Thrifting expert who saves £5,000 a year shares five tips for pre-loved Christmas presents

Monica Mills, 28, says it’s best to avoid charity shops on Saturdays and reminds shoppers that ‘time is a gift money can’t buy’

Lydia Patrick
Monday 05 December 2022 10:58 GMT

A shopping expert who saves £5,000 a year buying second hand designer clothes has revealed her top tips for second-hand Christmas gifts.

Monica Mills, 28, started rifling through charity shops in college and was inspired by her grandmother, Jan, 77, who was a vintage reseller.

Her favourite bargains include a £720 Burberry trench for £120 and Kurt Geiger brogues which she got for £1.

The thrifter from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, has revealed how to find the perfect gifts for a fraction of the price in-store and online.

The social media manager said: “Starting sooner rather than later is key so you can be a bit more spontaneous.

“Shopping second-hand takes more time but you will be rewarded from a financial and environmental point of view.”

She continued: “You can find more unique gifts and have spent more of your time choosing the perfect present - time is a gift money can’t buy.

“I would advise people to avoid going charity shopping on a Saturday but I understand that is when most people have off.

“You can nip in on your lunch breaks at work and from my experience Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days to go in as most people donate over the weekend.

“It’s variable though so you’re better off getting to know your local shop and asking.”

On her last trip, she found a double-sided brass photo frame stand for £4 she will give to her dad with precious family photos.

Monica couldn’t resist buying a gift for herself - a French Connection wool and cashmere blazer coat for just £20

The thrifting novice says on average you save 75% of the RRP by shopping pre-loved items.

In her most recent haul she found an Ugg handbag worth £108, with its original tag for just £20 for her mum from Cancer Research UK.

For her in-laws who live on a farm, she purchased a cute cow tea pot and a chicken bowl for £3.50.

Monica shared how charity shops are treasure troves for stocking fillers that are still in their original packaging.

“There are so many candles and candle holders still in their original packaging.

“I always make a list of ideas for the people I am buying for- and assign them a colour pallet to make it easier to choose items,” added Monica.

She picked up a glitzy silver candle holder decorated with love hearts for just £2 with two accompanying candles for £1.50.

Method is key, according to Monica shoppers should take their time to methodically browse the shop.

She said: “It can be quite overwhelming so take your time and don’t run all over the place.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the volunteers and workers if you are looking for something specific.”

For those who are strapped for time, many charity shops now have online stores, alongside the classic second-hand retailers such as eBay, Vinted and Depop.

She said: “Use filters to divide items into size, colour and functionality.

“Make sure to ask sellers how quickly they can post things incase the items won’t arrive in time.

“If I find a certain seller I like online and want to buy multiple items from them, I will always message and ask if they provide a discount for bulk buys.”

For those new to second-hand gifting, a good way to start is by creating hampers mixing pre-loved and new items.

She said: “I’m making my sister a hamper of things she loves.

“This will include earrings, a bottle of champagne and lovely glasses.

“You can wrap things up in a luxurious way to make them look five or six times the price.”

Another way to shop with intention is to search certain brands you know the receiver loves.

“If my husband loved the brand Dr Marten and Ralph Lauren I would search specifically for items from these brands,” added Monica.

According to the slow-fashionista, Oxfam and Mind are great spots for seeking out luxury high-end goods at the fraction of the price.

She said: “Don’t forget to browse through the bargain rails, there are often items there that have been in store for a while for just £1.

“Most charity shops curate their designer and branded items at the front of their shops.”

Oxfam bookstores are ideal for gifting any bookworms, revealed Monica.

She added: “There is still a stigma around second-hand shopping but you can get a higher value more thoughtful gift.

“I have shopped in charity shops all over the UK and there is a misconception that the best things are in fancier areas such as Harrogate, North Yorkshire but you can find absolute steals anywhere.

“Charity shopping is a lottery whether you go to affluent or non-affluent areas.

“Some people complain that they can’t find things because of the area they’re in.

“But I always say if I can find stuff in Huddersfield, you can find stuff anywhere.

“Don’t be disheartened if you don’t find something straight away, it takes open-mindedness.”

She can spend up to half a day on a weekend sifting through charity shops and using sites such as eBay and Vinted to source her second-hand wardrobe.

Her best bargains include a pair of Kurt Geiger brogues which she got for £1 and a Gucci bag bought for £595 - over 50 percent off the retail price.

She purchased a gold Zara dress for £9, originally £50, and a Reiss dress for £12 which was £70 new.

Monica spends up to £50 a month on second hand clothes, saving £450, and saves up to buy a couple of luxury items a year - which she will still try to get pre-loved or discounted.

Monica’s tips for second-hand gifting:

1. Start sooner rather than later.

2. Make a list of ideas for each person.

3. Have a clear colour palette for every person.

4. Always check labels and descriptions of items.

5. Take your time and don’t be disheartened if you don’t find something straight away.

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