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The cost of holiday shopping can quickly add up -- not just the amount put toward gifts, but also on everything else associated with celebrating the season. Last year, consumers spent an average of $802 on holiday gifts, decorations and food, according to the National Retail Federation. That's up nearly 5% from 2013.
Luckily, if you're looking to cut holiday spending costs, you've got options. One way to spend significantly less on many items on your holiday shopping list is to purchase them at dollar stores such as Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Dollar General. You won't find the majority of the gifts your family and friends want at these discount stores, but you can find great deals on a variety of items you'll need to help celebrate the holidays. Here are 11 things you can save a lot of money on by purchasing them at a dollar store.
By Cameron Huddleston, Online Editor
Andrea Browne Taylor, Online Editor
| December 2015
The holidays are prime time for out-of-town visitors, which means you'll be cleaning up after family and friends who are staying with you. The dollar store is a budget-friendly place to stock up on household cleaning supplies -- from bathroom cleansers to rubber gloves -- at this time of year, says consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch.
Keep in mind that some cleaning products from dollar stores are more diluted than name-brand counterparts, so you might need to use a bit more to get the job done. But testing by the Good Housekeeping Research Institute found dollar-store cleaners to be just as effective (see our story What to Buy at Dollar Stores).
If you don't have all the bakeware you need to fix a big holiday meal (or just don't want to spend hours scrubbing pans), you can get disposable aluminum bakeware in all shapes and sizes often for just a buck at the dollar store. We found a few pieces of disposable bakeware at Walmart for less than a dollar, but most were priced between $2 and $3.
Also, if you're looking to cut back on spending associated with gift giving, you can inexpensively package homemade cookies and cakes in disposable bakeware, says Heather Mann, founder of budget spending blog DollarStoreCrafts.com. "You can bake the goodies in disposable foil pans, wrap them with a pretty bow and give edible treats to your family and friends," she says.
See Also: 10 Ways to Save Money on Groceries Without Coupons
Don't count on finding the highest quality gift wrapping paper at dollar stores, but considering it's going to be ripped apart and thrown away, it's really not worth spending more than a dollar. Gift wrap can cost $2 and up for a single roll at big-name retailers including Walmart and Target.
You'll also find ribbon and gift bags of all sizes for a buck at dollar stores, while larger gift bags can cost as much as $5 apiece at other retailers. "Gift bags are ridiculously marked up at stores like Target and Walmart," says Kristin Cook, managing editor of BensBargains.com, "because they're banking on the fact that you're probably buying it along with a gift and are in a hurry."
The dollar store is your place if you're looking for inexpensive holiday décor. "This time of year they have a wide selection of holiday decorations to choose from," says Cindy Livesey, founder and editor of LivingRichWithCoupons.com, "and it's much less expensive than buying them from a gift shop or grocery store."
For example, large red bows (the type you might put on a wreath) run $1 apiece at dollar stores, versus $4 or more at other retailers. You can also find candles of various sizes (some packaged with glass votive candle holders) for a buck.
Dollar stores are a great place to stock up on greetings cards for the entire year, says Livesey of LivingRichWithCoupons.com. During the holiday season, you can pick up a box of 20 cards with envelopes for just $1 at Dollar Tree compared to $16 for a 20-pack of holiday greeting cards found at Walmart.
See Also: 15 Things You Shouldn't Buy During the Holidays
If you need an inexpensive gift for your child's teacher or a co-worker, we found plenty of holiday-themed coffee mugs ranging in size from 11- to 14-ounces for just $1 at Dollar Tree and Family Dollar. Some of the mugs even came filled with candy.
See Also: 16 People You Should Tip for the Holidays
You can find a large variety of $1 ornaments that you'd actually want to put on your tree at dollar stores. In particular, packs of 12 glass balls are a great buy at dollar stores considering packages of similar glass balls cost three times as much at Walmart and even more at some other retailers.
See Also: 13 Ways to Waste Money During the Holidays
The dollar store is a good place to stock up on holiday party supplies including paper products. For example, a pack of holiday-themed paper plates (18-count) and napkins (24-count) sell for $1 each at Dollar Tree. "Paper products are disposable, so it's not worth the 30% to 70% markup you'll pay for similar products at a larger retailer," says Katrina Chan, shopping manager at NerdWallet.com. For comparison, we found 10-count packs of holiday-themed paper plates at Target starting at $2.25.
If you're looking for sturdier disposable plates that can hold an entire meal, however, you'll get a better deal buying in bulk at a warehouse club.
See Also: Worst Things to Buy at Warehouse Clubs
Don't expect to find high-quality holiday gifts at dollar stores. The low-cost retailers are better suited for small, inexpensive gifts such as picture frames, says Livesey of LivingRichWithCoupons.com. You'll find plenty of frames of varying sizes for $1 or so apiece at dollar stores. Add a family photo to the frame to personalize the present.
See Also: 17 Gifts That Keep on Giving
For $1, you can get a holiday-themed tray to serve treats at a party or family gathering. You also can package homemade baked goods with a decorative platter as a gift. Use colorful cellophane wrap and a dollar-store bow to amp up the festiveness of the gift platter.
See Also: 5 Best Gifts to Re-gift
For just a few dollars, you can fill your kids' stockings with magic trick kits, coloring books, stickers and crayons. However, steer clear of dollar-store toys as stocking stuffers, advises DollarStoreCrafts' Mann. "They're usually low quality [so] be prepared for tears when a fun-looking dollar-store toy breaks a few hours into playtime," she says.
For the adults on your holiday shopping list, hit up the food section at a dollar store to find stocking-worthy items such as gourmet tea, novelty cookies and coffee mugs, she says.
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