In recent years, the very act of buying things in charity shops has done a complete about-turn, going from something you wouldn't admit to for fear of becoming a social pariah, to something quite fashionable. If you're not yet convinced that trawling around charity shops is for you, here are my five favourite things about buying things -- mainly clothes, sometimes books or DVDs -- from them.
1. It's cheap
Obviously. Cheap is good. Cheap is your friend. Cheap means you can buy that second-hand dress and afford to feed yourself for the rest of the month. Crucial. Or, you can buy two dresses instead of one. Sometimes that's crucial too.
2. It's for a good causeAgain, an obvious one. The clue's in the name, but you'll enjoy wearing your new jumper even more knowing that the money you spent has gone to helping the homeless/elderly/abandoned animals, rather than lining the pockets of a high street retail boss.
3. It make you stick to your own style
Walk into any high street clothes store and you'll be ambushed from all sides by whatever's in fashion at the moment; Animal print. Neon. Bodycon dresses. We've all done it -- bought something that we don't particularly like, or that doesn't suit us, just because it's on trend (or it's literally all that's in the shops at the moment).
Charity shops don't bow to trends. They're indifferent to fashion. Instead, their volunteers create displays out of whatever they have in stock (and most of the time, it has to be said, do a mighty fine job of it). This means you won't be seduced into buying that leopard print jumpsuit just because leopard print is everywhere. It forces you to look more closely at what you're buying, not to decide whether it's on trend, but to decide whether it's you.
The same goes for books. No more being tempted into shelling out for tomes that are top of the bestseller lists, purely because they're displayed beautifully at the entrance of the store. Take the time to read the blurb and see whether it appeals.
4. They're less busy
While the masses are doing battle with pushchairs, shopping trolleys and lord knows what else in Primark on a Saturday morning, in pursuit of their next cheap fashion hit, you can practically have the charity shop to yourself. Have a wander round, no need to queue for the fitting room, try on eight different things, go to the till and pay, have a chat with Mavis the volunteer, and you'll still be out of the shop and home with your new purchases before the Primark devotees have even reached the changing room.
5. No-one will be wearing the same as you
It's a Monday morning. You bought a new coat at the weekend. You're strolling along in it feeling pretty dandy... until you count no fewer than eight other people wearing the same coat before you've even reached your office. True story (shout out to everyone else who bought the M&S beige mac with black piping from the AW14 collection. You have excellent taste.).
Rarely do you get that when buying second hand. Even if the items you buy came from a chain store, they tend to be a few months, if not a few years, old by the time they've gone through the rigmarole of sitting at the back of someone's wardrobe for months, being turfed out to the charity shop, passing time in the charity shop stock room and finally making it out onto the shop floor. By then, everyone else who bought the same thing from Topshop has forgotten they even have it.
What's more, it somehow feels less sacrificial to edit a garment that's already been used for the purpose for which it was intended. There's something satisfying about giving a second-hand item a bit of a makeover -- and if you mess it up, hey at least you didn't pay full brand new price for that pair of jeans you've just cut a hole in.