Do Your Holiday Shopping at the Dollar Store Without Looking Cheap

A little boy lays down in a pile of presents.
Getty Images

Would you shop at a dollar store to save money during the holidays?

It might sound tacky but could be missing out on some great deals if you pass up dollar store deals.

Dollar stores like Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Dollar General may not supply all of the gifts on your shopping list, but they’re great sources for the extra items like cleaning supplies and cookware that are easy to forget about when you’re budgeting for the holidays.

And you’re also likely to find some pretty decent stocking stuffers for the adults and kids on your gift list, along with updating your holiday decorations.

Dollar stores are also a good place to stock up on gifts if you are donating to shelters or are otherwise helping supply gifts to holiday efforts by houses of worship or non-profit agencies.

Oh, about that dollar thing. Dollar Tree raised prices on most items to $1.25 in the first quarter of 2022. That extra quarter, says Dollar Tree, will allow them to bring back some customer favorites that 1 buck couldn’t buy. For now, Dollar General and Family Dollar are holding steady at $1.

What to Buy at Dollar Stores to Save Money for the Holidays

There are many things you can buy at a dollar store to get more bang for your holiday buck, including decorations, gifts, gift wrap, cards and even bakeware.

1. Holiday Decorations

The dollar store is a great place to find the makings of DIY holiday decorations at a fraction of the cost of even what you might find at discount giant Walmart. Look for ribbon, bows, candles and candleholders for just $1 each.

If you want to spruce up side tables for the holidays, search your local dollar store for snow globes, miniature trees, festive figurines, decorative baskets and tabletop signs that remind everyone to be merry.

You can even get tabletop trees if you want to decorate your work desk (home or in the office) or the entry table by your front door. Dollar stores also sell a wide variety of ornaments and tinsel to decorate your tabletop (or full-size) tree without breaking the bank.

Finally, you can deck out the exterior of your house or apartment with a dollar-store wreath and wreath hanger. If you’re into DIY, you could even use a dollar-store wreath as a base and make it extra fancy by adding ribbons, bells, or tinsel.

2. Gifts for Kids

For many kids, the excitement of opening gifts outweighs whatever is wrapped inside. And you can get all kinds of children’s toys, books and crafts at a dollar store for much cheaper than you’d pay at big box stores or online. This year, buy a bunch of small gifts at the dollar store so your child has plenty of presents to unwrap.

A cheap whoopee cushion can provide hours of laughter (although you might end up confiscating it after four straight hours of poofs). If your kid is into bubble popping toys, you can stock up on a few different ones to help keep them occupied during the school holidays.

You can even get dolls, stuffed animals, race cars and action figures at your local dollar store.

The quality will definitely be different from the more expensive versions, but what little kid is going to notice that when unwrapping that cuddly unicorn they’ve been asking for all year?

Two women hug while exchanging gifts on Christmas.
Getty Images

3. Gifts for Adults

When you’re making your gift list this holiday season, you probably don’t think of dollar stores as must-visit places for gifts for the adults on your list. But don’t write them off completely. Dollar stores actually have quite a few options for your friends and family.

If you’re buying for a crafty person, you’ll have a lot of options to choose from. Dollar Tree, Dollar General and Family Dollar all have a wide variety of art and craft supplies, including yarn, paint, beads and craft kits.

Even if your loved one isn’t into crafts, there are still plenty of dollar store options available. For the writer in your life, stock up on pens and notebooks. Or pick up a pack of socks to keep as an emergency gift for anyone you forgot.

Dollar stores also sell a selection of puzzle books you can give to someone in your life who likes being challenged, or paperbacks to give to readers.

If all else fails, pick up some assorted candy and make a sweet gift basket to brighten someone’s day this holiday season.

Pro Tip

Make your gifts extra special with some personal DIY touches and repurposing items around the house for cheap gift wrap.

4. Gift Wrap and Bags

Beautiful presents in fancy wrapping make a lovely sight under the tree. But that expensive wrapping is torn apart in a matter of minutes and thrown away, making it a costly waste.

Instead of splurging on the expensive paper, pick up cheaper alternatives at the dollar store. Reuse gift bags or let the kids color pictures or write personalized messages on the wrapping paper.

Make your gifts extra special with some personal DIY touches or by repurposing items around the house for cheap gift wrap.

5. Holiday Greeting Cards

The important part of a holiday card is the message inside, right? Unlike (maybe) the gifts or food, your friends and family aren’t judging your holiday greetings based on the caliber of card you send them.

You can pick up a box of 20 cards with envelopes at Dollar Tree. Compare that to spending $8-$20 for a box of cards at Walmart (some of those only have 12 cards!).

6. Cleaning Supplies

Added visitors and lots of cooking means extra cleaning before, during and after the holidays. But it doesn’t have to be an extra expense.

Load up on one-time-use cleaning supplies at the dollar store to prepare for the task.

You may have to use a little more because some cheaper cleaners are more diluted than their name-brand counterparts. But they’re just as effective with more elbow grease and can be an affordable solution during this busy — and expensive — time of year.

7. Disposable Bakeware

Only cook this much once a year? If you don’t have the space to keep the variety of bakeware you need to prepare a holiday meal, buy disposables for a buck apiece. A warning, if you’re roasting a turkey, you may want to double up on aluminum bakeware to make sure it’s strong enough to hold the bird.

What a stress reliever it will be to just ball up that giant roasting pan and toss it in the trash after dinner! No more worrying about how to clean it, where you’ll store it — or how you’ll afford to get it in the first place.

Ohio-based Catherine Hiles is a British writer and editor living and working in the U.S. She has a degree in communications from the University of Chester in the U.K. and writes about finance, cars, pet ownership and parenting. The Penny Hoarder deputy editor Tiffany Wendeln Connors updated this post.