playing them yourself, it’s well worth seeing what your local charity shop has to offer.

Emma pointed out that Argos is selling Guess Who for £18, while The Entertainer is selling Trivial Pursuit for just over £20.

“Purchasing board games first hand can often be pretty pricey, so a charity shop can offer a much cheaper alternative,” she said.

“Games may be priced at just a few pounds, and potentially even less.

“Do a quick check that everything that should be included is in the box.

“The big benefit of buying a used game is you can play it until you get bored, or until the kids do, and then you can take it back to where you bought it, and buy another one.”

Vintage pieces

While buying any item of clothing second-hand is an easy way to pay less, Emma recommends specifically seeking out vintage items, as that’s where some of the biggest savings can be made.

“You want to look for pieces that never go out of fashion,” she said.

“This can include jackets and key pieces from timeless brands.

“Look for items from high-end names, such as Burberry, as well as denim jackets from Levis.

“You can often find expensive brands for a fraction of the price.”

Designer polo tops

As you’re rifling through the racks in your local store, keep an eye out for designer polo tops, and especially Ralph Lauren ones.

Even a child’s polo Ralph Lauren could easily set you back £50 if bought new.

“If you see one of these items in a charity shop, give it some serious thought,” said Emma.

“They last really well and wash well, too. Plus, if they are not good for you, they are easy to re-sell.”


Charity shoppers can be so focused on buying clothes, that they don’t pay any attention to the accessories on the shelves, according to Emma.

“These are frequently overlooked,” she said. “Yet you can often find real silk scarves or ties.”

Emma recommends looking for classics, including Liberty prints and items from high-end designers.

She added: “Hats are another ‘must-buy’ as people often only wear them once or twice for a wedding or other special occasion, and then give them away.

“You can make significant savings buying used, as opposed to new.”

Unwanted gifts

While second-hand is usually the name of the game in a charity shop, Emma recommends looking at new items on display too.

“So many people give away unwanted gifts and these are brilliant for re-selling or re-gifting,” said the charity shop supremo.

““I recently bought a Loungefly Disney trading pin for £1. The item was still boxed.

“I subsequently sold it for £20 on Ebay.

“On other occasions, I’ve bought brand new items that have made ideal birthday and Christmas presents for friends and family.”

Items you should avoid at a charity shop


Jigsaws can be a real hit with little ones, with lots of adults enjoying them, too.

But if a puzzle catches your eye, Emma says it’s probably a bad idea to pick it up.

“There is nothing worse than getting home and starting the jigsaw only to discover that a few of the pieces are missing,” said the charity shopping whizz.

“Unlike a game, there are likely to be too many pieces to do a quick check while you’re still in-store.”

The Range and The Works are both good bets when buying brand new puzzles, as there are often reductions and discounts to be found.

For example, the 1,500-piece starry night jigsaw of Van Gogh’s masterpiece is currently down from £6.99 to £4.89 at The Range.

Clothes that have faults

If you fall in love with an item of clothing while you’re working your way through the racks, only to find it has a broken zip or split seam, you may find yourself in a quandary.

In this situation, the wisest thing to do is put it back, according to Emma.

“You will tell yourself that you will fix the fault yourself, or pay to get it fixed, but invariably people don’t do this,” she said.

“You can then end up wasting money on an item you never end up actually wearing. Check items carefully before purchasing.”


It’s easy to get drawn in by what appears to be a designer handbag sitting in a charity shop window, but you need to steer clear, said Emma.

“There are so many fakes and dupes bought from holidays and trips abroad,” she said.

“You might be tempted in that moment, but once you leave the shop, everyone will be able to tell that it’s a fake. Many of the dupes are bad copies.”

She added that it’s pretty rare to get your hands on  a genuine Mulberry or Louis Vuitton bag at a charity shop.

“For a real designer handbag find, you’d probably have more luck at a car boot sale,” she said.

If you do decide to buy new, make use of tools such as Google Shopping to check prices online, and ensure you’re getting a good deal.