16%  of Americans will shop in a thrift store in a given year, according to the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops.

10%   is the decrease in donations to Goodwill Industries of New Mexico compared with last year.

"Our prices are set because we’re there to help people. We’re not there to make the almighty dollar. If we can break even, we’re cool."—Open Hands Thrift Store manager Elaine Anton

Why are prices at Santa Fe thrift stores so outrageous? Theories abound.

Prices "are a little bit higher and the reason is because of the cost of operating in Santa Fe," Goodwill New Mexico Marketing Director Shauna O'Cleireachain says. "With the minimum wage in Santa Fe being so high, we have to recoup our costs."

Donations to Goodwill have dropped 10 percent in the past year, O'Cleireachain says. And the recently relocated Open Hands Thrift Store, on Cerrillos Road, has seen a decline not only in donations but also in traffic, according to store manager Elaine Anton.

Anton disputes the notion that prices are higher at her store. A recent spot check there found a $350 rug, a $200 typewriter, a $120 computer desk and $80 folding tables.

Furniture was even more costly at the Hospice Center Thrift Store. That store was asking $600 for a dining table, $250 for a mirror, $300 for a dresser and $300 for a sofa, chair and ottoman.

Both stores ran 50 percent off sales on some merchandise (but not the nicest furniture). So where are Santa Fe's second-hand bargains? At garage sales and flea markets. Recently, Craigslist has an average of three to four local garage sale a day. More ads run in newspaper classifieds.

At one garage sale SFR visited this weekend, the seller asked $90 for a dining table and four chairs, $10-$45 for mirrors and $35 for a computer desk.

Anton says hard-core bargain shoppers often resell their thrift store scores, sometimes at dubiously labelled "estate sales." Anton knows of one that's been running for four years straight. "How many people in that family can die?" she says.

Finding these sales takes a bit of luck. SFR knows of a woman on Baca Street who runs an occasional estate sale and a man in a house off Second Street near Cerrillos with a well-stocked garage of goods. Watch for the signs. There's also a regular weekend "flea market" on Trades West Road, off Siler Road, with several vendors offering reasonable prices for household junk.