Swapping fast fashion finds for charity shop treasures has allowed Jade Finnie, 26, from Manchester to save more than £5,000. Here, the fine art graduate tells us how she did it…
"‘I have nothing to wear!’ I moaned as I slung a bundle of clothes from my wardrobe across my bed while trying on outfits for a night out with friends at university.
I grabbed my laptop and opened the websites for Boohoo, Asos and PrettyLittleThing, buying six new items and spending £100. Phew, panic over.
Buying online was so cheap, quick and easy – especially for a last-minute night out. I hated wearing anything twice.
I finished my fine art degree in July 2016 and moved back to Coventry, still addicted to ordering online, wearing something once and then never again.
From 2017 until 2019, I worked part-time at Asda earning £800 a month – and then splashing out £300 of that on fast fashion.
After finishing a shift, I’d go straight to the George clothes section and go home with lots of new items to try.
Despite having 40 dresses, 30 pairs of shoes, 30 tops and jumpers, 20 skirts as well as more shoes in my granny’s spare room, I still had breakdowns, saying that I had nothing to wear.
‘I’m not going out, I hate everything!’ I’d cry into my clothes sprawled across my bedroom floor after tearing all the tops, skirts, trousers and dresses out of my wardrobe.
Needing to embark on a new adventure, I jetted off to Zakynthos, Greece, in April 2019, working for TUI as an experience and activities host at an adults-only hotel.
But with no Boohoo delivery available and not a Zara store in sight, I was forced to live out of two suitcases for five months.
I spent my days arranging spa nights, wine tasting, casino nights and sunset dinners while wearing my wonderful TUI uniform.
Then in the evenings I wore my own outfits or raided my friends’ suitcases as a last option – so I was forced to ‘outfit repeat’. When I looked at my bank account, I realised it wasn’t a bad thing!
I’ve always donated my clothes to charity and found a group on Facebook plus a nearby orphanage to give my clothes to.
I came back to the UK in September 2019 with my suitcase weighing 10kg lighter – and my clothes went towards a good cause. Maybe I didn’t need a new outfit for every occasion…
Ready to keep up the good work, I did more research online and discovered the ‘no new clothes September’ challenge through Oxfam.
I stuck to it and during the month, had a look back through my online shopping obsession.
Wincing as I clicked to open my previous orders, I was shocked to see that I had more than 26 pages of Boohoo purchases.
From 2014 to 2019, there were 180 orders and around 55 returns. It made me realise fast fashion is so cheap and poorly made. Plus, the sizings were often wrong.
I used September’s challenge to change my ways and have never looked back. I couldn’t believe the reports about how garment workers are treated, plus the harm it causes to the planet.
I haven't bought ‘new’ since.
Instead, I started sifting through charity shops and trawling Vinted and eBay, as well as downloading swap apps/websites that allow you swap items for others.
And I never spend more than £50 a month on clothes now.
When I started my charity shop adventure, I decided to create an Instagram account called ThriftyFinnie to document my finds.
I’ve made so many fashion loving and bargain hunting friends from the online community – and now have more than 7,000 followers.
My favourite weekends are spent sifting through the rails in charity shops. My favourite areas for the best shops include Kenilworth and Leamington.
Cancer Research, Auntie Olive’s Attic in Fargo, Barnardos and Oxfam are just some of my top picks.
Once I picked up a Juicy Couture coat for £3 from a Cancer Research charity shop. But I can also spend hours scrolling through Vinted, Depop, Beg Borrow Steal and eBay.
One of the cheapest items I picked up was a funky patterned shirt from a £1 bin in a charity shop. I never know whether it’s a pyjama shirt or just a crazily styled shirt, but regardless, I love it.
However, there was one day where I nearly caved and bought a new piece of clothing.
I was only 70 days into not buying anything new when I arrived in Leamington to pick up a parcel and do some last-minute Christmas shopping.
Hunting down something with sequins on was harder than I thought and I spent hours traipsing around charity shops with no luck.
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Feeling defeated, I started to walk towards H&M when I pinched myself. I remembered what the man working in the Mary Ann hospice had said to me about Christmas parties.
He said ‘parties are just about having fun. It doesn’t matter what you wear’. I went back home and found a beautiful shimmering dress that I could rewear tucked into trousers.
By January 2020, I’d done more than 100 days of shopping solely secondhand, so I decided to up the challenge – and not buy any new clothes at all for a month.
I realised I was saving hundreds of pounds every month – by avoiding fast fashion – and have since been able to take myself on incredible trips to London and Paris.
By July 2021, I’d saved up £3,000 and was able to move from Coventry to Manchester.
Thanks to my new savings, I’ve also been able to afford to travel to Budapest and I’m due to visit Ibiza this month.
By this September, I will have only bought second hand clothes for three years and I can’t ever see myself going back. I’ve also saved more than £5,000.
I rewear clothes all the time and it’s funny because ‘me’ a few years ago would be turning in her grave.
But I needed to make more conscious decisions when it came to clothes and now I can help others do that too."
Jade’s charity shopping tips
Don’t be scared
Focus on breaking down the stigma that charity shops just have old and smelly clothes. They don't and they're such good places for finding great bargains.
Be open minded
Know that some days you’re going to find some gems and some days you won’t! Go in with an open mind and feel excited to rummage through everything.
Check every section
It doesn't matter about gender– check every rail and have a look at every item. Look in the men’s section and you might find a cool shirt that you could pair with something. I used to just look at patterns but now I look at everything in case I miss a good deal.
Shop in a ‘boujee’ area
I'm originally from Coventry and I would always go shopping in Leamington. If you go to these areas, you’re going to find more high end clothes as these are the types of places where people will throw out more expensive and luxurious items.
Get a good mix
I also love charity shops that are in the middle of nowhere because they’re super cheap. Go alone or go with friends and make a full day of it by heading to suburban areas where there are 7 or 8 charity shops for a good choice. At the weekend, I went to Macclesfield and there were loads. Have fun with it and don’t expect to find something amazing every time.
Volunteer at a charity shop
I’ve worked at a charity shop. You’re giving back, it’s a rewarding job and often a really interesting place to work. It’s fun and you find good clothes at the same time!
See Jade’s secondhand journey on her Instagram page ThriftyFinnie.
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