You'll be surprised what you can get for a buck!

Discovering the Dollar Store

by Chantal King

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If you haven't shopped at a dollar store, you are missing out on some fantastic bargains. Many of the items you buy at national retailers are less than half price. The quality is comparable. In fact, some items are identical, like name brand shampoo, cleaners and even food items.

Some dollar stores stack up higher than others do. After a visit or two, you will discover the truly great buys and perhaps some areas that aren't as attractive. For example, some chains offer higher priced items mixed in with the $1 price tag. If you're not careful, you can go way over budget.

Budget? At a dollar store? Yes, you should watch your spending, even at a dollar store. You wouldn't want to stock up your pantry, only to find out that your family dislikes the discount beans and smelly shampoo. Virtually all dollar stores have a non-returnable policy.

What about household items that you would have to buy anyway? Here is where dollar stores shine. Do you need an extra hammer or some light bulbs? Check the dollar store first. How about a new colander or a nice scrubby and bubble bath for the kids? Are your office supplies running low? Maybe you need some more glass cleaner or a new water dish for Fluffy. A quick trip to the dollar store can save you lots of cash.

In addition to practical items, dollar stores generally offer inexpensive decor. Collectors can check back often for figurines, photo frames, teapots, salt and pepper shakers, artwork, candles and many other items. You can also find crafts, clothing, and even home improvement supplies.

Spruce up a bathroom with brand new accessories like a shower curtain, matching rings, soap dish, toothbrush holder, Kleenex box cover, wastebasket and even floor tiles. Your kitchen will shine with new dishtowels, potholders, paper towel racks, matching utensils and sparkling glassware. Bake up a batch of cookies with a mix, new cookie sheets and spatula, for less than $5.

Is there a holiday coming up? Stock up on decorations and gifts for much less at the dollar store. Your party budget goes much further here. If you need treat bag items, you can find toys and trinkets, candy, gum and lots of things to tie into your theme. You can also find invitations, balloons, streamers, napkins, plates, silverware, party hats, cake mixes, cup cake holders and thank you cards.

Save on snacks at the dollar store. All those munchies can really eat into a budget, especially with the climbing costs of groceries. You can find name brand and off brand chips, snacks, and nuts for a fraction of the cost. Try a few out before stocking up. You may find a family favorite that is easy on your budget. The best thing is that you are not out too much money if it flops.

Organize any room of your home with inexpensive containers. You can buy matching baskets, plastic bins, small wooden crates, decorative baskets, shallow dishpans, laundry baskets or any other container that fits your area. Silverware trays can tidy tool drawers, bathroom vanities, junk drawers, kids' rooms, and even make bill paying a breeze. Who says you have to spend a fortune to be neat?

The dollar store is a handyman's paradise. No more messy clean ups when you're painting; simply stock up on paint tray liners and disposable paintbrushes. Drop cloths, rollers, and covers are all cheap enough to get your job done without wasting money. You can also find wallpapering supplies and tools for almost any project.

Don't sneer at the tiny price tag. My favorite level is a neon green, plastic one I purchased at a dollar store over six years ago. I reach for that one more than the fancy $30 one I received as a gift. I found many teapots for my collection here, as well as unique accessories for every room in our home. The kids love finding books for only a dollar. I have discovered a lot of gifts for everyone on my list, as well as birthday gifts and cards.

I could go on and on, but you really should see for yourself. Make a list and head to your nearest dollar store. Grab a basket, because you will probably need it. Dollar stores are a treasure trove of deals, just waiting for some savvy shoppers.

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