Hit Up the Dollar Store to Get These Pricy Craft Supplies for Cheap

Craft supplies
A shopper searches her purse outside a Dollar Tree store on May 26, 2016nin Encinitas, Calif. AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

Having a hobby is a great way to relieve stress, but the equipment and supplies can be a big drain on your budget.

As a professional craft writer who has a lot of hobbies (and a crafty kid, too), I need a lot of supplies. I hit the dollar store whenever I can for basics and beyond that will help me make the projects I want without breaking the bank.

Dollar stores vary, but here’s what you can expect to find — and how much you can save — when you skip the craft megastores or big-box retailers. The following price comparisons are from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, Michaels, Walmart, Target and Amazon.

Blank T-Shirts in the Summer

The seasonal section at the dollar store is always worth a stop if you like decorating for holidays. In the summer the aisles are full of red, white and blue, fake-flower leis, tons of cheap flip-flops and what I really came in for: plain colored T-shirts.

My store had kid-sized shirts in about a dozen different colors, which are perfect for embellishing or using in crafts such as making T-shirt yarn, necklaces, doggie chew toys and other projects.

Bought elsewhere, plain kids’ T-shirts range from $1.76 on Amazon to $6.95 at Walmart, depending on size and where you buy them; the average price at retailers I surveyed was $3.46, so buying at the dollar store can save you around $2.46 per shirt.

Pop in the rest of the year to find inexpensive Halloween, Christmas and Easter decor that’s perfect for fun seasonal crafting.

Get Flowers for Less

The floral department of your local dollar store is a great place to look for brightly colored fake flowers at $1 a stem. You can get a bunch of flowers to add to a wreath (or make a pretend play flower shop for your child) for just a few dollars.

Don’t miss the vases, which are typically located near the other craft supplies. They usually have a great selection of glass vases. You’ll also find floral foam and foam wreath blanks, perfect for all sorts of projects.

Faux flowers vary widely in quality and cost, but the cheapest ones I could find at big retailers ranged from $1.20 at Jo-Ann to $5.80 from Walmart, giving an average price of $3.12.

The least expensive glass vases ranged from 97 cents at Walmart (but the item was out of stock when I checked) to $3 at Jo-ann, for an average price of $2.26. A foam wreath ring costs between $4.19 at Jo-Ann and $5.88 at Walmart, with an average price of $5.24.

If you bought all the supplies for a flower arrangement, including floral foam, a glass vase and, say, six sprays of flowers, at the dollar store you would spend $8. Using the least-expensive products I could find, a similar arrangement would cost $11.94 if you bought everything at Jo-ann, $16.92 from Michaels, $16.95 from Amazon and nearly $40 from Walmart. At Target you’d spend $31.28 — but you can’t buy floral foam there.

Don’t Skip the Hardware Aisle

One place you might not think to look for craft supplies at the dollar store is the hardware section, but you’re likely to find a good variety of paint brushes (bristle and foam), paint cups and drop cloths.

There’s also a variety of adhesives, twine, rope and other hardware that could be helpful in projects. Use jute or cotton twine to wrap a bottle for a rustic outdoor candle holder, for example, or grab some duct tape to make wallets, flowers and personalized school supplies.

A one-inch paintbrush bought elsewhere ranges in price from 99 cents at Michaels to $3.49 at Target, while foam brushes, sold in an eight-pack at the dollar store, would run you from $1.59 for a set of three from Target or $6.95 for 25 from Walmart. With our examples, that’s a savings of up to 41 cents per brush.

Craft Department

Of course there is actually a craft section at the dollar store, which can range from heavy on kid craft items like googly eyes, feathers and craft sticks to a more adult-focused section with scrapbook paper, yarn and more.

Available items can vary at your store, but I love to get kid craft basics here: beads and pipe cleaners for kids’ jewelry projects, feathers and googly eyes for the endless creatures my kid loves to make, paint and stencils to personalize notebooks, and much more.

You can find cute colored twine, glitter glue, pony beads, pom poms, craft kits and more. My store even has tiny bottles of Mod Podge and tubs of Play-Doh for just $1.

How much you’ll save depends on what and how much you are buying, but just as an example a pack of 100 multicolored wooden craft sticks — which you can use to build structures, make picture frames and tons of other projects — would run you from $2.87 at Walmart to $9.99 at Target, where you’d have to buy 500.

Pony beads are $1 for a pack of 400 at the dollar store, or $1.97 at Walmart for a small package, $2.79 for 720 at Jo-ann, $4.29 for 580 at Michaels and $3.07 or $6.29, respectively, for 1,000 from Amazon or Target.

School Supplies

Another great place to check for craft supplies is the school section. Among other dollar deals, you’re likely to find a great price on posterboard.

My local store has white posterboard for 50 cents and colored poster board for 69 cents a sheet. Compare that to 97 cents a sheet for white or colored poster board at the Walmart across the parking lot. The savings really add up if you need a lot of it.

You’ll also find stickers, classroom decorations, pens, pencils and notebooks for all the creative types in your household.

Other Craft Supplies to Buy at the Dollar Store

  • Picture frames: plain frames can be painted, and certificate frames can be used to hold kids’ artwork
  • Containers: there are tons of great organizing supplies at the dollar store, from plastic bins with lids to open baskets and more
  • Aluminum trays: usually sold in multipacks, these are great for holding paint or for containing a project when using spray paint or spray glue
  • Party supplies: Ribbon, streamers, tissue paper and little party favors you can use to decorate a wreath or frame for a kids’ room
  • Sponges: cellulose sponges can be cut into shapes for stamping, used to paint texture or to clean up messy craft projects
  • Kitchen and bath items: wander through these sections and you might be inspired to try painting with a back massager or using a tiny strainer to distribute glitter on a project

Take a stroll through the aisles of your favorite dollar store every now and then to find creative inspiration and low-cost supplies. Inexpensive dollar store options can keep you crafting and creating while sticking to your budget.

Sarah E. White is a freelance writer, editor, crafter and mom based in Arkansas. She writes about creativity for moms and other busy people, crafting with and for kids and creating the life you’ve always wanted at Our Daily Craft.