With Christmas coming and some people celebrating in a bigger way this year, there's still plenty of time for shopping and decorating.
You'll find a wide mix of holiday essentials — from greeting cards to decorations and gifts — at affordable prices at dollar stores.
Most items really do cost $1 at such retailers as 99¢ Only Stores, Dollar General and Family Dollar, though online, some products are available only in bulk. At Daiso, the Japanese dollar store, most goods cost $1.50 or $1.99. Some Dollar Tree locations recently began adding products priced above $1.
Stephanie Andrews, owner of Balance Design in Atlanta, found some dollar store websites “beautifully organized, and I did not feel overwhelmed by too much clutter as I do when I go into the stores."
Here are 10 Christmas ideas from dollar stores.
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1. Wrapping supplies
"Dollar stores are great places to save a bit of money on things like gift wrapping paper, gift bags, ribbons, bows and anything else you need [for] a spectacular gift,” Helwig says. You'll also find practical items like cellophane tape and scissors.
2. Toys for tots
Dollar stores are a treasure trove of inexpensive toys for children. For $1 at Dollar Tree, you'll find Black mermaid dolls and Mattel Hot Wheels cars. Andrews found popular Disney Lego toys, such as a Lego Disney Princess Anna and an Elsa's Storybook Adventures kit, for $13 to $20, and a Princess Moana set for $10, at Dollar General. For $1 at Dollar Tree, you’ll find Make-It Blocks, which are similar to Legos, and a variety of Black dolls and Mattel Hot Wheels cars. Keep in mind that some dollar stores have been criticized for selling low-quality children's toys that may break easily or contain parts with choking hazards. Take that into consideration when purchasing.
3. Holiday decorations
While the pandemic may have shrunk many Christmas celebrations last year, people are going all out to make this year festive, according to a survey by online interior design service Modsy. The company noted that 69 percent of those surveyed expected to go above and beyond their normal decorating plans. Dollar stores have a wide selection of ornaments, yard signs and decorations, from glittery garlands to wreaths.
This year, 99¢ Only Stores and Dollar Tree have added new colors to the traditional red and green for Christmas decorations: soft pink and light blue. They come in matte, mirror and glitter finishes, in various sizes, in multipacks.
The soft pink is “gorgeous”and “on trend for 2021,” says Helwig. “Use them to embellish a gold-and-pink-themed Christmas tree or mix them with silver for an updated glamorous look — a perfect and very inexpensive way to update your Christmas accent colors.”
4. Kitchen aids
If you're cooking for Christmas, keep it simple by using $1 disposable foil pans to make cooking and cleanup easier. You'll also find holiday-themed containers to store leftovers in your refrigerator or to fill with take-home treats for guests.
5. Settings for the table
Dollar stores have plenty of other disposables, including colorful paper plates, napkins, plastic utensils and even plastic wineglasses.
"Since many of our holiday gatherings will be spent outside on the deck and porch, we need dishes that look good but are not delicate,” Andrews says. “That's where these oak plastic chargers come in — [they'll] look lovely as the base for your place setting.” These 13-inch plates also come in gold and silver with details like fluted edges or beaded rims.
Dollar stores also offer stoneware and holiday-themed ceramic dinnerware. And Dollar General has stainless steel forks, spoons and knives, 3-packs for $1.
6. Themed gifts
Dollar stores have all the makings for themed fun — either as a gift or for a family experience.
"I love going through all the aisles and picking up items to make [personalized] gift bags or baskets,” Helwig says. You'll find cocoa mix, marshmallows, cookies and mugs to make a sweets-themed gift basket, he says, or bubble bath, loofahs, soap and eye masks for a spa basket.
7. Satisfy a sweet tooth
"I love to get my holiday candy extras at the dollar store,” Helwig says. “They have all the name brands. It's a sweet way to embellish a gift card or stocking stuffer for a coworker.” In addition to candy canes and chocolate, you'll find other seasonal food items and spices like cinnamon sugar.
8. Cozy candles
A survey by online interior design service Modsy found that 93 percent of people think it's important that everyone feels cozy and warm at home. Scented holiday candles are an easy way to achieve that atmosphere.
Andrews suggests creating a “dramatic” display of a dozen glass votive candleholders from Dollar Tree, which also has apple-cinnamon candles. Dollar General has holiday scents such as Frosted Cinnamon, flannel, holly, and Sugar Cloud. 99¢ Only Stores have scents like falling leaves and fig + pine tree.
9. Family crafting
If you're looking for something to do with your grandchildren over the holidays, you'll find plenty of DIY supplies. One idea, Andrews says, is to make “Happy 2021” cards for friends and family with construction paper, metallic markers, glitter and more. Don't have that creative gene? Dollar stores have various ornament-making kits. Dollar General sells light-up shadow-box kits for $3.
10. Don't forget family pets
Pet owners plan to shower their companions with extra attention this holiday season, expecting to spend an average of $41 on pet gifts in 2020. More than half (56 percent) of those surveyed say they plan to buy their pet a holiday gift this year, up from 46 percent in 2020, according to a study by the American Pet Products Association.
Dollar stores also offer pet collars, plush toys, edible treats and more for cats and dogs. Dollar Tree also sells pet bandanas and scarves. If you don’t mind spending from $2.99 to as much as $14.99, 99¢ Only Stores offer dog clothing and plush beds.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on December 21, 2020. It was updated to reflect new information.
Sheryl Jean is a contributing writer who covers aging, business, technology, travel, health and human-interest stories. A former reporter for several daily metropolitan newspapers, her work also has appeared in the Chicago Tribune and The Dallas Morning News and on the American Heart Association's website.