I volunteer in a charity shop – my top tips for bagging bargains, plus best times to shop and secret places to look | The Sun

IF the cost-of-living crisis has put a strain on your finances, you’ll want to head down to your local charity shop immediately.

But before you do, we spoke to a charity shop volunteer, Ana Christina Oliveira Da Cunha, to get her top advice on not only how to bag the best bargains, but also the best times to shop and the secret places to look for items that would make perfect Christmas gifts. 


Ana has been volunteering in her local Oxfam charity shop in Islington for almost two years now and we spoke to her to get her top tips and tricks to bagging the best bargains.

So if you want to shop second–hand but aren’t sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place, as Ana revealed her top shopping advice.

Ana told Fabulous: “In my role, I have lots of fun styling the mannequins in the window. I think sometimes people can be a bit nervous about asking for something in the window, but when styling it, I always choose eye-catching items to draw people in.

“So, these are often high-quality and our best pieces, and by selecting them you can get a real bargain. Don’t worry about ‘messing up’ the display. 

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“If you end up buying something from the window, it just gives me an excuse to style it up again, which I love!

“Don’t be put off by items with loose seams or missing buttons, particularly if they are designer or premium high-street. 

“Alterations, repairs or mending can often be done at a better price than you think at your local dry cleaners. Or you could give it a go yourself! 

“Not only is the total cost of the item and the repair still a fraction of the designer item, prolonging the life cycle of an item of clothing is the best way to do sustainable fashion.

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“We also get brand new surplus stock from high-street brands – so these can be a real bargain as they’re brand new, unworn, on trend and a fraction of the price.

“Finally, consider becoming a volunteer yourself to get first dibs on some bargains! You’ll also be doing lots of good, as Oxfam really need volunteers ahead of the Christmas period".

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If you are wanting to cut the costs and pick up some brilliant bargains, Ana has revealed the top things to look out for when charity shop shopping. 

She advised: “Remember – you don’t always need to buy designer to get a bargain. Even if the item is fast fashion and it’s in good condition, you’re most likely still getting it cheaper than purchasing it new. 

“If you like it, it’s the perfect opportunity to have it without putting a new piece of clothing into the economy. 

“The beauty of a charity shop is that we don’t have 10 pairs of the same jeans on one rack. Everything is unique, so look for items that draw you in. 

“Try it on whilst there if you can. It might be designer or you might have never heard of the brand – if it makes you feel good, that’s the most important thing.

“I often find that coats can be great items to hunt for. You wear it daily, so it can be a real wardrobe staple to look out for. Coats often have a really great discount compared to the original price too.

“At Oxfam, we sort by colour, which is a really enjoyable way to shop. If you know you suit red, head straight to the red section and spend some extra time browsing that rail.

“Get to know your wardrobe too. This will serve you well when browsing charity shops. Spend an evening with a glass of wine trying on your clothes again to refamiliarise yourself with your clothes and re-love them.

“Then, when you head into the charity shop, you’ll have an idea about what items go with what, and you can visualise new outfits in your head.

I think sometimes people can be put off by the ‘sale rale’ in a charity shop, as they require a bit more rummaging. However, they are still very much worth a look as ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ and you never know what you might find.

“Don’t always wait until you need to replace something as then you’ll most likely go to the high street for speed and convenience. For example, if you’ve had a pair of black boots for a few years and feel this might the last year you can wear them, just keep an eye out each time you pop into a charity shop.

This charity shop volunteer also revealed the best times to shop if you want to be sure to get your hands on a great deal.

She continued: “At Oxfam, we get items in any time of day, so my overall tip is just pop in when you’re passing and have a browse. 

“A good time to go can be after the ‘clear out’ moments in the year. People have a declutter over Christmas ready for the new year, or donate unwanted Christmas presents. So instead of the January sales, consider visiting your local charity shops instead. 

“Weekdays can be a little quieter. This might mean we’re less busy on the shop floor serving customers, so have more time to get new items out onto the rails throughout the day. Pop in on your lunch break if you can”.

Not only this, but Ana also revealed the secret places in charity shops that are often full of brilliant bargains.

She advised: “I think sometimes people can be put off by the ‘sale rale’ in a charity shop, as they require a bit more rummaging. However, they are still very much worth a look as ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ and you never know what you might find.

“Often charity shops have a designer rail which is separate from the main rail – find out whereabouts this is in your local charity shop as it’s always worth a browse.

“Look in the men’s sections. You can get lovely oversize knits, or shirts, which are perfect for winter. I once found my husband a Barbour shirt at a great price, and I steal this for myself too!

“A secret tip is to follow your local Oxfam’s Instagram page – I run the Oxfam Islington page and share photos of our displays and some of the wonderful items we have in.

“You can get a glance at what we’ve got without heading down. If you DM me and ask nicely, I may even be able to hold something for you! 

“And don’t forget our online shop. When we think ‘charity shop’ we understandably think of a physical store. However, the online Oxfam shop has thousands of items to browse and can be a really great way to find some good bargains”.

As well as this, with the costs racking up this Christmas, if you are looking to bag some Christmas gifts from your local charity shop to save some extra cash, Ana has shared her top advice on the items to look out for.

I spotted a L’Occitane gift set the other day at a bargain price! These sets are all unopened and they can be a much better deal than the high street.

She explained: “People may not realise but in lots of Oxfam shops we sell toiletry gift sets around this time of year, containing lovely bubble baths, candles and hand creams. 

“I spotted a L’Occitane gift set the other day at a bargain price! These sets are all unopened and they can be a much better deal than the high street. These are also great for Secret Santa’s.

“Books are always a lovely gift too and you can pick these up for a couple of pounds. We often have recent bestsellers donated, but it’s also really nice to have a browse and find unexpected presents for your friends or family. 

“We also have really unique homeware items – from beautiful vases, to quirky salt and pepper shakers and high-quality glasses. 

“Not forgetting our ‘Oxfam’s Own’ items. We have a number of fair-trade partners, such as Tony’s Chocolonely and Faith in Nature soaps and hair care, which are in the store all year round and make excellent gifts. 

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“You can also return items to Oxfam (just like any other shop!). So if the piece of clothing doesn’t fit or the item isn’t quite right, your loved one can swap it for something they truly love”.

Ana is supporting Oxfam’s campaign for more volunteers to help fight poverty in its shops. For information, or to apply, pop into your local Oxfam shop or visit: https://www.oxfam.org.uk/shopvolunteering 

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