About a year ago or more I noticed what’s called the dollar store. Family members had been telling me about the treasures they found there.

I first went into a dollar store about a year ago, just randomly browsing, and not buying anything. I wanted to see what a dollar could buy. I went into several stores and noticed all different product layouts and all different kinds of shoppers. Some appeared to be very poor, others were well dressed and appeared to be more selective.

The first dollar store purchase I made was a DVD movie I had downloaded from my computer. There it was in a display, for one dollar. I purchased it in order to have the sleeve/cover and a nice case to keep the movie in.  I continued to look in dollar stores in my area and usually at holidays, they had nicer things, more gift items. I noticed the Christmas decorations and Christmas wrapping. There was a nice assortment of package decorations, labels and wrapping paper. There were endless ornaments and cute window decorations and cans of spray snow.

As I actually started seeing things I wanted and began shopping every few weeks, I noticed something.  The dollars add up rather quickly at this place, since every item is usually priced at a dollar, with some exceptions.  It’s easy to think this place is a bargain, especially at holiday time.  I actually got carried away with Christmas and spent way too much money on trivial cute items.

Later, the following year, I was back at the dollar store, this time looking for a bargain. What I found were cute, non-essential items which I quickly purchased, from plastic champagne glasses to jeweled picture frames of all kinds. Had to have those and gave some as gifts to a friend at work. Also there were mini sandwich bags with Spiderman on the outside, and I bought those to give to a friend with kids.  So far, so good, finding cute things, unusual things, and it was fun.

A year or two later, and I am only working part time, so time to go back to the dollar store.  What will my money get me there? It seems like now the dollar store is vital to me. Food items, laundry soap, clothes hangers, deodorant, hairspray and candy. Those were all items I bought time and again, with a few cute items thrown in. Things I noticed now were:  the candles don’t have much scent, but there are plenty of them. Their imposter perfumes all smell the same!  They have quite a large selection of junk food items by brand name such as Fritos and Cheetos.  They have some mysterious food in cans that I don’t look at. I seem to be attracted to brand names in my food items, just to be on the safe side. Heard a report about Colgate toothpaste that contained lead, purchased from a dollar store. I have heard reports that consumers must be on guard when consuming dollar store food items. There have been many reports of food contamination from items made outside the U.S.

Not many dollar stores have a fresh fruit and vegetable section, nor do they have frozen food, but some do.  I have browsed the cosmetics aisle looking for hair accessories and nail polish. Those selections are limited, but nice enough.

Back to the food items.  They are smaller than normal size, that’s a given. The mayonnaise and mustard containers are tinier than those found in a regular grocery store.  The only thing I have found that is huge, is the laundry detergent. What would cost about nine or ten dollars if made by Tide, was acceptable to me for $1.00, and having done many loads of laundry, it seems to pass the test of cleanliness and economy for what you get.  The dryer sheets are tiny in quantity, but brand names are available.

Cookies and candies abound in all dollar stores. Some are name brand, others are not. There is a line of candy from England that all dollar stores carry. Some are good, others have a bad chocolate taste, greasy and unreal. The things that attract me most right now are the holiday aisles, which are right next to the front door! These guys know how to merchandise just like the big boys!  Their candy jars are good for a buck. Their unknown brand Christmas candy is probably not. Their stockings, wrapping paper, ribbons and tags are very reasonable compared to Target, Walgreens and the rest.

I suppose I will continue to shop at the dollar store for awhile longer or as long as I am not earning huge sums of money and have a small food budget.  My dollar will stretch to buy soups and stews and tuna, crackers and cookies, jelly and peanut butter and fresh bread which many stores now carry.  When you compare individual prices on dollar store items to a regular grocery store, savings is evident. However, when you frequently buy your food there, you will soon notice that you are not eating fresh fruits and vegetables, health food or anything without preservatives. Also if you observe your weekly sales ads, many, many large chain stores will do two and three cans of something for a dollar!

Surviving on dollar store purchases is a necessity for many, including myself. I hope that there is leftover money to buy fresh fruit and veggies to supplement all the canned foods. Sometimes there is, sometimes it’s only canned stuff for a week of meals.

When the economic crisis is over, the dollar stores may go away, but I doubt it.  They serve a purpose, that of making you feel like your dollar is really stretching. In reality, you must look at what you’ve bought, see if it’s worth it, and if it fits your daily needs. For many it does but for someone like me, I hope it’s only temporary!


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