Want to save money this holiday season? Don’t rule out your local dollar or discount store. Most sell an array of fun and useful stocking stuffer ideas — and the fuzzy stockings in which to gift them — at an affordable price.
We challenged three readers from across the city to pick out the best gems at a store near them. Each were given $20 to spend. Take a look below to see what they found, and get a glimpse of what you might be able to score at a location near you.
Amie Devlin, 35
Store: Dollar Tree, 31 W. Girard Ave.
Shopping for: A teacher friend who recently moved into a new home.
Purchases: 2-quart pitcher, plush bone dog toy, snowmen-decorated paper plates, snowmen-decorated paper napkins, blue oven mitt, set of two pot holders, Betty Crocker pasta spoon, “Some like it hot” kitchen towel, blue slotted spoon, glass salt and pepper shaker set, blue basket, 12-pack of erasers, two 12-packs of decorated pencils, four-pack of owl sticker sheets, emoji sticker sheet, “Free Hugs” greeting sign, donut wall stickers, all $1 each.
Total spent (with tax): $19.44
Favorite find: Betty Crocker pasta spoon.
“The kitchen stuff was way cheaper than I would’ve expected, and they had so many items,” said Devlin, noting that she was particularly impressed by the $1 ceramic plates. “It made me want to go back for my own kitchen supplies.”
Biggest challenge: Only a quarter of the items in the store felt giftable.
“Everything else was functional products, like sponges and soap,” Devlin said.
Would you go back? Definitely.
“You get a lot for a really good price. I go there all the time to put together little gift baskets for my son’s daycare teachers, all for $5 or less,” Devlin said. “For Halloween, I gave them a ‘thank you because I know my kid stresses you out’ basket with nail polish, bath bombs, a face mask, and candy.”
Mike Keiser, 32
Store: Family Dollar, 1700 Washington Ave.
Shopping for: Coworker and her 6-year-old child.
Purchases: LEGO City Satellite Service Mission spaceship kit ($10), snowflake-patterned socks ($3), 7.6-oz bag Reese’s Minis Peanut Butter Cups ($3.65), 4-oz bag Haribo Starmix gummy bears ($1), squishy Santa holiday pen ($1)
Total spent (with tax): $19.53
Favorite find: LEGO City Satellite Service Mission spaceship kit.
“I thought they’d just have side brands, like Mega Bloks,” Keiser said. “They had a lot of variety, including $4 grab bags with quick-build sets and box sets ranging from $10-$25.”
Biggest challenge: Price points range from $1 to $50, making it hard to identify actual deals.
“A lot of things seemed marked up compared to a traditional dollar store. I’d seen the exact same stocking at a Dollar Tree for $1 but it was $3.50 at the Family Dollar,” said Keiser. “For some of the items, I did some Googling just to gauge if they were at a good price.”
Would you go back? No.
“It was a lot more challenging than I thought it’d be. It wasn’t as gifty as other dollar stores, and I spent a good 30 minutes searching around for the actual deals,” Keiser said.
Tracy Tascone, 37
Store: Five Below, 2250 S. Columbus Blvd.
Shopping for: Her daughters, ages 6 and 10.
Purchases: Fuzzy pom-pom headphones ($5.55), Shark plush slippers ($5), Wet n Wild 6-stick lipstick set ($5), case for iPhone 6, 7, or 8 with a purple crystal decal ($5.55).
Total spent (with tax): $22.39
Favorite find: Fuzzy pom-pom headphones.
“I wanted to get my 6-year-old over-the-ear headphones because the ear pods always fall out, and I was so happy to see these here,” Tascone said. “They’re extra cute with the fuzzy ears, which I know she’ll love.”
Biggest challenge: Sticking to $20.
“There was more I would’ve gotten. They didn’t have a ton of toys, which I liked, because instead the store was filled with functional items for kids that were cute and fun,” Tascone said. “There was a lot of art supplies, like bulk markers and nice sketch pads, and a ton of cool candy you can’t always find at other places, and cheap makeup.”
Would you go back? Definitely.
“I don’t go into Five Below often, but now I can see it as a great place for moms,” Tascone said. “I would shop here mainly just for kids though, not adults."