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All Contents © 2017The Kiplinger Washington Editors
Thrifty holiday shoppers know where to go to save on seasonal necessities: the dollar store. The everything-is-a-buck-or-so retailers fit the bill for a wide array of must-have items for holiday entertaining and gift giving.
And if spending forecasts hold true, you’ll need to stretch your dollars further this year to keep up. The National Retail Federation is predicting November-to-December sales of $655.8 billion, up 3.6% from the same two-month stretch in 2015. The average holiday shopper expects to spend $935 this year.
So before you deck the halls and get too jolly, do your holiday budget a favor by visiting your local dollar store. You’ll be surprised by the number of seasonal staples you’ll find – in fact, we found 10. Fa-la-la-la-la!
By Bob Niedt, Online Editor
| December 2016
Need a quick gift for, say, a teacher or a co-worker that’s both festive and thrifty? Hit the dollar store and stock up on holiday-themed ceramic mugs for a buck apiece. You might also be able to score holiday travel mugs for those gift recipients who are always on the go.
Dress up the $1 mug by filling it with coffee, tea or hot chocolate mix. Some mugs even come with candy included. Top it all off with a tasteful red bow that you also bought at a discount at the dollar store, naturally.
Speaking of mugs, putting yours in a picture frame makes for a low-cost holiday gift for someone near and dear to you. Swipe through your collection of selfies to find the most flattering one to print out and frame. Beyond selfies, framing your kids’ art projects yields inexpensive-yet-personalized gifts for the grandparents.
Dollar stores have a wide variety of frame sizes and styles. Granted, the quality isn’t the same as you’d find at mid-level discounters and department stores, but neither is the price.
SEE ALSO: 8 Things You Need to Know About Shopping at Kohl’s
Need a gift bag? A single greenback will get you one at Dollar Tree, and filling it with tissue paper will set you back mere pennies considering $1 will score you 35 20-by-20-inch sheets. Meanwhile at Giant supermarket, a tiny bag of spiral tissue “bag filler” is $2.49, and a gift bag is $3.99. Jazz up the gift bag by attaching a $1 holiday- or toy-themed Mylar balloon from the dollar store. At Giant, helium-filled Mylar balloons sell for between $4 and $10 each.
Same story for gift wrap. Get a roll for just a buck at the dollar store. The quality isn’t the highest, but keep in mind the wrapping paper is destined for the trash. Target might stock a roll or two of wrap for under $2, but $2.50 and up is the norm.
You can find cards for all occasions, including the holidays, at dollar stores. American Greetings cards were $1 each and many, two for $1, at Dollar Tree. At Giant, I found a small section of greeting cards for 99 cents each, but most of the Hallmark cards the store was selling started at $3.99 each.
Hosting a holiday party? Multipacks of invitations were $1 at Dollar Tree. Same for thank-you cards. When I could find them at Giant, multipacks started at $3.25.
SEE ALSO: 15 Ways to Save at the Supermarket Without Clipping Coupons
If your child isn’t a brand-snob, you can fill a stocking with crayons, small toys, stickers, stuffed animals, candy, gum, toothbrushes (yeah, some Santas go there) and much more for the cost of one or two name-brand items. However, you may very well get what you pay for at the dollar store. Some of the items might be cheaply made, easily broken or contain tiny parts. Weigh the tradeoffs.
Dollar-store garland, bows, ribbon and other holiday decor will see a hefty discount when compared to most other retailers. For example, large red bows (the type you might put on a wreath) run $1 apiece at dollar stores, versus $4 or more elsewhere. You can also find candles of various sizes -- some packaged with glass votive holders -- for a buck. Granted, these aren’t Yankee Candle lineage, but neither is the price.
You can find a large variety of $1 ornaments that you'd actually want to put on your tree at dollar stores. In addition, look for multipacks of glass ball ornaments for just a buck. Packages of similar glass balls cost three times as much at Walmart and even more at some other retailers. And in some households I know, one must allow for breakage.
C’mon, you’re going to have a boatload of people over for the holidays. Do you really want to spend time washing dishes after dinner? Hello, dollar stores. If you prefer disposable kitchenware, a 48-pack of plastic forks and other plastic cutlery is $1 at Dollar Tree. At Giant, $1.49 would get you a package of 24 pieces of cutlery. A package of 30 foam dinner plates was $1 at the dollar store. At Giant, you’d pay $2.49 for 24.
You can find non-disposable kitchenware, too. “The dollar store is a great place to get cheap plates, cups, mugs and silverware so you've always got enough,” says Caroline Thompson, content marketing specialist at deals site BradsDeals.com, “even if someone brings an unexpected guest or two to [holiday dinners].”
SEE ALSO: 7 Best Things to Buy at Dollar Stores
While we’re on the subject of holiday entertaining, consider cooking and serving your casseroles, lasagnas and other oven-baked dishes in dollar-store bakeware that can be tossed after use. “Save yourself the hassle of having to scrub pans and opt to buy disposable bakeware instead,” says Kerry Sherin, a savings expert at Offers.com.
Disposable bakeware also makes for an inexpensive-yet-practical container for gifts of homemade holiday cookies and cakes. Heather Mann, founder of the thrifty crafting blog DollarStoreCrafts.com, recommends gussying up the goodie-filled foil pans with a festive bow.
So, you finally off-loaded those never-used platters some genius decided to give you as a wedding gift many years (or many marriages) ago. What are you going to do now? Buy your serving platters at the dollar store. This time of year you are sure to find a few platters sporting snowmen, Santas and poinsettias.
“These are also great if you're baking for a potluck or gifting food to someone as you won't feel bad leaving a $1 plate behind,” says Sherin of Offers.com.
SEE ALSO: 8 Worst Things to Buy at Dollar Stores
No matter how many paper plates, plastic forks and foil pans you use for your holiday party, there will still be some cleaning up to do once your guests depart. As long as you’re not picky about brands, you can save a few bucks by picking up your cleaning supplies at a dollar store.
I tried to match up what Dollar Tree sold versus what a Giant supermarket had in stock. At Dollar Tree, for example, you could get a package of four Brillo stainless steel scourers for $1. At Giant, a three-pack of Dawn steel mesh scrubbers was $3.49. At Dollar Tree, a 30-ounce bottle of Brillo Basics dish soap was $1. At Giant, a 28-ounce bottle of Ajax triple action dish soap was $1.99.
“Pay attention to sizes and quantities, as often items get repackaged with [fewer] items per package in the dollar store, or the pricing structure is different for the different-size bottles,” says Shelton of FatWallet.com.
SEE ALSO: Dollar Store Quiz: Deal or No Deal
When that special holiday gift is marked with “batteries not included,” you need to have those little power sources available Christmas morning. But don’t trust the dollar stores in that department. Shopping experts have long been warning people off buying batteries at dollar stores, especially carbon-zinc batteries.They don’t last as long as name-brand alkaline batteries, and they can damage devices if they leak.
The $1 packets of “heavy duty” batteries I found at a Dollar Tree came under the Sunbeam and Panasonic brands and both were stamped with a warning: “Use for low-drain devices,” such as remotes and clock radios, which are on the far side of cool holiday gifts. The best place to buy batteries? In bulk at warehouse clubs such as Costco, BJ’s and Sam’s Club.
SEE ALSO: 12 Secrets Costco Shoppers Need to Know
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