The Herald's Cooking the Books personal finance podcast is here to get you the tips you need to weather the financial storm. Hosted by Frances Cook, with a new money expert featured on each episode.

When I tell people I'm only buying second-hand clothes for all of this year, one of the most common reactions has to be "but how do you find anything good?"

With ease, I think to myself. But to be honest, that's because I've got tricks up my sleeve that make it so much easier.


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I was partial to a bit of op shopping before, but by committing to a year of no new clothes, and holding myself accountable on social media under the hashtag #CookingTheLooks2020, I pushed myself to find out what was possible.

Here's what I've learned so far: where your shop is located is a key factor, a mend is fine but a stain is not, and the internet is your friend if you need something specific.

But what I've learned so far is nothing compared to what the professionals have got up their sleeves.

So I turned to Trudi Bennett from Wardrobe Flair on the latest episode of Cooking the Books, to give us the insider word of what she's learned after years as a stylist.

Start with your favourite colours

Op shops can be slightly overwhelming when you first walk in, with racks stacked full of different options.

Far from not having enough options, many people can walk into a shop and have no idea where to start.


But the clothes are often grouped into different colours, so that's a good way to beat back the overwhelm.

"You walk in there and you think whoa, this is a lot of stuff, and it's quite often crammed in," Bennett said.

"So you walk in and there's this abundance of clothing, and that's actually what puts a lot of people off.

"Instead go in and be drawn to the colours that you like, and that suit you."

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You can dress pre-loved without looking pre-loved

Masses of clothing is donated, but not many people buy it. That means you have lots of options for looking glam on a budget, and don't need to settle for "almost okay".

Avoid anything with a stain, because that's probably why it was donated.

Bennett says if you're not sure whether it's a stain or dirt you can do a scratch test, which will probably confirm that it won't budge. If that's the case, however much you love it, put it back.

When it comes to mends, don't feel like you need to be a whizz with the sewing machine to make second-hand clothes work for you.

"I'm a personal stylist and I can't even sew a button on," Bennett said.

"There's an abundance of clothing, and you can choose something better. You'll put a barrier up by going down that road of having to do more.

"This is supposed to be fun, so if people think they're going to have to sew that on, get that up, try get rid of that stain, mend that stitch – I'd rather say, let that go, and find something else."

Take the opportunity to try something new

One of the big reasons to shop second-hand is to make it easier on your wallet.

That also means you can take the time to experiment more with what you like, and possibly find new styles and colours you wouldn't have been willing to commit to otherwise.

"I encourage people to be a bit more adventurous because things are cheaper," Bennett said.

"Try new colours. Try new styles. You're not paying $80 on something, you're paying $8."

She's not wrong. I've certainly found myself far more willing to experiment.

Once a devotee of all black everything, I've branched out into hot pinks, yellows, patterns.

I've rediscovered my inner magpie, and am quite enjoying it.

When you're getting an entire outfit for $30, you don't have to worry as much about matching with the things that are already in your wardrobe.

Check in to your favourite stores regularly

Area has a lot to do with which stores are the best. Often the clothes are donated to a local shop, and then sold straight from there.

That means targeting charity stores in fancier parts of town can be the trick to finding quality pieces.

Turnover is often quite fast, particularly if you're looking at designer recycle.

So Bennett recommends "little and often" as a shopping style, so that you catch the good stuff while it's there, and can keep an eye out for even deeper discounts.

"It turns over really quickly, and people want to go in and see fresh stuff. So the key for shop owners is to keep it moving through.

"So if it's not being moved on they'll move it down [in price]."

If dropping the price doesn't work, the stores will then circulate pieces between themselves, to see if a different area is interested in the item.

Listen to the full interview on the Cooking the Books podcast. You can find new episodes on Herald Premium, or subscribe on iHeartRadio, Apple podcasts app, or Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you have a question about this podcast, or question you'd like answered in the next one, come and talk to me about it. I'm on Facebook here, Instagram here and Twitter here.