The 7 Secrets of Successful
Charity Shopping for Kids


FACT: Children are expensive! They constantly grow out of clothes, break things or simply need more challenging books and toys. They need costumes for school productions, gift donations for school fairs, bedding, furniture and stationery. Never mind the fact that you have to feed them too. Phew!

If you are on a tight budget, the cost of all this could cause sleepless nights. So before you head to the high street or shopping centre, try your local charity shops.

For a fraction of the cost of high street items you can pick up good quality or even designer kids clothes and accessories, as-new condition books and games and even furniture for your children. You never know what will turn up in a charity shop, but with these 7 secrets for charity shopping you will be shopping like an expert in no time.

  1. Look for new gear. Charity shops get lots of items donated that are still unworn, unopened or unused in the box. Yes, they will be priced a little higher than the used stock, but they will at most be 50% of the original purchase price and are often dramatically less.
  2. Any time is a good time to shop. Some people advocate tactical shopping and think that certain times of day, or certain days of the week yield better stock. Not true.  Most shops have little storage space and get donations out on the shop floor as soon as possible.  And you never know what someone might donate today!
  3. Go for quality. Avoid clothing items from cheap, fast fashion chains or any poor quality garments. It’s no saving if they are unwearable after a few washes. The only exception to this would be costume items that you don’t expect to be worn more than once.
  4. Related: 17 Easy Tips for Saving Money on Children's Clothes
  5. Books are always great value. Charity shops mostly won’t sell books that have been chewed, damaged or drawn on, so the few baby and toddler books on the shelves will be good ones.  If you have older children look out for school study books and revision books, but check the dates in them as school syllabuses can change fast these days. Older books on science, maths and languages may be worth picking up as the information in them will not date; other subject books may not cover the necessary topics if they are not recent.
  6. Purchase ahead – but not too far ahead. When you find an item that is a real bargain but is perhaps a few sizes too big, it is tempting to buy it to save for later.  This is OK as long as you have the self discipline not to do it on a regular basis. I know someone who found several bags of forgotten and unworn charity-shopped clothes in their attic which were way too small for any of her children. I’m not too bad at this myself but I must confess that I have a pair of boys Boden trousers that I was unable to resist from a 50p rail over five years ago that are still too large for my eldest son.
  7. Buying toys is child’s play. Lots of the games that are donated to charity shops are hardly used. But be warned, some shops are more scrupulous than others about checking whether games are complete, so always ask to look inside the box if it taped up.  Soft toys should always be washed before giving them to a child and if you have the slightest concerns about asthma or eczema you should also freeze the toys to kill any dust mites as well.
  8. Party dresses are top bargains. Party wear for both boys and girls is often the most expensive items of clothing we buy for our kids, yet they are often only worn once or twice at most. When they turn up in a charity shop they will be massively discounted compared with the new price.

Finally, if you are grateful to have been able to save money with savvy charity shopping, please help both a charity and other cash-strapped parents by donating your own outgrown clothes, books and toys when you have finished with them. Many charities will also take damaged, dirty or otherwise unsalable clothing items which they can sell for recycling into rags, so you can even your well-used items can help a charity.

About the Author: Jacqui O'Brien is the Editor of eParenting.

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