How to Make the Most of Online Charity Shops

Secondhand, consignment, vintage, thrift – whatever you call charity shopping, it’s a great way to be financially, sustainably, and ethically responsible. But traipsing around countless charity shops and digging through messy rails can be exhausting. Luckily, there are now lots of online charity shop options perfect for updating your wardrobe.

While visiting online charity shops is often easier than going to a store, there are still lots of challenges and pitfalls. From hard-to-search websites to blurry pictures, it can be tricky to know how to navigate these sites. And, truth be told, it can be tempting to give up. 

However, secondhand clothes are an important way to sustainable and ethical living while not busting your budget. You can find amazing items from your favourite stores without compromising on ethics or cost. You might also find a vintage piece that becomes the centrepiece of your wardrobe for years to come. 

To help make the most of online charity shops, here are my top five tricks and tips. 

1. Know exactly what you’re looking for 

There are lots of websites out there with very different levels of ‘searchability’. Let’s just say, SEO isn’t always the strong point of online charity shops. You might have to press the ‘next’ button dozens of times before coming to something you actually like. 

So, in order to cut down on scrolling time, it’s best to start by knowing exactly what you’re looking for. Instead of a pair of boots, think about the style, size, colour, material and heel height that you want. There are usually filters that you can use to narrow down your options. 

Start by searching for what you think the item might be called (‘ladies leather boot’). Before you start looking at the options (you don’t want to fall in love with something you can’t fit!), use the filters to narrow down by colour and material. 

If you don’t find anything you like, you can always widen your search. But starting with a narrow search field and a good idea of what you are looking for will help make the process less daunting. Just try not to look too far out of the size that you are. The next tip will tell you why!

Check out my post Ethical Gifts for Boys (That They’ll Actually Like!)

2. Don’t buy just because it’s cheap

We’ve all done it – bought something that we knew we would never wear, but justified our purchase by the price. Just because it’s cheap, however, doesn’t mean it’s a good purchase. 

One of the benefits of tip number one is avoiding a wandering eye. However, if you’ve branched out and found things that are unlikely to fit, really ask yourself if it’s right for you. Is it a medium, but you’re normally a large? Or a small, and you’re normally an extra small? Fit is everything, so if it’s too big or too small, it’s not for you.

Sometimes, you’ll say to yourself that you’ll have it altered (either by yourself or professionally) if it doesn’t quite fit. Great!…if you will actually do that. Ask yourself: have I had any items of clothing altered in the last twelve months? If the answer is no, then give this piece a miss. If that gorgeous cashmere jumper you got for ten pounds from the Oxfam online charity shop just sits in your closet, it’s doing no one any good. 

online charity shops

3. Get size smart

It can be hard to know if something will fit, even if you’re buying new from a brand’s website and have all the size options you could wish for. My tip for any online shopping – whether new or from an online charity shop – is the same: your tape measure is your friend. Click on the size chart option and find out exactly what you need. 

As online charity shops almost always stock a wide variety of brands, this might not seem like the most obvious option. However, the brand of the item is usually displayed. Head over to the brand’s website, grab your tape measure, and use their size chart to figure out if your item will fit. 

This might not be perfect, but it’s better than ordering something and finding out that, like the Grinch’s heart, it was two sizes too small. 

When you’re measuring and finding your size, be honest with yourself. It’s just a number, in the end. You want to feel comfortable and confident in your clothing, no matter what the label says. No one sees it anyway!

online charity shops

4. Be in the know

There are so many sites out there now offering online secondhand shopping. Here are a few online charity shops:

And here are a few online secondhand shops:

These are just some ideas – there are so many out there now that your options are endless. 

BUT, before you find the perfect pair of corduroy overalls for your little girl, make sure that the website caters for your country. Some places may not ship to where you live. Even if they do, they may not accept foreign cards. 

Once you find your favourite sites, create a tab on your browser and make these your go-to shopping sites whenever you think about something you need. It’s a simple change from popping to your local shopping centre or hitting Amazon. It’s just as easy but much better for people and planet.

5. Don’t forget your online options!

It’s easy to think about buying secondhand when you’ve seen a story in the news, you’re doing a full wardrobe update, or you come home frustrated from an unsuccessful shopping trip. However, secondhand online shopping isn’t just for these occasions. It’s forever. 

If you have a big event coming up, why not check out your favourite sites (helpfully bookmarked in your browser!) before you go to the shops? I bought dresses for two weddings (one of which was my brother’s) on the online Oxfam shop for about £26 total – and I love them both.

Buying from an online charity shop for the whole family. Men, women, mums, dads, and even children! There are so many options out there that you’re bound to be successful in your online endeavours. 

What next? 

I hope these tips have helped you feel more confident and have more success in your online secondhand shopping. It’s a great way to save money and be more ethical and sustainable.

While the sites can look daunting to start with, keeping these five tips in mind will hopefully help you to save time as you search through the secondhand treasures that are waiting for you online.