There are so many things I had to learn them the hard way ... Basic, frugal tips and techniques that I had to figure out for myself; some based on the principle that price is not always the bottom line, others relating to doing instead of buying. Today's post is the first of several "roundups", if you will, of the things I wish I'd been taught before I left home instead of having to figure them out on my own.
For example, dollar stores.
Dollar stores (at least in Canada) are great places to pick up stationery, school and office supplies, gift wrap/bags/boxes, cards of all kinds, insulated lunch bags, cotton swabs, cotton balls, bar soap, travel sized shampoos/conditioner/lotion, razor blades, sport socks, storage containers, laundry baskets, plastic or wooden hangers,clothespins, sewing notions, craft supplies, tea towels, facecloths, hand or kitchen towels, freezer bags, glassware, candles, incense, matches, foil products, party supplies, ashtrays, ice trays, sponges and cleaning brushes, hair ties/clips/pins/bands, combs and hairbrushes, toothbrushes, kids' party favours, toothpicks, and all kinds of housewares, kitchen gadgets, and holiday decorations.
Dollar stores are not a good place to go for first aid items (other than elastic bandages and the cheap bandaids the kids go through a gazillion of), food, or anything else that goes in your mouth, such as toothpaste, vitamins or supplements, or OTC medications. They are also not a good place to get your blank cd's/dvd's/videotapes/audiotapes, batteries, light bulbs, extension cords, or anything that plugs in or uses batteries.
Then there are the supermarket store brands, and the "no-name" or generic items.
Store/house/generic brands can be good value for the money, but you have to try them and compare them with the brands you used to buy. What at first looks like a great price may not work out so well in the long run ...
I found that while the generic frozen vegetables were just as good as the higher-priced brands, the canned vegetables were not; they were usually mushier, saltier, and had much less flavour. Generic canned soups, though, are generally good, as are generic dry soup mixes. Generic spices are just as good, and can be bought in bulk in most supermarkets here. The same goes for soup mixes, pastas and noodles, baking supplies, pickles, nuts, raisins/dried fruit, peanut butter, hot and cold cereals, rice, beans, dried vegetables, holiday candy of all kinds, and syrups. Generic ketchup is thin and watery; don't waste your money. I'm still looking for generic soy sauce, which we go through at an astonishing rate. Generic dryer sheets (if you use them) are good value as long as you get the unscented ones. Generic vitamins, supplements, and OTC medications are by law (at least in Canada) exactly the same as name brands.
The no-name products I find to be a waste of money:
Any liquid cleaning product - dish soap, laundry soap, shampoo - they are all so watered-down that by the time you've managed to get the job done, you've used so much more than you would have with a good name-brand product that it's actually costing you more.
Almost all paper products - toilet paper, paper towels, tissues - so thin and skimpy, and so much less in the package, that again you will end up using more and so spending more.
Pet food. Mostly cheap fillers. If you love your animals - and if you don't, you shouldn't have them in the first place - do not cheap out on their food.
I'm not going to mention thrift stores or yard sales today - they're for a later post. Some of the other topics I'm planning to cover are:
Making do and making it work
Learn to do it yourself
Get creative with what you've got
Stick around! You might even learn something - or teach me something! Questions, comments - share your less-than-common frugal tips, tricks, and insights.