Tips for finding the good stuff:
-What is it made of? Is it wood, metal, dishwasher safe plastic? These are good buys! Is it cheap dent-able plastic, super thin fabric, easily breakable? These are buys that won't last long. Look at the seams, the joins and any moving parts. Look for tight seal on lids.
-Can I get this for the same price or cheaper elsewhere? Even if it comes in a different size. Travel size toiletries are not always a deal if you can buy the big versions for a little more. Same goes for toilet paper and paper towels. Beware, just because it's in the dollar store, doesn't mean that $1 is the best price for this! This is especially true for food products that are often 69 or 79 cents in the grocery store under a trusted name.
-Is this unique, fun or one-of-a-kind? Often I happen across a tiny single item that I just think is too cool to pass up! It's funny or clever and can serve as a gift for anyone anytime. Like a chocolate bar wrapped up like a $100 bill, a sumo wrestler stress ball or a pack of Garbage Pail Kids trading cards (child of the 80's) These items make great present toppers, stocking stuffers, and add ons. Resist the urge to stock up but a few on hand can be handy in your gift wrapping supplies!
-If I got this, would I use it often? A happy birthday wine glass looks cool, but it sits on your shelf for most of the year. Not a good buy. But an elegant Martini glass filled with confetti and select candy serves the same purpose and has more life span.
-Consumables can be good! Not everyone wants to load up on "stuff" each holiday or celebration. In that case, things that get used up can be the best route. Think meal baskets, planting kits or craft kits. At the end, you use it up and there's noting to store! Get clever with disposables, plastic cups and a ping pong ball=party drink game, a pack of toilet paper or two makes a fun bridal shower or halloween game.
-Does this go back to basics or serve a purpose? Sometimes the simplest things are the easiest to overlook. Perfect gift for a new mom? bubbles! You may not think of it right away but it's hours of fun for mom and baby. How about baking soda, vinegar and spray bottles paired with homemade cleaning recipes. Practical and simple!
Now! Browse the aisles! Take your time. Go up and down each aisle including the food aisles. Look at everything and think what else you could do with that or what it would go well with. If you find something too awesome to pass up, try to build a basket of things around it. Keep in mind that most of the plastic bins or woven baskets at the dollar store are cheap or ugly. Would you want that hanging around after the gift is unwrapped? Look for practical containers like flower pots, plates, dish pans, tote bags, oven mitts, etc. You can simply bag a bunch of stuff on a cardboard circle in a basket bag. Presentation is everything so assemble it so you can see all items right away without taking anything out. Add a bag, bow or stuffing/ shred if desired.