Note to Self: Check the Dollar Store First!

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Guys, I could seriously smack myself right now. How could I be so negligent…?

I recently started a new job doing psychiatric rehabilitation with kids; to grossly oversimplify, I help them with emotional intelligence and building up coping skills as a supplement to individual therapy. I finally have my own desk to decorate and organize, so naturally I went a little bonkers with my spending because I love both decorating and organizing. This being an extra, unplanned expense is not in and of itself a bad thing, considering the income increase that came with the job. Spending some extra money was not my failure; not doing my homework on where I spent my money was my failure!

Going to Staples was my biggest mistake… I don’t know why I even bothered going there… I guess I thought it would be convenient and I’d find everything I needed in one place, but guess what: I didn’t! I only found maybe a third of the items on my list. And don’t even bother with Target if you just need the basics: Target is for the extras, the fun, decorative, cutesy things (soooooo many cutesy things…). Even Walmart kind of let me down… there just weren’t as many options as I was hoping for, although it definitely was the cheapest out of the big-name stores I went to.

But the other day I stopped at the dollar store to pick up some supplies for the therapeutic activities I do with my kiddos. And y’all… I could have died.

There is SO MUCH at the dollar store for SO CHEAP. How could I forget this? And sure, it’s not stellar quality, but the things I was looking for don’t necessarily need to be. Some of the things I found were:

  • Three-ring binders (even ones with the clear outer pockets for putting in pictures)
  • Cute folders, mini file-holders, and pencil cases
  • Craft supplies! So much craft supplies…
  • Small bottles of Mod Podge, perfect for if you only need it for one project
  • Office supplies: scissors, paper clips, push pins, magnets, binder clips, rulers, etc.
  • Organizing bins and containers, including a super cute tiny trinket box I bought
  • Really cute, on-trend party supplies. I’m not kidding when I say I’ll be checking the dollar store when I have a wedding to plan one day…

I could keep going with this list, but really there was a little bit of everything from every category and I was amazed. Household supplies, kitchen supplies, decorations for every event under the sun, toys and games, office and school supplies… you name it.

I found some good things at the local thrift store too, namely a cute turquoise file organizer. Although I don’t recommend thrift stores when you have something really specific in mind (because they are so hit-or-miss), they are a great place to check just to see what deals you can find. There are also usually a lot of binders and unused notebooks and folders whenever I go. And my last resort for the items that just eluded me at every stop… Amazon. Not the cheapest option, but the best option for getting something very specific without blowing your last paycheck.

So, to summarize, when looking for office/school/teaching supplies:

  1. Check the dollar store FIRST for your basics. 
  2. Avoid the big-name stores! Avoid Staples, Office Depot, etc. (unless you have some amazing coupons, I guess).
  3. Check the thrift store if you get a chance; you may find some good deals on new or lightly used supplies.
  4. Next check Walmart or comparable stores for any basics you haven’t found yet.
  5.  Save Target for the cutesy, fun things. Target is a “treat yo’self” kinda store, and it’s dangerous…
  6. Use Amazon.com for those things you just can’t find IRL, for those last few things on your list that have eluded you (for me, it was a desk drawer organizer).

I’m sure a lot of this is just a big “DUH” to anyone who’s already reading blog posts on being frugal, so this is just a reminder to myself: CHECK. THE. DOLLAR. STORE. FIRST.

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