Shopping on a Shoestring

Jessie Mathewson 23 November 2015

C​harity shopping: the broke student's answer to overpriced vintage shops. We all know that person who dresses themselves exclusively from The Salvation Army and the British Red Cross shops, and looks enviably chic every single day of the week. Charity shopping is a big deal: it's cheap, allows you to develop your own unique style, and (most importantly) you're recycling and donating to a great cause at the same time!

But how easy is it to dress yourself from a Cambridge charity shop? Last weekend, I went to The Grafton Centre with Anastasia Picton to find out. 

Our first stop was the British Heart Foundation shop. It's well-stocked and pretty cheap, so definitely one to check out. For Anastasia we found a cute space-age skirt in purple and black (£3.99), and a green short-sleeve jumper (£4.99) that will be perfect as the weather starts to get colder. 

Meanwhile, I raided the men's section and matched an oversized shirt (£5.55) and tie (£2.99) with black jeans (incredibly, also £2.99). We found a load more cute knitwear, a selection of men's plaid shirts for under a fiver, and lots of cheap, basic jeans. This is somewhere to go for quirky staples, but don't forget to look out for more interesting items, like the faux-fur coats and black leather shorts we came across.

Next stop – the PDSA shop. It tends to be a little understocked, but don't be put off. Anastasia put a tartan skirt (£5.95), with a black lace top (£3.95), and a men's tweed blazer (£7.95). Skinny jeans (£4.99), a velvet top, (£3.50) and pink cardigan (£2.95) went together for my outfit. Note the price of the cardigan – the shop's 50% discount rack is not to be missed.

Last on our list was Oxfam: it's huge, and as well as the usual stock, it has an impressive range of ball gowns that'd be well worth browsing in the run up to May Week. Tempting, but in the end Anastasia chose a purple velvet top (£10), patterned shirt (£3.99) and skinnies (£4.99). The jeans also matched with a wonderfully textured pink shirt (£6.99) and sleeveless jumper (£4.99). Oxfam is a little more expensive than some of the other shops, but its stock tends to make up for it.

With essay deadlines looming, we only had time to visit a few shops – but Sense, Mind the Red Cross and Cancer Research are also at the Grafton, and all are well worth a visit. The next stop for charity shoppers is Mill Road, where you'll find more charity shops on what's arguably Cambridge's most interesting street.
Whether you're shopping for a last-minute bop costume, relieving stress with a little retail therapy, or killing a miraculously free Saturday afternoon, Cambridge's charity shops are worth a visit.

Cheap, ethical, and full of stylish clothes – what more could you want?