As a mom of a teenage son, an aunt of two little ones and a teacher in her 21st year on the job, the dollar store is my ultimate life hack. I might spend $50 in a single trip, but for that $50, I get 50 THINGS!! It makes me feel like a shopping genius. I am not, in general, a shopping genius. I do not clip coupons or compare prices or run to a bunch of stores. But the dollar store keeps my budget on track and allows me to feel like I’m splurging.
I buy things at the dollar store that my son always seems to need: earbuds (not because they give out, but because he leaves a trail of them wherever he goes) and his favorite snacks (I’m convinced he lives on a steady diet of snacks, rather than actual meals).
As a teacher, I rely on the dollar store to keep my classroom stocked with pencils, notecards, lined paper, sticky notes, staples, tape and dry-erase markers. It’s also a great place to find the word search and coloring books my students love.
There are some great life hacks that can be found at the dollar store as well. You want to know for how much?
Keep a stash of extra toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and shaving items on hand for overnight guests who may have forgotten something or for out-of-town friends that find themselves having an unintended sleepover because of our glorious Michigan weather. It’s a lot easier to persuade a dinner guest not to go out on icy roads when I let them know that I can make them comfortable with a new toothbrush and toiletries for the morning.
Playing cards and card games are hard to manage as the flimsy cardboard boxes they come in break down and crucial cards and the rules for the game become lost to the ages. Plastic soap boxes are ideal for storing decks of cards and card games. If your child is into Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon, these inexpensive little holders are great for their carefully crafted playing “decks,” because the boxes both store and travel well. Make sure to label the boxes with a permanent marker.
I keep a stash of plastic tablecloths at home and school to use for crafting and as drop cloths. Are your kids messy eaters? Put a plastic tablecloth under their chairs at mealtime. When it’s over, just gather the cloth and shake it out outside (the chipmunks and birds will love you) and wipe clean. Using plastic tablecloths when my son played with Play-Doh saved my oriental rugs.
Those ice packs you put in your kids’ lunch boxes have a habit of breaking down or disappearing. Never fear! There is a dollar store solution: sponges. Get a sponge wet, place in a sandwich bag and freeze overnight. These work as well as gel packs and not only are reusable but, if lost, are easily replaceable.
The dollar store is a boon for stocking your car and keeping it organized:
Stash your trash
Buy a plastic container meant for cereal (find one with the flip-top lid), place a plastic shopping bag in and voila! Instant car trash can. And if you take your corners a bit fast (I know nothing about that), trash won’t spill out because of the flip-top lid.
Keep straws on hand
How many times have you found yourself short a drinking straw or the kids drop their straws on the car floor where you know the five-second rule most definitely doesn’t apply? Store extra straws in a long rectangular toothbrush travel-case holder and keep them in your car’s console or glove box.
Easy access for little travelers
Those over-the-door shoe organizers are great to store toys, snacks, books and art supplies for your kids to reach on long car rides. Hang one on the back of the seats in front of where your children sit and put their necessities in the clear slots where they can easily see and reach them. If the organizer is too long, use a pair of scissors to trim off the area below what you need.
An ice pop mold fits easily into the center console of many cars. Now instead of an abyss where change and receipts go to disappear forever, you have slots for sunglasses, change, pens and other odds and ends that rattle around.
So now you know my ultimate life hack: the dollar store. If I need new pens, a baking pan, hand soap, a screwdriver, an afternoon snack or school supplies, you’ll find me at the store where the dollar is queen.