Utah is one of the thrift store capitals of the United States, with one of the best and most diverse assortments of secondhand outlets anywhere.
A lot of that has to do with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which operates its network of Deseret Industries stores with military precision. But Utah also has other thrift outlets that can help you save a lot of money.
Here are some of my favorites and what you can expect to find at each one:
Deseret Industries • With locations along the Wasatch Front and in the West, Deseret Industries stores can be great sources of books, games, puzzles, toys and clothes if you have children.
Backed by more donation centers and a state that's predominately LDS, Deseret Industries gets the most stuff to sell.
Although these stores have been more aggressively shopped since the economic downturn began, I still try to stop by my local DI several times a month. I still can find brand-name and even designer-label clothes for the kids, sometimes with price tags still attached.
Deseret Industries is also one of my favorite sources of educational workbooks for my children for some reason many of these are donated in new condition or with only a few pages completed. Most are priced from 50 cents to $1; often cost $3 to $10 new.
Many DI stores also have music books. Once I was able to find a two-year supply of piano instruction books for 50 cents each that cost $5 or more new.
Adults can find an assortment of reading material at most Deseret Industries stores, as well, which can really help stretch your budget for books. Many popular titles are donated, as well as books on just about any topic you can imagine.
There also is plenty of furniture, some donated in really bad condition but also some newer pieces in good shape. The last time I needed a desk and was discouraged by the particle-board versions I was finding at discount stores, I stopped by DI and found a solid wood desk in great condition for $20.
The Deseret Industries network keeps its stores clean and neat. Clothing donations are sorted so that ripped or dirty items don't make it out on the sales floor. Stores are great at putting out seasonal merchandise such as Halloween costumes and holiday decorations at the right time of the year.
If you like haggling, though, Deseret Industries isn't for you. As with other thrift stores, I've found that at the DIs they tend to stick with the ticketed price. And be aware of the return policy. You need to make sure that what you buy is really what you want. There are no cash refunds, only exchanges on a limited basis.
Go to Deseretindustries.lds.org to find a location near you.
Savers • Stores operated by this privately held chain are dominated by clothing, although shoppers also will find books, toys, games, shoes, furniture and other items at most locations. What I like best at Savers, though, are all the deals.
Savers has 50 percent-off sales several times a year, which can be a great time to stock up at half-off thrift-store prices. If you make a donation, oftentimes you'll get a 20 percent-off coupon. And if you sign up online at Savers.com/Super-Savers-Club.aspx, you'll get special offers emailed to you periodically.
Although the prices at Savers can be lower than at Deseret Industries, I have found many Savers stores to be more cluttered and less clean than the DI stores.
As with the DIs, shopping at Savers can be hit or miss, but sometimes you hit the jackpot.
For me, that was during a 50 percent-off sale a couple of years ago when I found a bunch of Columbia brand jackets, ski bibs and snow suits for the whole family priced at $8 to $10 each or for $4 to $5 more off with the discount. I ended up purchasing several year's worth of jackets for my children.
Kid to Kid • This chain of independently operated thrift stores caters to those shopping for babies and small children. Selection varies by store, but most carry maternity wear, children's apparel, some furniture and toys and books.
The advantage of shopping at Kid to Kid is that you can earn cash or store credit for gently used clothing and other items you bring in. Stores generally buy only in-season clothes and other items that are in good to great condition you won't find junk or items in poor condition at Kid to Kid. Prices are comparable to nonprofit thrift stores.
If you shop at Kid to Kid, ask for a special card that enables your child to get a free book on each visit. Go to Kidtokid.com for more information and for a list of store locations.
Goodwill • The state's first Goodwill store opened in April in the old Ethan Allen building at 4545 S. 900 East. This is a nice store, dominated by clothing, but there's a host of other items, too, including collectibles.
If you are new to thrift stores, this store is clean and neat, and offers an experience of shopping at a thrift without feeling that you're in a secondhand store. For more information about Goodwill, go to Goodwill.org.
Lesley Mitchell writes One Cheap Chick in daily blog form at blogs.sltrib.com/cheap. firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @cheapchick, Facebook: Facebook.com/OneCheapChick