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Charity Shops

I volunteer once a week for Cancer Research UK in their charity shop on the high street in Lincoln (if anyone wants to visit, I’m there on a Thursday and we are located near the base of Steep Hill across from the Slug & Lettuce). My job is mostly downstairs in the shop – running the till, putting clothing and other items out on the racks/shelves, and general tidying up. Sometimes I also help W, the other volunteer with picking items for the window display, make price labels for B, our manager, and set up displays. I love volunteering and helping out…but the biggest benefit of working in a charity shop? Shopping in a charity shop.

Charity shops in the UK are different from shops in the US. In the US, the two big shops are Salvation Army and Goodwill. At SA you can get t-shirts for $0.50, jeans for $2, and even prom dresses for less than $10. You really have to comb through the racks of clothing to try your luck at finding something branded. I remember one time I found an Express skirt for $2, but most of the time it was combing through lots of discount chain brands and promotional items.

Charity shops in the UK are different. First of all, most big charities (Cancer Research UK, British Red Cross, British Heart Foundation, OxFam, etc.) have their own shops where they sell commercial goods for fundraising, branded items, and donated items. Some charities have multiple shops, such as the OxFam bookshop or the Heart Foundation furniture & appliance shop. Signs in the window at the British Heart Foundation shop advertise used televisions starting at £15 and other used appliances for under £100. I wish I had known of their existence when we had to buy a new washing machine in February!

Since I started volunteering in March, I think I’ve spent around £30 total in different charity shops (though most in the one I volunteer at!). But if I had purchased those same things on the high street? I bet I would have easily spent £300. I shop for high street branded items – I’ve scored per una (Marks & Spencers) blouses and tops for £3-£5, a dress from Evans for £7, a dress from Monsoon for £4, and assorted practically new books for £1-£3. And a quick glance at M&S shows a shirt similar to the one I purchased for £3 selling in their shop for £22, a new-with-tags shirt I paid £5 for selling at £25, and another new-with-tags shirt I paid £4 for selling at £19. And the dress from Evans would have set me back at least £25, and the Monsoon dress at least £55!

And I can’t forget about books. If I forget a book when I go into town, I usually stop in at the OxFam shop and pick out a book and spend £1-2, less than the cost of a magazine. I’ve even picked up the latest Phillipa Gregory book at the charity shop for £2. Buying books used is a great way to expand your collection if you don’t have much to spend. I also decided to purchase cookbooks at charity shops and used book shops instead of £25-30 at Waterstones.

So please, if you’re looking for some new clothing, consider checking in a charity shop first. Not only will you save some money, you’re money will go to a good cause. Or even better, donate some time to your local charity shop!

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