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Sherri Richards, Published December 06 2012

Money-Savin' Mama: Dollar stores can stretch family budget

My newfound obsession with dollar stores started with spices.

I’d run in to a fellow frugal friend while grocery shopping. She mentioned she was going to a nearby dollar store to get a few different spices, the final items on her list.

Spices for a dollar? Genius, I thought. My husband had started making his own barbecue rub, which had depleted my spice cupboard.

I started to realize other treasures could be found at these most-discounted of discount stores, especially for special occasions.

I hit them up for my son’s birthday party supplies this summer, and again in October for daughter Eve’s princess costume accessories, as well as a wedding greeting card and gift wrap.

Now that December has rolled around, it’s looking a lot like Christmas, all for a dollar.

This week I picked up a fresh roll of holiday gift wrap, plus scissors and a two-pack of Scotch tape, each for a dollar. I found some stocking stuffers for the kids, and even my husband’s Christmas present for $4. (Shh … don’t tell.)

I took note of the Christmas cards, candy, stockings and ornaments. Here were items I often look for after the holidays on clearance, at clearance prices already.

I also grabbed a box of crackers for my daughter’s preschool snack stash and some kid 2-in-1 shampoo. I was tempted by some funky nail polish and glitter glue for crafting.

On past trips I’ve purchased cleaning supplies, groceries and baby wipes. I’ve noticed a wide selection of kitchen utensils and linens, plastic storage containers, school supplies and home décor items like picture frames. Eve and I will be heading to the dollar again soon to pick out a prize for reading 10 books by herself.

The Fargo-Moorhead metro is home to several dollar store options. Dollar Tree, in Fargo and Dilworth, is a true dollar store in my mind, as everything there actually is a dollar. Loopy’s in Moorhead boasts $1 and $2 deals, as well as other discounted merchandise. Family Dollar, which has three local stores, carries items at a variety of price points.

Here’s the (non-spice) rub, though: Not everything at a dollar store is a good deal.

Often, the cleaning product or food containers are smaller, so the per-ounce price may be bigger than you’d pay at a grocery or big box store. Pay attention and know your prices.

Quality can also be an issue. The glow-in-the-dark wand I bought Eve for Halloween didn’t glow, and actually started leaking when I cracked it a bit too enthusiastically.

It can also be easy to overspend at a dollar store. “It’s only a dollar,” you think, throwing something else in the cart. Those dollars add up quickly. Know what you want to get when you walk in the door, and limit impulse purchases.

But adding a trip to your favorite dollar store this month may help “buck” holiday overspending.


Sherri Richards is a reporter for The Forum and thrifty mom of two. She can be reached at srichards@forumcomm.com and blogs at http://topmom.areavoices.com