Monday, June 18, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 15

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on December 13th, 2012, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 40 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 13, Issue 40

Give, but don't break the bank

How to save a few reindeer bucks, one dollar at a time


You’d better watch out, and you’d better not cry. You’d better not pout—I’m telling you why: As of this printing, Christmas is only 12 days away and, counting today, there are only five days of Hanukkah remaining!

The elections are over and political ads have been replaced by holiday commercials. The last bit of Thanksgiving turkey casserole has been gobbled up, and the surviving turkeys are gobbling among themselves over a fiscal cliff.

Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is back this year with a vengeance, and he’s partnered with the Grinch to try to steal away the holidays with increased prices for gas, food, and other necessities. No room for luxuries like presents—or is there?

Enter the Queen of Christmas Presents who knows how to wrap with the big elves, Menorah the Explorer, the Hanukkah Bubbie in search of gifts that won’t cost a lot of gelt, the Super Grandma who can stretch a dollar enough to make President Washington holler! In a word—moi! Want to know my secret? You’ll find it at two venues filled with a golden hoard of really great items for gift giving that won’t break your budget: The Dollar Tree store and the 99 Cent Store.

Yes, I know many people think of these as the last bastion of cheapness, but really. A gift is about the thought and the time you make to find it, not the price.

The 99 Cent Store has locations in Santa Maria, Lompoc, and Paso Robles. The Dollar Tree can be found in Santa Maria, Orcutt, Lompoc, Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Atascadero, and Paso Robles.

Both stores offer myriad items suitable for gifts, especially if you have a long list. Plus, the employees at both venues are helpful and work to keep the stores well-stocked and clean and the lines moving at the check-out stands. My latest visits have helped me whittle my holiday gift list down in a hurry, with each item costing only a buck!

An unfounded concept is that these stores are the Land of Misfit Toys—not so! I found some of the softest teddy bears on the planet at the Dollar Tree. The toy aisles at both the Dollar Tree and 99 Cent stores are filled with Matchbox cars and trucks, puzzles, dolls, modeling clay, crayons, and color markers. And the books —oh my! There are coloring books, activity books, puzzle books, and all manner of story books—all costing only a buck!

There are cool knit caps and gloves for tween and teen boys, plus cool socks, hair accessories, make-up kits, nail polish, flavored lip glosses, and colorful zip bags for your young ladies.

You can also make the holidays brighter while playing Santa for a child by donating to a good cause. The Season of Hope, sponsored by KSBY, is still collecting toys and non-perishable food items, and Toys for Tots can be brought to your local fire station. There are still some name tags on local Giving Trees, and the Dollar Tree is sponsoring Operation Home Front.

According to Ian Smith, manager of the Dollar Tree in Arroyo Grande, this wonderful program supports local military families at Vandenberg and Edwards Air Force bases. Many of these families are in need, and there’s at least one parent who will be deployed and unable to be with their children this holiday season. The Dollar Tree stores are inviting customers to buy a toy or book for a child and place it in collection bins by the check-out stands. These gifts are being collected, wrapped, and given to local children at the bases.

I remember my Dad being away for many Christmases when I was small. He was in the Air Force and stationed in Greenland when Mom brought me to our local military base one winter day in Spokane, Wash. There, I was amazed and thrilled to see Santa, who presented me with a doll and candy cane. I’ve never forgotten this, and I enjoy paying it forward by supporting Operation Home Front.

Both stores stock pretty baskets of various sizes to fill with the countless scented lotions and potions and fragrances they sell. I filled a basket with a pretty bottle of body lotion, shower gel, a net body scrub, and a scented candle. Final tally: $5.

Fill those baskets with terrific kitchen and food items, plus cute dish towels and potholders for your favorite chef. I found everything from Betty Crocker kitchen utensils in bright red to bottles of spices at my local Dollar Tree.

Are you a baker and candy maker? Both stores have lovely holiday tins, goodie bags, decorative boxes, or simple plastic containers, plus loads of grocery items for confection-making. I found cookie, cupcake, and brownie mixes; sprinkles; chocolate chips; cans of frosting; decorator icing; and more at both the 99 Center Store in Santa Maria and the Dollar Tree in Arroyo Grande.

Is there a sweet tooth on your list? I found all kinds of goodies at both stores, including some international favorites that are fairly pricey elsewhere. A comparison shop between my local Dollar Tree and other venues revealed finds that cost $1, including mini-bags of Lindt chocolate truffles ($3.99 elsewhere), Toblerone bars ($2.99), packages of palmier cookies ($4.99), Belgian chocolate bars ($2.99), boxes of cocoa and flavored mocha mixes ($2.99 to $3.99), and flavored Italian syrups ($5.99). A gift bag filled with a pretty holiday mug (they have those, too), palmier cookies, and mocha mix makes a lovely gift costing just more than $3.

Need a gift for a teacher? Both stores have a wonderful selection of themed calendars and practical planners, but hurry. These go fast! Many teachers also frequently stock their classrooms with items for their students that they pay for out of their own pockets. The 99 Cent Stores and Dollar Tree stores have aisles filled with construction paper, packets of pens and colored pencils, erasers, staplers, calculators, and various school supplies. Or give your favorite teacher a gift certificate in a pretty card.

     Feeling crafty? Both stores stock plenty of glitter, glue, scissors, and pipe cleaners. The Dollar Tree in Arroyo Grande has an entire craft section filled with items to help crafters create a home-made holiday memento.

Remember your furry companions. Both the Dollar Tree and the 99 Cent Store carry toys and treats that will put a smile on your favorite pet’s fuzzy face.

Don’t forget the bling! Both stores are holiday central for all kinds of decor for your home, inside and out. Ornaments, garlands, stockings, reindeer antlers, jingle bells, and Santa hats are ready for you to get your jolly on, all for just a buck, Rudolph!

Finally, both of these stores are your one-stop shopping spots for gift wrap and boxes, tape, ribbons, bows, tissue, single or boxed holiday cards, gift tags and stickers, and mailing supplies.

Now that you’ve decorated, baked, wrapped, and mailed everything, sit back with a mug of hot green tea (available at both the Dollar Tree  and the 99 Center Store) and smile. You’ve saved money, helped a good cause or two, and made the holidays cheery and bright. It’s a wrap! m


Ariel Waterman loves to pass the buck to Operation Home Front, and so can you. Send holiday greetings via Executive Editor Ryan Miller at

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