Why buying second hand clothes is good for your wallet and the planet

I love buying second hand clothes. In fact, I rarely buy anything new.

Once you realise just how cheaply good quality second hand clothes can be purchased, you resent paying the full price!

Here’s why I buy second hand clothes and how to find them.

It’s cheaper

second hand clothes

Well, obviously buying second hand will be cheaper than buying brand new. Unless, that is, you buy something labelled vintage! I tend to avoid so called vintage items as I remember many of them from the first time round and they were ugly then.

I was a child in the seventies and mustard yellow and muddy orange polyester monstrosities have left their scars.

You can create quirky looks

second hand clothes

A 99p dress, modelled by DD1

Having said that, buying second hand does give you the opportunity to create unique looks. Whilst the hoards buy identikit looks from the chain stores, true fashionistas love to root round the Oxfam Shop!

Charities benefit when you buy second hand clothes

I buy a fair few items from charity shops. Although many charge a lot now, there are still some bargains to be had. I have mentioned previously that we have a Barnado’s warehouse nearby where they sort and sell for their other stores.

I pop in regularly and find loads of bargains, many for as little as 99p and also donate many of my unwanted things.

second hand clothes

Buying and selling at the boot sale

You can afford better quality

Whereas our grandparents and the generations before them bought clothes to last, cheap, throwaway fashion is the new normal.

Poor quality fashion items can be bought for a few pounds and discarded after being worn a couple of times.

For me, a better option on a tight budget is to buy better quality brands in a used condition. I find Monsoon, Coast, Per Una, Gap, etc all the time.

Reusing is eco-friendly

Reusing rather than buying new reduces waste. As I said above, we live in a throwaway society. Buying second hand clothes extends their life and stops them being thrown away.

Reusing clothing means that less has to be produced in the first place. This in turn means fewer materials and less in the way of transportation.

You can sell yours to make money

When there is a market for second hand clothes this also creates an opportunity for you to sell your old ones and make a bit of extra cash.

You could even source good quality second hand clothes specifically for this purpose. There is a whole army of resellers prepared to get up early and scour the boot sales, or to spend lots of time in charity shops and nearly new sales in order to stock their reselling businesses. See my articles on selling on eBay here and here for more information.

Where to find them?

Boot sales

If you are prepared to make the effort, boot sales are by far the best and cheapest places to find good second hand clothes.

We were lucky enough in the summer to find a very well heeled family getting rid of a van load of designer and top branded stuff for 50p an item!

I have found so many amazing bargains at boot sales – I love them!

Online auction sites

Depop, Mercari, Gumtree, eBay, even Facebook Marketplace – there are many online auction sites these days. I use eBay personally but I am also experimenting with Mercari. They both have a huge selection of used clothing.

Yesterday  on eBay I found a seller my size clearing out her Per Una items and bought 2 skirts, a pair of pumps and a jumper! All used but in excellent condition for the princely sum of £28 including postage.

Charity shops

I am all for supporting charities via their shops. However, some of them charge far too much! I have seen cheap second hand Primark items for the same price as they cost new. Charity shops should make money but they also need to realise that people don’t expect to pay a lot for second hand clothes.

Having said that, the smaller ones tend to provide better value. If you can find the larger out of town branches, where they sort and dispose of items, they are even cheaper.

Jumble sales

Jumble sales hardly happen at all these days. When I was a teenager there used to be one on in a church hall somewhere pretty much every Saturday. However, once in a while you will find one, and it is also worth looking out for any fundraising community event where they might have a second hand clothes stall.

If you don’t usually buy second hand clothes, maybe now is the time to try. Are you a frugal fashionista and, if so, where do you find your bargains?

14 thoughts on “Why buying second hand clothes is good for your wallet and the planet

  1. I have to admit that I am not. We don’t seem to have as many charity shops as you do – in fact – the largest called “Goodwill” closed here in Toronto although it is still in business elsewhere. There are some consignment stores but they tend to deal in either vintage or designer resales that still cost a fortune.
    I have friends who have had good luck in this area but not me. I am a chubby petite so sizing can be an issue and the few times I’ve looked most items seemed very dated. I will be checking out one of the “Value Village” shops that isn’t too far from me next week – one friend swears by it for all her lovely scarves – and I wouldn’t mind a new black purse if I found one.
    Since retirement I simply don’t need as many clothes and I’ve always preferred quality over quantity so things tend to last a long time.
    A few friends do participate in clothing swaps a few times per year – someone is the hostess and she invites a number of friends – provides a room for changing and everyone trades back and forth. Have you or your daughters ever tried this as an option?

  2. I have bought 2nd hand clothes, and bought from dress agencies, too, but because I’m not too slim these days I find that the larger sizes – if you can find them – aren’t as nice. But this is usual in most shops: the manufacturers seem to think that unless we’re size 10 – 14 that we are old frumps and shouldn’t expect to look good, and that ill-fitting sacks are good enough for us. I have also noticed – and this is nothing to do with buying 2nd hand – that most sleeves of jackets and coats are far too long, especially if you’ve gone up a size or two. Why do the manufacturers think that if we are larger across the bust that we have gorilla-like arms? I often see women on TV wearing jackets with the sleeves almost coming down to their finger tips. You don’t see men wearing suits with similarly long sleeves, do you?
    Margaret P

  3. I’m newer to the second hand market, but now that I have started, especially for items like pants and skirts, I am hooked. I have not had luck with dresses and sweaters, and minimal with tops though. Too many stains in the arm pits, or they want to much for a low quality. I will keep hunting though. My daughters, who wear tiny sizes, have better luck as I think they have more options as people outgrow nice small size clothing and then clear out more so than people lose weight and clear out bigger sizes, if that makes sense.

  4. I really miss car boot sales! They don’t have them here in NZ but we often used to buy and sell stuff at them when we lived back home in the UK. I also have very fond memories of jumble sales in my childhood. I regularly buy clothes from the charity shops- all of my outfits that earn positive comments are second or third hand!

  5. Hi Jane,

    I’ve been op-shopping since I was a teenager and it’s been a life saver! It’s not just about clothes – I agree that smaller sizes are more plentiful, but the quality can be low because it’s often (once) fashion forward chuck outs from younger women who perhaps aren’t into classic clothing as much.

    But even if you can’t find clothes, please think of the wonderful books, homewares, leather bags, good quality bedsheets and knick-knacks some charity shops offer. When I lived in Sydney I was on an ordinary wage and I found some top quality bedsheets in the op shop across the road. I simply could not have bought them firsthand!

    And it’s a bit shocking how much we all chuck out these days. Giving these items a new life, if you can, is a smart way to go. I’ll continue to charity shop as long as good stuff is found therein.

  6. Jane’s mum here. She is certainly her mother’s daughter although strangely enough her three siblings don’t share the same thrifty mentality I buy practically everything from car boots and charity shops (not just clothing) . Me and hubby love a good root around on a Saturday or Sunday morning at the car boots. Good exercise and fresh air and meeting nice folk. Just bought an almost new winter jacket for £5 . I don’t have any problem getting larger sizes 16 or 18. Just look for the more plumpious stall holder. Enjoy.

  7. Your point about charity shops selling Primark and charging the same as the store is spot on. My biggest gripe is when they charge the same price for a Primark or supermarket skirt as for a Windsmoor or Alexon one!

  8. I love this post! But unfortunately I have zero fashion sense so it does matter whether I’m buying new or secondhand I still don’t have a clue what I’m doing. Haha!

  9. Fab post as always Jane, this is something I really need to start looking into. I have a wedding coming up and the thought of spending £100 on an outfit fills me with dread- this is the perfect solution and as you say, charity will benefit too 🙂

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