I'll be the first to admit, when it comes to buying things for my classroom, I'm cheap. Frugal may be the nicer word, but it all boils down to the fact that I never like to pay more than I have to, especially for items that aren't meant to last. Enter the dollar store! Spending more and more of my own money on school supplies each year means that I make frequent stops at dollar stores and the dollar sections I've found popping up in discount and craft stores. One thing I have learned in my dollar store shopping is that each store holds enough deals and steals to make any frugal teacher swoon. Unfortunately, those deals sit right next to items that just may waste, instead of save, your hard-earned dollars. Knowing what is, and what isn't a good deal at the dollar store isn’t always easy to figure out. This week some bargain-hunting teachers and I will use our dollar store prowess to help you sift through what we use and love in our classrooms while letting you know when you may want to just say no.
In the video below I'll take you on a tour of all the dollar store items I use in my classroom while few of my teacher friends share their dollar store must-haves. As you watch, you're sure to notice a few clever, unconventional uses for everyday items!
In a nutshell, here are some of the things we love to use from the dollar store along with what we think you may want to think twice about buying.
Most dollar stores have a large book section. Before purchasing, inspect the books to ensure there are no printing errors and the content is what you want for your students. You could put yourself further ahead using bonus points or stocking up on dollar books from the Scholastic Reading Club for your classroom.
Most dollar stores have a teacher aisle where you can find discount teaching supplies. My recommendations for the teacher aisle:
These teacher supplies are great for consumables that you will use once and toss such as name tags and word strips. Think twice if you are looking for something that will last for years such as quality posters, bulletin board trimmers, die-cut letters, etc. If you buy reward stickers, use them quickly because mine seem to lose their stickiness in a matter of months.
Not all school supplies are created equal at the dollar store. While some are just fine, you are best to go with name brands with others.
It pains me to pay more than a dollar for most storage containers. Best buys for dollar store organization and storage include:
Inspect each storage piece carefully before purchasing. I have gotten home more than once and realized that a corner or bottom of the container was cracked. Also, check the shelves to see if your container has a matching lid. Lids are often stacked separately, away from the containers.
Dollar stores are a great place for a quick makeover that won't break the bank. I recommend the following:
Batteries are a good deal because I only need them for a two-week period each fall. If you are looking for long-lasting batteries, you may want to think twice about these.
Great to take-along on field trips:
This may be my number one reason for visiting the dollar store! I used to save and store window clings that I changed each month, tediously returning them neatly to their plastic backing. If that happens now, great. If not, they can easily be replaced for a dollar. Sometimes, time is money!
Every year I buy holiday pencils for my students and every year when they go to sharpen them I remember they are more for looks than practicality. Many of the pencils lose over half their length before getting sharp the first time. I have no idea why!
Watch the quantities on the packages. Some supplies like wooden craft sticks wind up costing more than they do at the craft store because they are sold with smaller quantities in each package.
The dollar store's toy aisle is filled with fun things for kids. These are things we buy
Look closely at any toy you buy for your students. Be on the lookout for, and stay away from:
I also suggest that you:
I recommend using the dollar store for:
Make sure cleaning supplies you buy for your room are gentle. I've purchased some that smell awful and have warnings to keep away from children. If you do purchase those, be sure to use them when students are out of the room for the day and rinse any desks the cleaners come in contact with.
While I love the dollar store for many reasons, the two things I always tend to shy away from are food items and any plastic that you eat or drink out of, but that's just me.
So, it's true — I love the dollar store, it's odd, one-of-a-kind smell, and the joy of coming home with something new, fun, and cheap for my class. Of course, what is written above is only my opinion of my favorite and not so favorite items from the dollar store. I'd love to hear your experiences. What do you always buy at the dollar store or what would you never buy? Share your comments below.