Q: With funds so short and lots of family coming for the holidays, do you have any suggestions to conserve money instead of spending too much on gifts? -- Sam and Sara Saver
A: Dear Mr. and Mrs. Saver: Depending upon the shopper (and saver) one talks to, plenty of folks have ideas to bank money during a season where the emphasis is on spending. One great tip to resuscitate a fading bank account is to shop at the dollar store. Yep, you read this correctly -- your local dollar store is filled with interesting, inexpensive items to be used as gifts or groceries. For example:
* Greeting cards usually cost only 50 cents each to fit the occasion and the recipient.
* Gift wrap, gift bags/tissue paper, and ribbon can all be found for a minimal amount. When your presents are gaily wrapped, no one will ever guess where the coverings come from unless you decide to brag.
* Spices for holiday baking don't necessarily come cheap at the neighborhood grocery store; however, when you purchase the large-size $1 apiece containers of cinnamon, pepper, parsley, basil, and the like, most taste buds can't tell the difference. Also, don't forget canned items, such as olives and condiments, as well as sweets to include cookies and candies and much more; just be sure to check the expiration dates before purchase.
* Planning a party? Decorations abound for a buck or perhaps a bit more.
* Toiletries such as shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, shaving cream, bath powder and other necessities are a real steal.
* Toys and novelties line the shelves, from coloring books to fire engines. When my two eldest grandchildren (now 21 and 19) were young and came to spend the night, entertainment was easy and cheap. We gave each child $5 and set them loose at the local dollar store. The hardest task for each youngster was deciding among all those great "souvenirs."
* Candles always make a first-rate gift, and you can find an assortment at the dollar store. Decorate with a pretty ribbon and/or place the candle on a fancy plate (both also sold at this store) and, viola, a spectacular presentation!
Obviously, I could continue to list other treats, but it's much more fun for you to traipse down the aisles to search out eye-catching items. Happy shopping.
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. E-mail her at email@example.com.