PRESENTS FOR PENNIES
When holiday shopping leaves budgets stretched thin, the dollar store can come to the rescue. It's a particularly good source for inexpensive stocking stuffers, classic kids' toys, and practical finds for grown-ups from mugs to gloves. Stop in often for different finds, particularly as the seasons change.
Some kids can never have enough plush friends, and dollar stores have plenty of stuffed animals. There are miniature stocking-stuffer bears, monkeys, and holiday friends for $1. Some dollar stores also carry full-size options and name brands including My Little Ponies and even Elmo, though they're usually a little pricier.
DOLLS AND ACTION FIGURES
There are a surprising number of name-brand toys at the local dollar store. Many are no longer on the shelves of big-box retailers (though it's always worth double-checking to make sure you're really getting a good deal). Finds may include Trolls, Barbie, Monster High, Shopkins, PJ Masks, DC Comics Superheroes, classic soldier figures, and more. If the kid isn't picky, off-brand dolls and action figures are on tap for less.
Got a toy-car lover in your life? Fill their need for speed at the dollar store, where there's often plenty of toy cars on the cheap, including familiar names such as Disney Cars, Matchbox, and Hot Wheels. Larger toy cars, some remote-controlled, are often also available for those willing to spend a little more than a buck.
Add to the kids' arsenal of ways to burn off energy with toys that will get them moving. Dollar stores carry jump ropes, foam footballs, paddle ball sets, mini basketball sets, and more. Some also have off-brand, Nerf-like dart blasters, regulation-size game balls, and pool floats, though these bigger toys are usually pricier than a dollar.
Glow sticks and anything else that can light up the night with vibrant neon color is a guaranteed stocking-stuffer hit for any kid. There are tubes of bendable, connectable glow bracelets and necklaces at the dollar store for a buck. Some may also carry glow wands, balls, and even glow-in-the-dark fidget spinners.
Everyone needs 'em, so stuff a pair or two in a stocking for cheap. While dollar stores often have big packs of basic white crew socks, they may also carry super-soft non-skid socks perfect for the winter, thermal or boot socks, and even toe socks for the kids. Some stores will carry trendy items such as slipper socks and boot toppers for a few more dollars.
There's little need to overpay for candles, particularly those used primarily as décor. Dollar stores feature a range of styles, including rustic-looking miniature mason jar candles, tea lights, pillar candles, large jar candles with long burn times, and even battery-operated LED votives.
Board games are always a great option for mass appeal. Some dollar stores even have classics including Sorry, Guess Who, and Connect 4 for a bit more than a dollar. Just-a-buck options include smaller travel games such as classic wooden peg boards and plastic tic-tac-toe sets.
CARD GAMES AND FLASH CARDS
Don't forget to put a deck of cards in someone's stocking this year. Traditional decks of playing cards are a dollar-store staple. Frequent finds include classics such as Old Maid and Go Fish or decks with kid-friendly characters including Mickey Mouse or Shopkins. Flashcards with the ABCs or simple math are another option.
Know a puzzle lover? Fill their stash with inexpensive dollar-store options. Grownup-friendly puzzles at just $1 include vibrant travel scenes and landscapes up to 500 pieces. For kids, licensed-character options with fewer pieces include favorites including "Frozen," Paw Patrol, and Star Wars. Some mini puzzles come packaged in small tins, perfect for stockings.
Fill a tree with a stash of dollar-store ornaments. Large packs of shatterproof balls in a variety of colors are a staple at most stores for no more than a few bucks. Giftable single ornaments are also available for $1 -- think knit penguins and Santas, glittery reindeer, and plush snowmen.
Pick up an inexpensive mug and fill it with a bag of a java junkie's preferred coffee for an easy gift. Plain white stoneware mugs found at dollar stores are perfect for decorating and personalizing with a Sharpie. For those who aren't feeling crafty, there are plenty of festive holiday options.
Dollar stores have plenty of candy for every sweet tooth, and not just off-brand options: Most carry Snickers, Twix, M&Ms, and more. Not particular about wrappers? Look out for discounts on Halloween candy, which can last up to a year without declining in quality. Giftable boxes of assorted chocolates and wrapped Christmas candies are also easy to find.
Check out the dollar store for cheaper frame options, especially if plastic or faux wood is okay. Options include 8x10s suitable for gallery walls and smaller tabletop frames perfect for gifting. Metallic finishes look convincingly pricey on a high bookshelf. Slip in a drug-store photo print and create a keepsake to please anyone.
They won't deliver Bose-quality sound, but dollar-store headphones are a great stocking stuffer for kids who need them for tablets, or as a cheap backup pair for anyone. Earbuds start at just $1 at many stores, while teen-approved over-the-ear styles and kid-friendly headsets with volume control are easy finds for a few more bucks.
Stuff her stocking with vibrant shades of nail polish, available for only a buck at most dollar stores. Wet n' Wild and L.A. Colors, name brands that cost more at big-box stores, are among the options at several dollar stores. Some also carry small gift sets that are already ready to stuff in a stocking or put under the tree.
KIDS' CRAFT SUPPLIES
Dollar stores are a great shopping source for creative kids. Options include basics such as coloring books, crayons and watercolors, clay, chalk, Play-Doh, stickers, and more. For on-the-go kids, activity kits featuring licensed characters including Care Bears, Transformers, and others are an easy stocking stuffer.
GROWN-UP CRAFT SUPPLIES
Dollar stores don't ignore crafty grownups. They often have staples such as floral foam, wreath forms, ribbon, miniature hot glue guns, and organizers. Giftable options may include make-your-own ornament kits, assorted beads for necklaces, and colorful rolls of washi tape with tons of fun patterns.
PET SUPPLIES AND TREATS
There's no need to leave Fido high and dry this Christmas. Unless the pooch has expensive taste, the dollar store is a great place to grab cheap pet gifts including dog and cat treats, bones and biscuits, squeaker toys, balls, teaser wands, and more.
As long as nothing with military-grade drop protection is needed, dollar stores often carry phone cases on the cheap. Since fun colors and patterns are a given, this is a particularly good stocking stuffer for a smartphone-loving teen. Just don't expect to find cases compatible with the latest models (sorry, iPhone X owners).
Frequent fliers will love a small kit packed with travel essentials easily found at most dollar stores. You'll find face wipes, small bottles of shampoo and hand sanitizer, miniature tubes of toothpaste, toothbrush holders, and purse-size packs of tissues. Put them in a cute toiletry bag for a great gift.
HATS AND GLOVES
Everyone can use a warm hat or an extra pair of gloves this winter, and most dollar stores carry this welcome stocking stuffer. Expect basic knit options in solid colors or traditional designs. Paying a little more might get you a cozy fleece lining, and there are often character options for kids for a slight premium, too.
LIP GLOSS AND LIP BALM
Pamper someone's pout with your dollar-store lip gloss and lip balm finds, perfect for stockings. While there are plenty of off brands, don't be surprised to spot tubes of Carmex, Blistex, Chapstick, Wet 'n Wild, Eos, Maybelline, and other familiar names.
Make a custom gift basket of bath products from a host of dollar-store options. Bubble bath, bath gel, fancy soap, lotion, and even trendy bath bombs are among frequent finds. Don't forget to throw in exfoliating gloves, poofs, washcloths and other accessories to complete your gift.
A great gift for a tween or teen who needs a safe space to vent, colorful journals are often available on dollar stores' shelves. Options range from basic composition books and spiral-bound mini notebooks to hardback journals with elastic bands that keep them closed. For a few more dollars, some stores have kid-approved furry covers, journals with writing prompts or even lockable journals.