These days, you can buy almost anything, from furniture and clothing to books and electronics, used or secondhand and in good condition. Purchasing pre-loved items is not only an economically wise choice, it’s also far better for the environment. Every item you buy from a charity shop, flea market or online marketplace is one which you’ve saved from going into landfill. It’s also one which doesn’t require new materials, manufacturing, long-distance transport or wasteful packaging.

If you’re new to buying secondhand, the golden rule for both online and in-person shops, is to visit regularly. Stock in charity shops is sold and replenished on a daily basis, and you have the best chance of snapping up hidden gems if you check-in often. This doesn’t mean you need to buy something every time you go – just carry a list of what you’re looking for (with sizes and measurements, where relevant), and keep your eyes peeled.

Thrifting online can be easier, especially on eBay, where you can set up saved search alerts to let you know when new items are added. You can also, of course, check websites whenever and wherever it suits you, rather than relying on shop opening hours. Check out this useful guide to eBay shopping tricks to help you track down the best finds and deals.

However you prefer to shop, it’s also useful to familiarise yourself with what sort of things are available. When you’re planning to make any sort of purchase, take a moment to ask yourself whether the item needs to be brand new. We’ve listed a handful of our favourite categories below, including a few you might not have previously considered.

Trainers | If my nephews are anything to go by, people who love trainers will often wear them for just a few months before moving on to the next – newer – big thing. They sell the old trainers, still in good condition (because they were a treasured possession until very recently), and you can pick them up for a fraction of the original cost.

Vinyl | If you, or someone you know, is interested in collecting vinyl records, charity shops can be a treasure trove of both singles and albums. They’re usually super cheap to buy, and in amongst the weird and not-always-wonderful, you might just find some treasures.

Jewellery and Watches | This is definitely a hit-or-miss area, but you can find great pieces at amazing prices, whether you’re shopping for costume or more valuable jewellery. Vintage tastes are well catered for, both online and at flea markets, and they can be useful shopping options for gifts as well as pieces to add to your own wardrobe.

Books | I know a couple of people who use their local charity shops almost like a library, paying 50p-£1 for a book, taking it home to read, and then re-donating it when they’ve finished. This is great for children and adults, both fiction and non-fiction titles. eBay can also be useful for tracking down harder-to-find used books, and buying textbooks used rather than new can save students substantial amounts of money.

Handbags | If you have designer tastes but a high-street budget, this can be a great hack. As with the trainers mentioned above, many handbag fans will sell lightly used bags to fund the purchase of a newer one, giving you the chance to snap up something special without breaking the bank. Look out for mid-range designs for even lower prices if you want something which is good quality and much longer-lasting than a cheap, fast-fashion handbag.

Chargers | Anyone who tends to keep their devices for longer than a year or two may well have more success shopping for secondhand chargers and adaptors than trying to find them new, and they’ll almost certainly be cheaper. This one is going to be an online-only purchase, though – don’t expect to find accessories for your second-generation iPod in a local charity store.

Magazines | Obviously used magazines aren’t going to be current, up-to-date issues, but unless that’s particularly important to you, you can save huge amounts of money buying backdated titles secondhand. Look out for bundles if you’re buying online, to save on postage costs.

Picture Frames | You can pick up frames in an almost endless range of sizes and styles at charity shops and car boot sales for far less money than they cost new – often just a pound or two. Most can easily be painted or stained if you want to change the colour (tester pots of paint are perfect for this), and any dodgy artwork in the frame can be replaced, too.

Musical Instruments and Sports Equipment | These might not seem like obvious bedfellows, but if you, or maybe your children, are taking up a new hobby, it’s well worth trying to source equipment secondhand. You’re likely to get better quality pieces, than you would shopping new on a lower budget, and it can also allow you to get a sense of whether the hobby is for you or not, without making a huge upfront investment.

Puzzles and Board Games | Puzzles are enjoying a revival in popularity just now and, as with books, people often purchase, use and then re-donate them to thrift and charity shops. There’s always the risk of missing pieces, but some shops will count to make sure they’re all there before selling. It’s well worth asking, if that’s a particular concern for you.

KEEP READING: Donating unwanted items is great, but what about things which have reached the end of their useful life? To find out more about where you can recycle almost anything in the UK, check out this fantastic post by Emma Reed.


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