Sunday, August 31, 2008

To Buy or Not To Buy, Or Dilemmas at the Dollar Store

After many years of wrinkled nose disdain, I have made the dollar store a regular stop on my monthly shopping schedule. My original dislike was rooted in a little bit of snobbery and a little bit of practicality. Practically speaking much of what can be found at such places is simply junk. I'm not the type of person to go trudging through a place that smells of plastic looking for hidden gems, but one thing kept me occasionally visiting the dollar store, one of my favorite things, Wrapping Paper.

Unlike most people, I take gift wrapping seriously. I refuse to give gifts in a bag, to me it says, "I barely had time to buy you something, much less spend any energy making it look nice." There have been rare occasions when the shape and size of a gift was impractical wrapped and I did use a bag, but it was always tied with a balloon or two to make it just a little bit more special. But I digress, wrapping and a card can easily add ten bucks to the price of gift and with a daughter in school now, birthdays started multiplying, so I sought out the dollar store to save a little green.

I have compiled a list of things I find are really worth the extra stop at a strip mall, and a list of things that are a waste of money even at the price of $1.

To Buy

  • Wrapping paper (gift bags too if you are of that persuasion)
  • Mylar balloons-these can easily cost $3 to $6 at party stores and you always want more than one
  • Greeting cards-the selection is a little cheesy and you would not want to buy your wife's anniversary card there, but great for those never ending kid's birthdays. While $3 to $5 at the gift stores they are usually two for $1
  • Hand soap-So many of my friends and family buy that great pumping soap from Bath & Body Works for their bathrooms and kitchens, but my kids go through hand soap like crazy and if you find a nice dollar store they should have a nice selection of name brands.
  • Body Lotion-I'm sure I will lose a few of you here, but I'm a cocoa butter girl and a giant vat of cocoa butter for $1 that will last me two months is irresistible.
  • Toys-When I'm looking for stocking stuffers or party favors this is the first place I go.
  • Stationary-My local dollar store has a great selection of note cards and grocery lists, not to mention a surprisingly nice group of scrapbook items, and stickers, my kids love stickers.
  • Kid's Learning Workbooks-I have paid $7 at Target for similar books. Recently I picked up a Disney Princess Math for my 6-year-old and a Disney Princess Alphabet Writing for my 4-year-old.
Not to Buy
  • Household Cleaners-I've tried them, they suck (I think the pretreat spray I bought was just scented water). Even if they have the brands you love, they are usually in smaller packages that aren't really worth a dollar.
  • Food-Oh, the junk they sell. Expired, tiny packages, creepy ingredients, the whole food aisle is an organic advocate's greatest nightmare.
  • Hair products-When it comes to the hair you just need to stick with what you love. Apparently, I do not love balsam protein conditioner or generic scented kids shampoo, Stinky!
  • Pens-It is amazing how angry you can get when an entire package of pens won't write.
  • Floral arrangements-No explanation needed.
  • Toys-Toys make both lists because they are hit and miss. Many, many things in the toy aisle are cheap in all the worst meanings of the word cheap.