Why I Love the Dollar Store

When I asked for input on the kinds of things y'all would like to read about, Liz Johnson referenced an earlier love-professing post when she asked,

How about why you love the Dollar Store? I have a theory.

I'm wondering if her theory has anything to do with the $1 pregnancy tests they carry there. But no, I have not had that pleasure.

Here are some reasons why everyone needs to make the dollar store their BFF:

Cleaning products. They've got loads. Ever since Daltongirl made me a slew of homemade cleaning products for my wedding shower I've been mostly doing the homemade thing, which is awesome. But it's nice to be able to get eco-friendlyish name-brand toilet bowl cleaner for $1. Now, the dollar store will really be my new boyfriend when they start carrying Method's Li'l Bowl Blu, which smells nice enough to make you want to put your face in the toilet. Or Seventh Generation's Blue Eucalyptus & Lavender laundry detergent, which I breathe in deeply and blissfully every Monday when I do laundry. Seriously, the next time you're in the store and someone is stressing you out, just head over to the laundry aisle, grab one of these puppies, unscrew the top and take a deep breath. You will feel better.

Toiletries like soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, dental floss, and cotton balls (but not toothpaste, apparently). Everyone has to buy this stuff, so you might as well pay a lot less. It can even price out cheaper than the Costco & Sam's club versions, which is nice when you don't actually need 18,000 cotton balls because your days of stuffing your bra are, for the most part, over.

Picture frames. I bought piles of them to do an arrangement over the couch. The arrangement has not yet happened but the frames were a steal. They even had dead-sexy red ones.

Snacks. The snacks are dead cheap, so it's a great place to stock up on the way to a movie. If you forget your big purse, stuff the items in your coat and pretend that you're pregnant. It might even get you a better seat at the theater. (Only, I doubt it. You'd have to leave Utah to get preferential treatment for being great with child, since you can't toss a brick around here without hitting a pregnant woman. See also: $1 pregnancy tests.)

Spices. The range is limited, but you can get the basics covered at a fraction of the cost. And while we're talking kitchen, look at the kitchen items like can openers and steamers and plastic containers. It's all the same stuff that they carry at Target and BB&B. You just get to feel smarter than all the chumps currently plonking down a lot more money than you just did. In fact, sometimes I like to trot over to BB&B afterwards (it's in the same parking lot), peruse their kitchen gadget aisle, and then do the Suckaaaaaahs Dance right there in the store.

Gift wrap and gift bags.

School supplies, coloring books, and small toys.

My latest greatest find, though, is a thing of joy and fabulousness. I have shunned plastic bags for shopping and just keep my car stocked with every canvas tote bag I've ever been given at every conference I've ever attended. This translates to a lot. But the problem came when it was time to bag my produce. I was still having to use the plastic grocery bags. I even started looking online at this sort of thing but really didn't want to pay $4 a pop for apple bags. So imagine my delight when I came across these Tidy Totes in the dollar store.

They're billed as something to keep in your car to manage clutter, but these mesh bags work beautifully for produce and they cost 25 cents a piece. The checkers at the grocery store have no problem reading the labels through the bag, and they'll usually give me the "brought own bag" discount for all my canvas bags and all my mesh bags. And that's one less day of killing sea turtles. Also, they're just cute and cheery.

Here's the important thing, though. I don't go to the dollar store and start just tossing things into my cart because I'm so excited about the prices (trust me though, I'm tempted). When I know I need to buy things like toiletries, or spices, or gift wrap, or cleaning supplies, I try to go there with my list first. Because if I can find it there, I can buy it for less than I was going to have to spend somewhere else. That way I actually am saving money--money which I can then spend on things like brie and my very own team of palm-frond-wavers and frozen-grape-feeders.

Anyway, those are the reasons behind my love. Has anyone else here been converted? Care to share your testimony?


JackJen said... [reply]

I whole-heartedly agree...But I have also discovered that not all dollar stores are created equally. Dollar Tree is by far the best. My new favorite thing they have are photo mats....it's an 11x14" mat for a 4x6" photo...I bought four, and then got some frames elsewhere, and they look FANTASTIC in my bedroom with some wedding photos. (Also worth your perusal, The Christmas Tree Shop...google it. ANd the next time you're in Boston, I'll take you.) I promise I'm not a freak.

Anonymous said... [reply]

I'd like to bear my testimony, and I know the Dollar Store is true. haha....

Seriously - though - the Dollar store has saved my keister more than once when it comes to my piano recitals (for my students) - handouts there rock!! You can get some great little knick knacks and fill them with treats or whatever - for whichever holiday or event you need - just be sure to be there as soon as they put out the merchandise or you won't be able to get 34 of the same things!!

Love it...

And I say this in the name....

Sorry -just too wrong.

chosha said... [reply]

I have a deep, abiding love for the 100 yen (roughly a dollar) store in Japan. It totally saved me and all my friends when we first moved to Japan and had to wait an entire month to get our first paycheck. I got kitchen stuff (including lovely white dishes with a pale green leaf pattern), storage containers, one of those sticks you wack your futon with when you hang it out on the balcony, and myriad of other delightful things. I've also gathered any number of cute, weird English items to take home on holidays as souvenirs (such as this: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2341/2231247346_f5a89526e0.jpg?v=0. I used to think they had mistaken the word 'honey' but actually the first character on the top literally means 'horn' (as in horns on an animal's head) even though the word as a whole translates as 'keratin') and extremely cute stationery.

JackJen said... [reply]

p.s. I SO wish you had a contact email on your sidebar, because I would tell you a story related to your post that TOTALLY belongs in the comments, but because I'm not sure WHO (specifically) reads this blog, I'll abstain. =)

word verification: synning

Is that a sign that I'm evil for even thinking of it?

Audra said... [reply]

I would like to bear my testimony as to the effectiveness and economy of dollar store pregnancy tests! Do you realize that those puppies are like $7-10 at the drug store. I literally went to the dollar store and bought 15 of them! Not that I was trying to get pregnant, more than anything I wanted them for the months that I went "Oh crap! I'm a few days late, but I don't want to spend $7 just to find out I am a fool who can not count the days correctly"! Anyway, the lady at teh dollar store looked at me like I was nuts... but they came in handy... not for me, but for all the friends who would be over and say "I am late... I am tired... I am afraid I am pregnant!" I was your friendly neighborhood pregnancy test supplier ;)!

And I found out I was pregnant with Lettie with one of those $1 gems... so they work and are accurate!

And it is great for kid bribery! If I said, "I will give you $5" would they help out... no! But if I say "I will take you to the dollar store!" You would be suprised how the house sparkles and shines! And then when the toy breaks... into the trash it goes!

Jenny said... [reply]

I hate the way the dollar store smells. It burns the nostrils and the eyeballs.

And I would rather buy the two dollar pregnancy test from the other cheap store and not have to use a dropper to squirt my urine onto the dollar store pregnancy tests. Totally not my style.

So I guess I'm saying I never go in there if I can help it. And we are still sisters. Go figure.

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

I LOVE THE DOLLAR STORE. Because of their cheap toys and cleaners and mints and chips and vases and picture frames and maps. And pregnancy tests. I can't remember what my original theory was, but that is probably a good guess... seriously, why are those things $15 anywhere else????

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

I've tried, but I hate shopping at places that smell like b.o.

The word verification is "pienini." Is that a new bistro dessert? Just wonderin'.

Sarah Flib said... [reply]

What is your favorite dollar store, Nemesis? I'm sure that some are actually cheaper than others.

Sherry said... [reply]

I love the dollar store, too!

Also, bless you for nixing the partial feed!

Julie said... [reply]

I feel cheated because our dollar store is a pound store and there is still a way to go before those two things are equal. I received some vouchers from work for long service (not enough money for the amount of service but that's another story). I find I can use these in Poundland. Just think, I could buy the place - bit probably wont!

Word Verification - noluckl (almost no luck! which of course won't be me)

Carly said... [reply]

Had not even thought of using cotton balls for stuffing the bra... you are so genius!

Also, I love the dollar store and can never leave without spending at least $20, but unfortunately since I don't have a car it's not really possible to get to one... oh the pains of big city living.

Nemesis said... [reply]

JackJen, I totally bought some of those mats! That's awesome. And when I am in Boston I will absolutely take you up on it.

Mart-n-Marci, yeah. I know one girl who was such a dollar store junkie that she had the schedule worked out of when they restock, which was kind of smart.

Chosha, I love finding out about other countries' versions of the dollar store. I went to a Euro Store once in Italy that was pretty awesome.

JackJen, my email is miss[dot]nem@gmail.com, I'd love to hear the story!

Lindsay said... [reply]

I converted to the way of the dollar store when we lived in Indiana, and for pretty much all the same reasons you listed here (my favorite find was the dirt cheap shower curtain liners). So I was happy to discover when we moved to NYC that there are dollar stores on every corner. Only thing is, they are not so much dollar stores -- they are 99 Cent More and Less Stores (or 99 Cent Up and Less, if they're run by Chinese people). So to all you Westerners: enjoy those $1 pregnancy tests -- the dollar store version here cost $2.99.

Jenny said... [reply]

You need to be sure that the tote company is giving you a kick-back of some sort, because today I passed a dollar store and ran in to see if it carried those things... And SCORE! So now I can be a happy abstainer from produce plastic too. Seriously. If you're going to advertise, there must be a benny. JackJen. I must know. What part of Boston are you from? I, too, reside in the land east.

AmandaStretch said... [reply]

I was the envy of my FHE group on Monday when I showed up with a bag of Red Hots for cookie decorating, thanks to the dollar store. Apparently, you can't find them anywhere else.

cooldad said... [reply]

You only do laundry on Monday's? OH. MY. HECK!

amyjane said... [reply]

I can agree, but only if it's Dollar Tree. Some of the others are just depressing in comparison.

And I still can't bring myself to trust the pregnancy tests. I've used to them for a negative result but when I'm actually WANTING to be pregnant, I suck it up for a more expensive one. The lady at www.peeonastick.com agrees with me on this one. (BTW, if you've never visited this site, you're in for a real education...)

daltongirl said... [reply]

I'm with Jenny. Sorry. But if you want to buy me some of those cool mesh bags for my birthday, I won't say no. 5/7

april said... [reply]

i second jackjen. the dollar tree is the best (on the east coast anyways) AND the christmas tree shop is fantabulous!! (funny thing is they do not sell christmas trees.) but i do try not to go too often to christmas tree shops as it usually is not to take things off my list but to buy fun finds at cheap prices. dollar tree is perfect for something to do with my kids on a summer afternoon: walk to the dollar store, give them each a dollar, tell them you can pick out anything they want in the store and after a week you can throw away the toy or if they choose a treat it is usually consumed on the way home (i.e. no clutter).

heidikins said... [reply]

I'm all about dollar-store frames, I have thousands, um, I mean, a few.

My sis-in-law is a Dollar Store Maven and is known to find EVERYTHING at the dollar store, Coach Purse, "cashmere" argyle socks...you name it, she can find it.


Bramamom said... [reply]

Dear Nemesis,

I am coming out of anonimity to beg you to read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society It's by Mary Ann Shaffer. I just finished five minutes ago, and the protagonist writes just like you do. Do yourself a favor and read it I know you'll love it.

nancypearlwannabe said... [reply]

I think this post may have changed my mind about the gross dollar store in my city. I will have to check it out!

Nemesis said... [reply]

Bramamon, we are possibly mind-melded because I read the Guernsey book a few weeks ago and loved it very much. It's worth coming out of anonymity to push, that's for sure. And I am beyond flattered at the comparison (however overly generous that comparison may be).

Nemesis said... [reply]

I have a solution for the delicate flowers like my sister and Daltongirl: Scent a hankerchief and hold it over your nose while you're in the store. Because then you will look aristocratic, and Daltongirl might be mistaken for Jane Seymour when she goes to visit Percy in prison in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Which, hi, who doesn't want that?

MidCityGal said... [reply]

Hey Nemesis- Did you see this story about the Hudson River pilot and his library book? Thought you might appreciate knowing that smart, ethical and heroic people, such as Mr. Sullenberger himself, use their public libraries.

I thought you would enjoy this story.

JustMe said... [reply]

Dear Ms Nim:

I have been reading your blog for a while and love it. I keep leaving comments, which you don't comment on. Its starting to hurt my feelings. Especially if I say something very funny or pithy.

It totally sucks that I have nothing insightful to say about this blog, though I am a fan of dollar stores.

PS - You you know where I can get a job reading and commenting on blogs. I'm pretty sure it would be my dream job.

Mad Hadder said... [reply]

Next best thing to going to dollar stores is having a friend who shares her bounty! Best thing I ever got from her was a set of Halloween beanie bag characters--Frankenstein, Quasimodo, Phantom of the Opera, Bride of Frankenstein, and a very charming Mummy. They have made me the object of much envying. Smell? Not even. Ever.

Tonya said... [reply]

Just a note to Amyjane...my OB quit charging for preg. tests, because he found women were getting more accurate results with dollar store tests than his office ones! I have successfully used them for 7+ years with no error and 3 pregnancies.

jeri said... [reply]

Awaiting video demonstration of Suckaaaaaahs Dance

Codeword: defuroos. That sounds like a dollar-store knock-off brand of cereal. It would be on the shelf next to the "Gorilla Munch" clusters I saw the other day. I'm not making this up.

cooldad said... [reply]

Your blog label is Effecting Social Change. Affect or Effect...I alaways get those confused.

Nemesis said... [reply]

You guys, I got JackJen's story and ooooh boy. It was jaw-dropping. I am sorry she could not share it with the world.

Audra, I love that you were the Pregnancy Test Friend. And therefore you got to know about everybody's pregnancies first. Well played!

Liz Johnson, I do not know why they are so expensive everywhere else. Maybe the $ store buys up the ones that are about to expire or something . . .

STM, you mean you've never HAD a pienini? It's where you stick chocolate cream between two slices of shortbread and grill it. Mmmmmm boy.

Sarah Flib, I am still new in the ways of the dollar store, so I couldnt answer that question authoritatively. I'm sorry!

Sherry, for you. All for you. Please remember that when I call you in a few years and ask for a kidney!

Yeah, sorry about that one, Julie. Although I do remember liking the pound stores very much in Loughborough. That's where I stocked up on Christmas cards and other random things, I think.

Carly--I know, right? And people say you can't learn anything from reading Judy Blume . . . was it in "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret?" that she did that?

Lindsay, the $2.99 dollar store items sound like a shaft. I guess the plus side is that you have lots of stores to choose from. Do they let you haggle?

Yay for Jenny! I should email those Totes people and tell them where to send my check. I've also been using them for GH's lunches and last night his boss complimented him on his bag. Also on having such a smart and eco-friendly wife (I'm sure).

Nemesis said... [reply]

AmandaStretch, you work that envy.

Dad, we're only two people. How much laundry do you think we go through in a week?

Amyjane, am heading over to peeonastick.com now. Hope it's Safe for Work.

April, you and Audra are smart mommies indeed.

Heidikins, can you please teach us the ways of your sister? Because that's awesome.

Hi, Nancypearlwannabe! You'll have to tell us if your adventure is worth it . . .

MidCityGal, am off to read now. Thanks! (And does anyone else think of Monsters, Inc. when they hear the name Sully? No? Just me? Okay then . . . )

Dear JustMe, please accept my abject apologies. You may have noticed that I start out really well with the responding to comments but then lose steam. Will be working on that.

Mad Hadder, I think you have figured out the wisest way of all to partake of the dollar store's bounties.

Thanks, Tonya! Everyone, there you have it.

Jeri, maybe I'll surprise you at cooking group. Just imagine something from Flashdance with fingers pointing in the air and WITHOUT coordination.

Dad, we spent an entire day in high school learning what the different is. Ahem.

Affect: verb, ex. Your stench is affecting my eyesight.

Effect: noun, ex. Your breath is producing a gagging effect in me.

Effect (2): verb meaning "to bring about", ex. I am effecting a permanent ban on your breath.

JustMe said... [reply]

Dear Reason:

You are forgiven. I will endeavor to be the first person that comments so you will have more time to appreciate my wit and culture - or lack thereof. I have several blogs I look forward to, and your blog is moving rapidly to the top of the list. I enjoy your wit and your sarcastic comments.

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