In case you haven’t heard, I’ve gotten a little obsessed recently with couponing.
I wouldn’t call myself an “Extreme Couponer” — yet — but I’m hopeful that someday in the near future I will be able to stand in my garage and fondle my very own stockpile of Rice-A-Roni, toothpaste, and if I’m really savvy, an endless supply of toilet paper, preferably two-ply.
Until that time, however, I’m finding other ways to try and save money. Believe it or not, my latest obsession — hanging out at the local Dollar Tree — has now become a bit more than a way to watch my pennies.
Sure, I’ve puttered in and out of these super bargain stores since the first local one opened, and my inner Bargainista was greeted with dozens of gift wrap supplies, plastic floral pieces and discontinued eye shadow lines, but I never really saw the value and only shopped there a handful of times each year.
One thing that always amazed me was the eclectic group of people that I’d run into each time I would shop there. There I’d be casually meandering through the greeting card section in my most flattering pair of stain-free sweatpants and two aisles over I’d run into one of the most well-to-do gals in the town agonizing over whether or not she should “go for it” and buy the salted or plain can of cashews.
Huh? Isn’t a store jammed with cheesy items galore only for those of us who are desperately trying to be more frugal?
Not at all! Though whenever I’m there I certainly browse the shelves with people who are in financial binds none of us would ever want to be in, there are PLENTY of upper middle class, and even some of the filthy rich, that call The Dollar Tree home. (Why do you think they’re rich?)
Most of my friends (don’t worry, I won’t be offering up names) have specific items that they purchase there on a regular basis. Gift bags and party items are definitely tops on everyone’s lists. What a no-brainer that is.
I can’t believe I used to shell out $5.99 for a glossy bag at a department store rather than hop on over to the dollar store and pick out six for the same price.
Next, we move on to health and beauty aids. One of the hottest buys in this area is pregnancy tests. Wish I had known this the entire decade I was pregnant, but I finally got my chance because once I bought one as a joke for April Fools Day.
Let’s just say my husband saw absolutely nothing funny about this as baby No. 8 had just been born a few months earlier. For only a buck, however, I thought it was well worth the prank, after all those tests easily cost $10 or more in the drugstore.
I’m not so sure I’d buy pain relievers, hemorrhoid cream (uh, not for me!) or hair color (if you’ve had success with anything in the honey blonde shade range, please do tell), but you can’t go wrong with items like toothpaste, deodorant, and hairspray.
Cleaning products can also be a big score, and for $1 you can grab a four-pack of toilet paper (hey, put it in the kids’ bathroom!), but I avoid the garbage bags, tinfoil and air freshener like the plague.
I’ve also found some wonderful best-selling novels in the book section for, yep, a dollar! Heavens, they even carry bras!
Snacks and candy can also be a great buy, as long as you stay away from those bags of pork rinds. (Has anyone ever tried those? That’s what I’d like to know?)
There are dozens and dozens of other good finds, too many to list here, but unfortunately, toys are not included in that. I lovingly refer to Dollar Store toys as claptrap.
I suppose that for $1, if a kid gets even 30 minutes of playtime out of it before it breaks, you’ve gotten your money’s worth, but as a rule I discourage buying any plastic car, doll, plane and such because they are, well, cheap!
The best part about shopping at the dollar store during this past school year (other than never knowing who I might bump into!) is that I can actually go ALONE while the kids are in school and look at must-have deals like disposable baking trays, word-search books, and one of my latest and greatest finds, cans of black olives! (Yes, served them to my guests at Easter and no one was the wiser!)
Sometimes I leave empty handed, other times I have several bags full of great buys to bring home!