Thrifty Clair's second-hand shopping tips

Online shopping

Meet Thrifty Clair, the Queen of second-hand retail sites!

Thrifty Clair

Since finishing university 12 years ago, blogger, Instagrammer and Words that Count ambassador Thrifty Clair has been living life on a budget, and sharing her tips and advice! Clair has been documenting everything from paying off debt and saving for a house and planning for a wedding, to living thriftily day-to-day with second-hand retail sites.

Second-hand sites like Depop, Vinted and eBay are rising in popularity and are really easy to use on your phone or on desktop. With a bit of clever searching, you can find some great bargains buying second-hand clothes and other items from people online.

Plus, by reusing something that someone else no longer wants, you're putting back into the circular fashion economy to help the environment too!

Read her tips below and test your knowledge in the quiz for a chance to win a £50 Amazon voucher.

Clair's top tips for sustainable fashion

How do second-hand retail sites work?

For sellers:

The sites and apps are really straightforward to use and guide you through the selling process.

To sell something you just go onto the site, click to upload or snap a picture and type in your description. A lot of the apps now will give you hints and tips to help you fill sections in, like the title of the listing and item size, colour, material, what condition it’s in, etc.

Then you set your price range. Vinted, for example, will give you an idea of what similar items have sold for to help you decide what price to set your item at, so they really guide you through how to fill in your listing.

Then you choose postage options to suit. They all offer courier options as well as dropping off at post offices or parcel lockers, so it’s all really convenient and can fit to suit you.

For buyers:

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It’s really easy for buyers too. Just like with any online shopping site, you use keywords to type in what you’re looking for, for example “green Zara midi dress”, filter it to your size, select the desired condition (either new with tags, new without tags, good, fair, used etc.), and set price limits to suit your budget.

You can also select preferred postage options to only show sellers who are using couriers or parcel lockers for example, where your package can be dropped off at your local shop to pick up on the way home if you’re not going to be in.

On many of the sites you can also tap a picture to ‘like’ the item and save in your account to come back to later. Then, if the seller reduces it later on, you’ll get notified.

Top tip: Remember to select your size when searching the sites. This will mean you only get shown items that will definitely fit instead of finding something you love but is not in your size!

What are the best bargains on second-hand retail sites?

For me, the best bargain is when you find something that’s been sitting in someone else’s wardrobe, that’s still in brand new condition with tags, so you get the item you want, for a fraction of the price instead of going straight to the retailer!

If there’s something I like in the shops brand new, I’ll often search for the name of the item on Depop, eBay, Vinted or Facebook Marketplace and find someone selling it for half price or better after wearing it once on a night out!

I’ve found brand new ASOS t-shirts for £3 or £4, even a pair of jeans for £1 with £1.50 postage! The app notified me when the seller reduced the jeans to £1 because I’d ‘liked’ them previously so they were in my saved items. Sellers can also send you an offer if you’ve liked their picture too, so you can always negotiate for a lower price.

Top tip: 'Like' items to save and come back to later, or get notified if they get reduced by the seller.

What kind of fees can I expect?

It depends on the app. As a seller, most sites like Depop and eBay charge 10% of the final sale price, and eBay will also take 10% of the postage cost as well. So if you’ve sold something for £4, you need to add on 40p to your sale price to cover the cost of packaging and the 10% postage fees.

On Vinted they don’t charge the seller and instead the buyer pays the fee, which is around 3-8% of the sale price, so it’s not much.

On all of the sites the buyer pays the postage fees too but on Vinted, if the buyer chooses the courier postage option, the seller receives the postage label straight away to print off and post to the buyer. Then the money is released once the buyer has confirmed the item is received, so it’s really easy for sellers on Vinted. And even as a buyer, the fee is really small so it doesn’t put you off.

How can I make an item more attractive to buyers?

Make sure you photograph with good lighting and a clutter free background, like a white door with the clothes on a hanger so it stands out. You can also steam or iron your clothes before taking photos, just so you’re showing it in the best light, and also show photos of yourself modelling the clothes or use old photos of yourself wearing them to show the fit.

A clear description with any close up pictures of any faults, like “please see picture three for a small pull in the hem”, so you can be as clear as possible and the buyer knows exactly what they’re getting and is less likely to send it back.

How can you be sure you're not being scammed when buying an item?

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There’s always people who will ask you to message them on Whatsapp or email, or make payment outside of the app through bank transfer because their ‘Paypal is playing up’. But as soon as you leave the app to make a payment you lose all buyer and seller protection.

Everything has to go through the app so you’ve got proof of purchase and payment, and if there are any disputes, like if the buyer says it’s not as described, the site can help to resolve.

How do you know you will receive payment when selling an item?

Lots of them have Paypal or your bank account linked – I like to use Paypal for the added level of protection.

Vinted is a bit different. Instead, money goes into a pending balance and then into your available balance in your ‘Vinted Wallet’. This is just a name for your virtual wallet within the Vinted app or site, and you can withdraw money into your bank account.

Some sites release the money to you as soon as the buyer pays, but on Vinted the money is held until the buyer receives the item. If there’s a dispute there might be a hold on the money in your account until it’s resolved.

What do I do if an item doesn’t meet expectations?

The first thing to do is speak to the seller, as they may not have noticed there’s an issue, and could offer a partial refund or reduction so you don’t have to send it back.

If you do decide to send the item back, either through agreement with the seller or by opening a dispute on the site, it’s typically the buyer’s responsibility to pay for postage. Disputes can take days to resolve so it’s always worth sending a polite message in the first instance.

And if you’re selling, this is why it’s really important to describe it as clearly as possible so if there’s a dispute raised you can refer to your listing and are less likely to have returns.

What could I do with the money I save?

You could save up for a big treat like a spa day, or it could pay for something smaller like a monthly takeaway. If you’ve got lots of clothes to sift through it could be the beginnings of a Christmas present fund. Or you could put it into an emergency fund and save it for a rainy day.

Personally, I like to save the money and put it back into the same apps when I need something again like a winter coat, and put it back into the circle.

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