You’re a poor student who is tired of wearing the same jeans you had in transition year. You’re looking for some new threads to wow that absolute ride in your course but you’re down to twenty euro a week and clothing is expensive, right? WRONG! Here is your comprehensive guide to the seemingly little known treasure trove that is charity shops:
How do I go about it?
This can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be, but as with shopping in general, the more thorough you are the more deals you will get. First off, identify where the shops in your city/town are. In Cork City, for example, there is a good selection on North Main Street, and a few more dotted around the city centre. Oliver Plunkett has a few options too.
What I like to do is take an hour or two and go through every charity shop on North Main St. twice. Go up the street, do a loop and come back down. If you see something you like but aren’t sure of, this is a good way to see if it’s worth it. It gives you a chance to hit the ATM if you need to and you might catch a deal you missed the first time around.
The shops are generally organised in two ways: by item. e.g. tops on one rail, jeans on another, etc (this is most common) or by colour, e.g. reds together, blues together, and so on. If you have time and inclination, going through every rack is by far the best option, though if you are looking for something specific even random browsing can be good. It’s a bit like being a Disney princess; you might have to shift a few frogs before you find your prince, and you might have to elbow your way through a few racks before you find something stunning.
Tricks of the Trade – Things to Know Before You Hit the (Charity) Shops
- The Irish Cancer Society is one of the better ones, as is St Vincent De Paul. General rules are; the more known the charity, the better the options. Some shops are more expensive than others, but everything is still cheaper than retail.
- The first time you go, it can be overwhelming; “Oh My God, all this stuff is so cheap! I MUST HAVE THEM ALL!” Fun fact: It is ridiculously easy to spend much more than intended when everything is less than a fiver. Make a budget and stick with it. Keep track of how much you’re spending along your trip and stop when you hit your limit.
- It’s also easy to buy things you will never wear because they’re so cheap, but this tends not to be particularly cost effective. When the inevitable happens and you open your bag to find a hideous excuse for a cocktail dress staring back at you, remember that one person’s trash is another person’s going out outfit. Donate it back and try not to smile when you see a fresher wearing it at the Arts ball two weeks later.
- The thing about charity shops is that there is no back up of a certain item. Each thing you get is a one off, so going frequently is key to getting the good stuff. Good times to go are usually about three weeks after the sales are on; by then everyone will be getting rid of their older clothes or new clothes that they have decided they don’t want. KER-CHING!
- Do NOT ask for a discount or haggle with the cashiers. There are normally signs to this effect near the registers but allow me to reiterate; it’s phenomenally cheeky to ask for a discount on clothing when you’re getting it cheaply and the proceeds go to charity. Don’t be that guy. No-one likes that guy.
- In the same vein, do not ask to return an item for a refund. If you’re giving something back, donate it again. Remember, the money goes to charity and the people working are volunteers.
- Charity shops have sales and special offers too. Barnardos on North Main Street offers a loyalty card that you get when you spend €5 and it works like the stamp cards you get in Starbucks; fill it and get €5 credit in-store. Most shops have a sales rack for discounted items up all the time, in addition to regular sales.
- Not all charity shops accept card, so be sure to hit the ATM before you go!
- Don’t buy just because it’s cheap. If a t-shirt is full of holes “but it’s only 20c!” don’t buy it just for the sake of it, you’ll never wear it!
It’s not just clothes, either. You can get just about anything you want in a charity shop, shoes, home wares, books, I found an ice cream maker once! It’s hard being a student with little to no cash flow, but that doesn’t mean you have to look it. Get out, treat yourself to something new (ish) and wear it with pride. You’ve earned it.