How I saved thousands during my no 'new spend' year by only buying from charity shops

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In an exclusive interview, a money-saving blogger has described how she has set herself the challenge of going a whole year without buying anything new and only buying the things she needs secondhand. She explained exactly how she got on.

Jane Berry, 58, from Colchester in Essex wanted to document just how much money it is possible to save by only buying second hand items and reckons she’s got “well over a thousand pounds” more in her back pocket in just over eight months.

The thrifty lady who blogs about saving money while reducing your carbon footprint, says saving money by buying second hand clothes and items can even be addictive for those who love “the thrill of the chase”.

It hasn’t been all plain sailing though, Jane said: “There have been a few occasions where I have struggled, but mostly I have found it enjoyable.

“It is so satisfying to pick up just the thing you wanted, but at a bargain price and know that you haven’t contributed to more ‘stuff’ being produced. It’s like a year-long treasure hunt.”

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As well as enjoying a fun challenge, Jane has many other reasons for only buying second hand stuff – a huge motivation for her is not just saving money but also helping the environment.

She added: “The damage that we are doing every day to our fragile planet with our demands for more and improved versions of everything, even if we already have the same object that is a little used, is of great concern to me. I detest our greedy, unthinking consumer culture. This is a big motivation for me in buying only second hand.

“By doing so, I don’t have to buy the new equivalent and, therefore, materials and energy are saved on its manufacture, packaging and transportation. I can help to maintain the objects I find and use them for as long as possible, and try to keep them out of landfill.”

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At the beginning of the year when the UK was still in lockdown, Jane’s only options were to buy the things she needed online, which made the challenge that little bit tougher.

Now, however, she hangs out in her local charity shops, at car boot sales and sources second hand stuff from eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Depop, Vinted or Gumtree.

She continued: “I have also perused Freecycle and Freegle for free things, and helped myself to stuff left outside my neighbours houses, such as paint, an iron, some cutlery and a beautiful, if slightly battered, tea tray.

“Since the charity shops have reopened I have been a regular visitor, with some amazing finds such as those I showed on my Shoestring Cottage blog and also my YouTube channel. I have bought a bra, although I draw the line at second hand knickers or socks,” she laughed.

The biggest challenge for Jane during her ‘no new spend’ year has been gifting and she’s had to bend the rules ever so slightly when it comes to buying birthday presents.

Jane said: “My extended family generally tolerate what they probably see as a bit of eccentricity in me. They no doubt shrugged their shoulders and rolled their eyes a bit when I announced my plans for a second hand year.

“None of them would look a gift horse in the mouth if they encountered a big bargain that happened to be pre-owned. However, most of them don’t buy their clothes in charity shops and certainly wouldn’t dream of giving somebody a second hand gift.

“My brother got some vintage West Ham Football Club memorabilia, which seemed to go down well. Three of my four nephews have so far had birthdays this year. Two of them got a gift voucher from Beyond Retro, since they sell mainly second hand vintage clothing and sportswear.”

Jane isn’t concerned about saving money when it comes to gifting but she wanted to stick to the goals she set herself as much as possible. The money-saving blogger has documented the savings she has made over the last few months and these include:

  • Garden bench – she found this for free outside a neighbour’s house. Justin (her partner) repaired the slats on the seat and Jane painted it. She spent a tenner on paint and as a decent bench costs upwards of £200 it saved them about £190.
  • Double bed, complete with barely used mattress and mattress topper (from Facebook Marketplace) for £50. A similar bed is £190 from Wayfair, a sprung mattress is £95 and a mattress topper is £30. So, new that would have cost them £305, which is a saving of £255.
  • Pair of leather Hotter boots, which cost £7 at a charity shop. These would have been about £140 from Hotter. £133 saved.
  • Macbook Air laptop. Jane paid £450 for a reconditioned model on eBay. These cost upwards of £800 new, so she saved at least £350 by buying second hand.

Thrifting is no doubt in Jane’s blood but for others who would like to give it a go for the first time she recommends visiting local car boot sales, Scout Group sales and Facebook Marketplace.

Now is as good a time as any, Oxfam runs an initiative every year called #SecondhandSeptember where it encourages the nation to challenge themselves to a ‘no new spend’ month, Jane has proven that it’s certainly possible by setting herself the goal of doing it for a whole year – although she still has the challenge of Christmas to come.

“I am already planning for Christmas,” Jane said. “There is a small stash of gifts in a basket under the bed. When you are buying only second hand, you can’t just rush out in a couple of trips and get everything.

“I think I will continue on this path beyond 2021, as I have proved to myself that I just don’t need to purchase much new at all. In fact, I have even found second hand (unused or just tried) toiletries. But let’s get through to the end of the year first!”



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