The complete guide to UCL charity shop bargains

Tops, trousers and chari-tees

Broke students at UCL  know all too well central London is one of the most expensive places to study in the world. Accommodation fees are criminal, travel expenses extortionate and you’ll need to re-mortgage your house for a pint. Now the city’s charity shops, in a bid to appease the local hipsters, appear to be following the same trajectory, but can you still bag a bargain in central London?

Credit card in hand, this top knotted, shell suit clad population swarms our beloved Oxfams, Scopes and Cancer researches in search of their “vintage [email protected] Now, in accordance with elementary economic supply and demand theory, premiums for second hand clothing have spiralled making it increasingly hard for London’s penny pinching students to secure a stylish steal.

However do not abandon all hope yet. A rummage around Camden and Bloomsbury’s charity stores reveals a boat load of bargains right on the doorstep of UCL, that won’t devour your entire student loan.



Goodge Street

Goodge Street, adjoining Tottenham Court Road, hosts several first rate charity shops nestled between an array of stylish eateries. Just a stone’s throw from Astor, Ramsey and the main UCL campus, the Oxfam and YMCA stores make a fabulous lunchtime scour.

Oxfam offers a mountain of good quality designer and high street garments and its’ extensive men’s section makes it a great one for the guys too. A trip here never fails to disappoint and you are certain to swipe at least a Topshop tee. While some of the apparel is rather overpriced (spotted charging over £15 for a dress) it is certainly cheaper than a trip to Oxford Street.

While the YMCA may not offer such a wide range of chic clothing, an ardent rummage will almost certainly be rewarded with a great find. Indeed a rifle through the YMCA racks threw up several pieces similar to those flogged as “vintage” in Brick Lane’s overpriced second hand boutiques.

The frugal fashionista- outfit at YMCA for under £12.

The frugal fashionista- outfit at YMCA for under £12.


Although Camden has become a focus for London’s rapid gentrification that so enthrals our Geographers and Sociologists, the charity shops lining the High Street continue to offer many great deals.  For an exciting outfit at a reasonable price there is no need to venture towards the lock, where recycled second hand clothing prices are daylight robbery.

Scope is one of the smallest stores on the street, but what is lacking in size is compensated for in quality. It offers a vast range of stylish jeans, dresses and shoes, charging as little as £3 a piece. There are also many quirky garments concealed along the rails which will satisfy those with more eccentric fashion tastes.

Traid is a controversial choice. It is a higher end store, primarily selling first rate clothing but unfortunately with a price tag to match. For instance coats retail for around £20- not a student friendly fee! However their occasional flash sales where old stock is flogged for as little as £2 a piece are a bonanza for the thrifty student.

Sir Philip Green eat your heart out

Sir Philip Green eat your heart out

For anyone willing to travel a little further out of central London, the Kentish Town Road is brimming with charity steals. While the quality of stock in Mind takes an obvious nosedive from Goodge Streets’ designer chic and central Camden’s trendy panache, a little legwork throws up several interesting pieces at much more reasonable prices.

Where Oxfam or Traid will dependably produce a decent piece on each visit, Mind is a capricious store. There is an extraordinary volume of cheap tat, seemingly donated by obese giants. However there are a few treasures to be unearthed, including a pair of Dr Martin boots for just £10.

Treasure trove or minefield? Top tips for your charity shop expedition

  1. Stick to your budget- At such low prices it is easy to splurge the cash, but beware the costs always accrue at the end!
  2. Know what you’re looking for- Arriving with a clear idea of what you want avoids the mistake of buying unnecessary clutter for your already cramped student digs.
  3. Avoid the ‘Vintage’ rail- More often than not this is merely an excuse to flog tea stained floral shirts at exorbitant prices; a dig among the main rails will unearth equally interesting garments.
Glamour on a budget- A few of the pieces found when exploring London’s charity shops

A few of the pieces found when exploring London’s charity shops

A safari around central London’s charity shops demonstrates that it is still possible to grab a great outfit on a student budget and a fantastic chance to bag a discounted designer piece. However prices are undoubtedly rising rapidly and finding a true bargain demands a patience, determination and little sweat.