19 Purchases to Avoid at Warehouse Stores

Unhappy woman with an apple
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Look, I like warehouse clubs as much as the next person standing in line for the jumbo hot dog at Costco. But let’s be real: There are things you never want to buy from these stores.

You’ll want to avoid some items because they’re not such a great deal. For other items, the bulk size makes them impractical for the average family. No reason to buy something you can’t use before it goes bad.

Here are some things we think you should consider skipping the next time you shop at your favorite warehouse store.

1. Books

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Many of the items on this list aren’t good buys because they’ll go bad before you get your money’s worth. Books are a different story. You should skip books at the warehouse store because you can probably find them cheaper at Amazon.

Better yet, don’t buy books at all. Switch to e-books, and you will find plenty of no-cost options, as we illustrate in “11 Places to Find Free E-Books.”

Don’t own an e-reader? You don’t need one. See “This Trick Lets You Read E-Books Without an E-Reader.”

2. Spices

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Let’s start with some of the items you can’t possibly use up before they go bad. At the top of the list are jumbo-size containers of single spices like cinnamon, saffron and oregano.

Price-wise, they look like a fantastic deal when compared with the small containers in the supermarket. But unless you’re feeding an army, you’re not going to use up those spices before they lose their flavor.

3. Bread

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Bread is another item that isn’t necessarily a bad deal at the warehouse club. However, you’ll probably get so much that you’ll have to freeze some of it to prevent it from going bad.

And if you’re going to freeze bread, you might as well see if you have a bakery outlet nearby where you can get bread products for an even lower price.

Never heard of bakery outlets? We explain what they are — and how to find one in your area — in “How I Buy Bread for $1 or Less.”

4. Printer ink

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Printer ink is another so-so purchase at the warehouse clubs. The prices aren’t bad, but you could do better.

My favorite place to buy ink is Staples, which has a rewards program that lets you earn rewards for your purchase as well as additional rewards for recycling used cartridges.

You can also buy “remanufactured” ink cartridges from a number of retailers.

5. Produce

Young woman eating an apple
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Produce, especially organic produce, is a deal at warehouse stores. I know some people who have warehouse memberships just for the great prices on produce. They are the type of people who get their five servings of fruit and veggies every day.

But be honest with yourself. If you eat just one apple a week, skip the warehouse produce section. Otherwise, you’ll be filling your fridge with food you’ll be throwing out in a week.

To save money on produce without buying it in bulk, check out “6 Secret Places to Find Coupons for Fresh Fruits and Veggies.”

6. Movies

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Like books, you’ll find Blu-ray discs cheaper online, usually on Amazon. Today’s streaming services mean you may not want to clutter up your home with discs any longer. You could get your movies online instead. Or there’s always the library for free rentals.

For more ideas, check out our article on free streaming movies and TV shows.

7. Electronics

televisions
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Some people say electronics are great buys at warehouse stores. Others strongly disagree. Those who argue against buying laptops and televisions at these stores say you’ll find a bigger selection and better prices at places like Best Buy, Walmart and Amazon.

Regardless of where you shop, wait for Black Friday, when electronics are often deeply discounted as doorbusters.

8. Flour

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Time for true confessions: I have a partially-used 25-pound bag of flour on my bottom pantry shelf. I can’t remember when I bought it, and I’m slightly scared to open it now.

I bought it because I thought I baked a lot. I was wrong.

The giant bag of flour feels like a great deal at a warehouse club until you’ve been storing it for a year — and find pantry moths inside.

9. Minced garlic

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While we’re discussing my warehouse mistakes, let’s add that you shouldn’t buy that big jar of fresh minced garlic.

I cook for a big family and use garlic in the majority of my meals. I still didn’t put a dent into emptying this jar before it went bad on me.

10. Nuts

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You can probably make it through a bulk bag of snacking nuts before they go bad, but nuts for baking are another story.

Before you end up with rancid ingredients, consider whether you’re better off buying from the supermarket just what you need for the recipe.

11. Cereal

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You can find some good deals on cereal at warehouse clubs, but this is not a slam dunk. Before you buy, ask yourself if your kids won’t get sick of weeks upon weeks of Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast.

Even if your family loves the brand, you might be able to find a better deal combining coupons and sales at the grocery store.

12. Milk

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Milk isn’t a bad deal at warehouse stores, but there’s no reason to make a special trip for it either.

Fat-free milk can be cheaper at the warehouse store, but a gallon of whole milk at Costco is roughly the same price as a gallon of milk at my grocery store. The grocery store will put it on sale occasionally too.

13. Soda

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Soda — or pop, as we like to call it here in Michigan — isn’t really that good of a deal at a warehouse club. It goes on sale at the supermarket so often that you can stock up at a better price there.

Watch for the best deals around holidays like Memorial Day and big game days like the Super Bowl.

14. Sunscreen

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Each summer, warehouse clubs put out multipacks of sunscreen and sell them at a discount. If your family spends long days at the pool or beach, these can be a good deal.

However, if you only occasionally go out in the sun or fail to apply sunscreen every time you go outside — as experts recommend — you might not get through all the bottles before they expire.

15. Lotion

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A little bit of lotion often goes a long way. Before buying a big container of it — or any skin care product for that matter — think about whether you’ll go through it before it expires or becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.

16. Stamps

getting mail
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You can buy 100 stamps at a warehouse store for what is essentially face value, but why bother? Given our collective love of online billing, email and social media, most people won’t send that much mail in a year.

Even if you need bulk stamps for holiday cards or another purpose, your only option at the warehouse is usually the basic flag design. Wouldn’t you rather get some fun or festive stamps from the post office for the same price?

17. Upgraded membership

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If you pay for it, membership clubs will give you an upgraded membership that comes with extra perks, most notably cash back or similar rewards on your purchases.

If you’re a warehouse store super shopper, it might make sense to get the upgraded membership. For everyone else, you may be paying more than you reap in benefits.

18. Diapers and wipes

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We have fortunately passed the diapers stage of life in my house. However, the word on the street is that warehouse clubs are not the place to go for diapers and wipes.

Instead, look for the best deals using the Subscribe & Save feature on Amazon.

19. Canned goods

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There’s no reason to stock up on bulk canned goods at a warehouse club when you can find them on sale for comparable prices at the supermarket.

Tip: February is Canned Food Month, so that’s a good time to watch for deals at your favorite store and stock up.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

11 of the Best Items to Regift This Year

A woman gives a regift to a friend
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Maybe you’ve heard a few nightmare tales about regifting — or lived them yourself. Ever received a present that has a gift tag with someone else’s name? That’s probably the No. 1 regifting goof.

But there are ways to pull off a regift successfully — especially in 2020, when our in-person shopping and gift-giving has been reduced, and any present feels like a bright spot in a tough year.

Some items, of course, shouldn’t be regifted. Don’t regift anything that’s been opened — even if the item inside wasn’t used. If the item was homemade for you, like a knitted scarf or jar of jam, don’t pass that on. Never hand over out-of-date technology, even if it’s unused.

And consider the recipient: Don’t give your sister the gift your brother handed you last year.

But that said, here’s a look at some items that should be perfectly fine to regift, if you’re a bit careful about it.

1. Art supplies

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Today’s excellent art supplies aren’t just for kids. Artistic adults, too, may appreciate elegant colored pencils, calligraphy sets and gel pens in all the colors of the rainbow. You can even dress up your regift by adding in an adult coloring book or sketchpad.

2. Candles

Candles next to a houseplant
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Candles offer a warm glow to light up the winter night. But if you know you’ll never light that lovely pine-scented present, pass it on to someone who might appreciate a little light in a dreary year. One caveat: Some major candle stores have one-time or seasonal collections, so if your gift is older, it might be obvious that it’s not a new purchase.

Wine

man drinking wine
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Received a nice bottle of wine, but you’re not a drinker? Or perhaps you only drink reds, and your neighbor dropped off a nice bottle of chardonnay? Wine (or other liquors) is a perfect regift — as long as you know the recipient isn’t avoiding alcohol.

Gift cards

Gift cards
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Few presents are as flexible as a gift card. By putting the present choice in the recipient’s hands, you’ll never give an item that’s the wrong size, wrong color or that someone already owns. And most gift cards are easy to use online — a bonus for those who are trying to stay away from crowds. Just be careful that the card you regift hasn’t been partially used — no one wants to punch in a gift card number and discover they only have 75 cents to spend.

Games and puzzles

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Our household has played more board games and assembled more jigsaw puzzles in 2020 than we did in the previous three years combined. It’s a natural consequence of finding ourselves stuck at home. Games and puzzles that don’t appeal to your family might be a welcome distraction for someone else. Be sure they’re unopened — few things are more frustrating than a puzzle missing a piece.

Kitchen items

Woman making fruit juice with a juicer
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Maybe your cousin sent you a handy citrus juicer for a housewarming present — and you already have two. And while those cat tea towels from Grandma are sure purr-ty, you have a drawer full of towels already. Leave any tags and packaging intact, and cook up a tasty regifting plan.

Costume jewelry

Woman wearing earrings
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My mom didn’t have pierced ears, but not everyone in her life knew that. She subtly passed on any pierced earring gifts to her four daughters and kept clip-ons for herself. Don’t pass on heirlooms or pricey presents to those who might not appreciate them, though. And before a jewelry regift, figure out if your recipient actually wears that kind of item. Mom thanks you.

Fragrance and lotions

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Scent is so personal. If someone gifted you rose cologne that makes you sneeze, or vanilla lotion when you only wear the unscented variety, don’t feel guilty about passing an unopened gift along. Try to snoop around first to see if the new recipient is likely to be a fan — some people have allergies, while others love a light fragrance but can’t deal with stronger scents.

Gift baskets

Gift basket
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Themed gift baskets can be a huge hit with the right person. But maybe you received a cache of different coffees and you never touch the stuff, or bridgework or braces won’t let your family enjoy the flavored popcorn pack. Regift without guilt — large family groups will usually have at least one person who will appreciate the items.

Toys

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Children are fun to buy for — browsing through toys delivers an irresistible trip down memory lane. But faraway relatives don’t always judge a child’s age appropriately, and middle-schoolers are unlikely to want Disney princess dolls or bath toys. Find the next generation in your family or circle of friends, and pass on those presents.

Novelty gifts

Happy woman holding a gift
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My brother and sister used to trade off the same rubber chicken every Christmas, working each year to package it in a creative and novel way so it wouldn’t be recognized until it was opened. You may not want to go this far, but goofy or gag gifts aren’t meant to be taken seriously. So if you never opened that Bob Ross bobblehead, or won’t ever use those bacon-scented bandages, give them away with a clear conscience. You’ll likely get a laugh, and that’s all these gifts really require.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

8 Ways to Get Amazon Gift Cards for Free

Amazon gift card
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Who doesn’t love Amazon? Not only can you find just about anything on the site, but you also can find it at a great price.

If you’re a fan of Amazon, you’ll probably love scoring free Amazon gift cards. And there are many ways to get them online. Following are some of our faves.

And for more ways to score Amazon freebies, also check out “10 Things That Really Are Free on Amazon.”

1. Amazon Trade-In

Couple shopping online
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Why not turn your “trash” into treasure? Send books, video games, tablets, e-readers, smart home devices and more to the Amazon Trade-In program. You’ll get Amazon gift cards in return, as we detail in “9 Companies That Sell Your Stuff For You.”

It’s also a great way to clear out the clutter.

2. Swagbucks

Swagbucks
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Shop online, fill out surveys, watch videos — these are all things you can do through Swagbucks to earn points. Earn enough points, known as “SBs,” and you can redeem them for free gift cards, including Amazon gift cards.

Your options currently range from a $3 Amazon gift card, for which you’ll need 300 SBs, to a $500 Amazon gift card, for which you’ll need 50,000 SBs.

To learn more about Swagbucks, check out “6 Ways to Score Free Gift Cards and Cash in 1 Place.”

3. Amazon credit cards

Happy woman using credit card for holiday shopping
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To be clear, we are not suggesting that you open a new credit card just to get a free Amazon gift card. Depending on your current financial situation, it might not be a wise money move for you. And no matter your situation, opening a new credit card can cause your credit score to dip temporarily.

But if you happen to be in the market for a new rewards credit card and you prize free Amazon gift cards, you might want to consider the Amazon Rewards Visa Cards. Get approved for one and you’ll get a free $100 Amazon gift card.

If an Amazon credit card isn’t the right fit for you, you can check out other options by using Money Talks News’ free credit card comparison tool.

4. Raise

Amazon gift card
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Raise is an online marketplace where you can buy new (full-priced) or used (discounted) gift cards and also sell your own unwanted gift cards.

If you buy new gift cards through Raise, you will earn rewards called “Raise Cash.” And you can redeem your Raise Cash when buying gift cards — including Amazon gift cards — in the future.

5. Shopkick

A woman uses her smartphone at the grocery store
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Shopkick is a free app that enables you to earn rewards points called “kicks” for doing tasks while shopping in stores or online — such as walking into a store, scanning a product bar code or buying something online.

You can redeem kicks for gifts cards, including Amazon gift cards.

6. MyPoints

Woman working from home
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One of the oldest rewards sites, MyPoints offers opportunities to earn points in a fashion similar to that of Swagbucks. And you can redeem points for free gift cards. The Amazon gift card options range from a $1 card, for which you’ll need 250 points, to a $100 card, for which you’ll need 15,500 points.

You also can get a $10 Amazon gift card just for signing up.

7. InstaGC

Woman reading on a tablet
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If you really want to earn gift cards fast, try doing an internet search, shopping online, taking surveys or watching videos to rack up points at InstaGC. You can redeem points for gift cards that this site says you will receive instantly.

The Amazon gift card options start at just $1 and go up to $100, with a custom amount also an option. You only need to earn 100 points before you can start redeeming them for Amazon gift cards.

8. SurveyMonkey

Woman using a smartphone
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Answer a few questions on the SurveyMonkey app, and you earn rewards that can be redeemed for Amazon gift cards. Surveys take five minutes or less to complete.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

6 Ways to Save Money With an Instant Pot

Instant Pot
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Pressure cookers used to have a bad reputation. Everyone had a story about how Cousin Agnes had one and she somehow blew up her kitchen with it.

Old-style pressure cookers were intimidating appliances, especially for those of us raised on the ease and safety of microwaves. But then came the Instant Pot.

The new appliance combined pressure cooking, slow cooking, sauteing and — depending on the model — other techniques such as yogurt-making and cake-baking. Suddenly, pressure cooking felt safe — and hip — again.

There’s no question that the Instant Pot has captured the hearts and kitchens of many. Just try reading through some of the glowing reviews on Amazon, or joining one or more of the Facebook groups devoted to the appliance.

Gluten-free groups love it. Those who’ve gone paleo or vegetarian sing its praises. Dieters and those with allergies have all found it an aid. Call it the equal-opportunity appliance.

If an Instant Pot is in your plans — or maybe on your shelf — the following are several ways it can save you enough money to quickly pay for itself.

1. Replace other appliances

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First, the obvious: If you don’t already own a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker or even yogurt-maker, buying an Instant Pot saves you the expense of purchasing them.

And making more room in your kitchen is worth something too, right? Many Instant Pot buyers find themselves sending their old Crock-Pot or rice cooker to Goodwill, thus freeing up space in already-crowded cupboards or on countertops.

2. Throw away the takeout menus

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It’s tough to pass up those quick takeout meals — orange chicken from Panda Express, butter chicken from your favorite Indian restaurant or Mongolian beef from the Asian restaurant down the street.

But just do a web search for your favorite takeout dish and add the phrase “Instant Pot.” You’ll find simple and quick recipes for all of them.

Better yet, search for the recipe you want along with the name of your Instant Pot model. Mine’s a Duo 60 Plus, and some recipes written for earlier models had me hunting for the “manual” button when mine had renamed it “pressure cook.”

3. Save on office lunches

A young man leaves home with a backpack and lunch
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The Instant Pot comes in a range of sizes. I own a 6-quart. Of course, it depends on the recipe, but so far, I’ve always ended up with leftovers.

The butter chicken recipe I mentioned even spells out how to make extra sauce — with the idea being that it’s so scrumptious you’ll want to have more on hand.

Make an Instant Pot recipe. Then, a day or so later, you can bring those boxed-up leftovers to work with you. The bagel or pizza shop in the office food court can do without your money for a day or two.

4. Find meaty deals

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The wonder of a pressure cooker is that it can take even the toughest — and thus cheapest — cuts of meat and use its pressurizing to turn them into tender treats.

Haven’t had pot roast since Grandma’s Sunday dinners back in the 1970s? It’s an Instant Pot favorite, with the pressure-cooked beef falling apart on your fork.

5. Buy in bulk and freeze ingredients

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Who doesn’t love the thrill of getting a great deal at Costco or other bulk-grocery stores? But now that you’ve brought those 10 pounds of frozen chicken breasts home, you need to actually use them — or the money is wasted.

One of the many miracles of the Instant Pot is you can cook with frozen meats. It’s best to do a web search for the specifics of your particular recipe and cut of meat. But the time change from fresh to frozen is usually negligible.

For example, frozen chicken pieces cooked in a single layer might need 15 minutes of pressure cooking as opposed to 10 minutes if they’re already thawed. That extra 5-minute wait is well worth the freedom to “forget” to thaw your meat out before heading to the office for the day.

6. Replace your store-bought staples with homemade ones

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Once you’ve delved into some of the Instant Pot Facebook groups and blogs, you’ll soon find that the appliance has as many fans for making kitchen staples as it does for meal recipes.

Save on buying that delicious Greek yogurt, for example, by simply buying a gallon of milk and a small container of yogurt to use as a starter, then making it yourself.

Vanilla extract, rotisserie chickens, bone broth and cheesecakes all can be made in an Instant Pot, too.

Sometimes the items you make in it serve double duty. I’ve whipped up a batch of Greek yogurt, drained it, saved the whey and used that to bake a crisp sourdough-style bread. Talk about saving bread while making some.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Woman shopping for Kirkland Signature products at Costco
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There’s a lot to love about Costco. The one-stop bulk shop has a generous return policy and hands out plenty of yummy samples in its warehouses.

Followers also love Costco’s generic label, Kirkland Signature, but many will point out that you’ve got to know when to choose the Kirkland label over name brands.

The following items from the Kirkland Signature line are top-shelf generic products and come with budget-friendly price tags.

Infant formula

Costco Kirkland Signature infant formula
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All infant formulas must meet federal standards, so you can be sure any powder you feed your baby is safe and healthy.

At 49 cents per ounce, Kirkland Signature ProCare infant formula is one of the most affordable formulas out there — and was ranked No. 1 by Wirecutter. According to the product review site, Costco’s private-label infant formula contains many of the same extra nutrients as formulas that cost two or three times as much.

Liquid laundry detergent

Man pouring laundry detergent into a washing machine
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Both Consumer Reports and Wirecutter have rated the Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean liquid laundry detergent as the best budget laundry detergent. It costs 12 cents per load, based on Costco’s online price. (The price may be even lower at a warehouse.)

Consumer Reports also named the Free & Clear variation the best detergent for baby clothes — and it also costs 12 cents per load online.

Batteries

Costco's Kirkland Signature batteries
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According to an interview with Costco’s CEO, Craig Jelinek, Kirkland Signature alkaline batteries are actually made by a big name brand — Duracell. And they cost just 35 cents per AA battery and 38 cents per AAA battery online.

Alcohol

Costco's Kirkland Signature vodka
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Costco’s alcohol department offers plenty of standout generic gems. Kirkland Signature vodka outperformed Grey Goose in many blind taste tests at less than half of the price. As for its wine, Kirkland’s malbec, rioja, zinfandel and sauvignon blanc were well-received in a casual taste test.

Gasoline

Costco's Kirkland Signature gas pumps
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Kirkland Signature gasoline has been certified to meet the Top Tier performance standards, which means it contains special additives to clean your engine and help it run more efficiently. Costco’s fuel is also typically cheaper than its competitors and comes in both premium and regular grades.

Toilet paper

Costco's Kirkland Signature toilet paper
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Toilet paper has emerged as one of the hottest commodities of the coronavirus pandemic. If you’re looking to get the most out of your money, Kirkland Signature Bath Tissue is a good bet at 63 cents per roll, based on the online price. (The price may be even lower at a warehouse.)

Disinfecting wipes

Woman using a disinfecting wipe to clean a door handle
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Cleaning supplies have also been super popular during the pandemic. Not only do Kirkland Signature Disinfecting Wipes kill cold and flu viruses; they’re also bigger than Clorox and Lysol wipes and even feature a satisfying scrubbing texture.

Maple syrup

Costco's Kirkland Signature organic maple syrup
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You can find a deal on this often-expensive product at Costco. The Kirkland Signature Organic Pure Maple Syrup costs just 37 cents per ounce online, compared to about 59 cents for a similar maple syrup from Whole Foods Market’s house brand, 365.

Extra virgin olive oil

Salad with olive oil
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The Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil gets a stamp of approval from professional chef Samin Nosrat of Netflix fame, who says the Kirkland kitchen staple is “really good!”

Trash bags

Costco's Kirkland Signature trash bags
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While Kirkland Signature Flex-Tech trash bags weren’t Reviewed.com’s top pick, they performed well, ranking right below brand-name competitor Glad ForceFlex Plus. Costco’s bags were strong enough to hold more than 34 pounds.

Organic peanut butter

Costco's Kirkland Signature organic peanut butter
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The Kirkland Signature Organic Peanut Butter contains just two ingredients (dry-roasted peanuts and sea salt) — no preservatives.

Some users have said you can combat the separation and runniness of natural peanut butters like this one by storing the unopened jar upside down—so the oil settles on the bottom—and mixing the butter when you’re ready to use it.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

11 Gifts Under $25 to Make the Holidays More Affordable

Family members exchanging Christmas gifts
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Who doesn’t want to save on holiday gifts? It’s hard to shell out hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars in a single month. And it’s not just the gifts. Consider what you spend on decorations, travel expenses, food, drinks and maybe even a new Christmas outfit.

The National Retail Federation says the average American plans to spend $998 on gifts, decorations and other holiday items in 2020. Gifts account for more than $650 of that.

You can easily reuse decorations and cut back on the big meal — especially with this year’s smaller gatherings. Saving on those presents, however, requires a little more time and diligence.

On the bright side, there’s a lot you can do to cut costs, from cashing in on rebate services like Rakuten to watching out for holiday gifts to go on sale at Amazon. But before you do any of that, check out all the popular products you can get for $25 or less.

You’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by what your money can buy. But grab these gifts before it’s too late. The prices might hit the mark, but shipping times can be unpredictable during the holidays.

Bestselling memoir

Woman reading a book
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Memoirs are rich with anecdotes that provide insight and inspiration. The only problem is trying to choose the best book.

Memoirs that have made The New York Times’ Best Sellers lists recently include Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land.” For someone who needs a message of hope and resilience, there’s Michael J. Fox’s memoir or Matthew McConaughey’s unconventional wisdom in “Greenlights.”

Other autobiographical books that have reached top-seller status on Amazon this year include Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” and “My Own Words” by Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Adult coloring book with coloring pencils

Man using an adult coloring book
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Adult coloring books not only help pass the time, but they’re an effective way to relax the mind and de-stress. After so many months shuttered inside, these books have become a coronavirus pandemic must-have. In fact, there’s a humorous, swear-word-filled adult coloring book specifically designed to help people release all that pent-up frustration.

Of course, there are plenty of milder coloring book themes, from flower designs to animal designs with intricate details.

If you really want to make someone’s day, throw in a set of colored pencils. Coloring books tend to be on the cheaper side, leaving you plenty of money for the add-on.

Hand warmer

Zippo refillable hand warmer
Zippo / Amazon

The cold bites. Help someone bite back with handy-dandy hand warmers. The ever-reliable Zippo brand makes hand warmers that last for hours. Its Ultimate Hand Warmer Gift Set promises a six-hour run time before it needs refilling.

LifeStraw

LifeStraw personal water filter
LifeStraw / Amazon

The LifeStraw seems to be a perennial bestseller on Amazon. In fact, it was a hot-ticket item during the most recent Prime Day. And it might prove to be the most useful gift in an apocalyptic year like 2020.

What’s so great about LifeStraw? This award-winning personal water filter is designed to clean up to 1,000 gallons of contaminated water without any batteries or moving parts, removing 99.9% of waterborne bacteria and parasites. Weighing a mere two ounces, it’s extremely portable.

Pocket-size multi-tool

Gentleman's Hardware pocket-size multi-tool
Gentleman’s Hardware / Amazon

For the adventure-seeker, handyman or person who already has everything, a compact multi-tool might be the answer.

The Gentlemen’s Hardware brand makes a few credit card-sized options, including a stainless steel 10-in-1 tool with a can opener and screwdriver, as well as a 5-in-1 keychain multi-tool that features a straight-edge knife and LED flashlight.

Gourmet tea sampler

Woman relaxing holding a coffee
Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock.com

Gourmet tea samplers come in a variety of flavors and sensations that are sure to please any palate.

This Pukka Herbs gift box features 45 sachets of herbal teas. The selection includes blends like Elderberry & Echinacea, Three Ginger and Turmeric Gold. Self-proclaimed tea connoisseurs, however, might prefer a loose-leaf collection like Tea Forte’s World of Teas sampler.

Self-care gift set

The Body Shop gift set
The Body Shop / Amazon

You could spend several hours and far too much money searching for luxury skincare products that work together. Or, you could buy a self-care gift set and call it a day. This time of year, many beauty brands wrap up samplings of their best products. Oftentimes, the packaging itself is so festive and elegant, you can hand over the set exactly as it comes.

L’Occitane en Provence, for one, has created ornament tins filled with shower soap, body lotion and hand cream, among other types of sets. The Body Shop is also known for its ready-to-go packaging. If you’re looking for top-sellers, Burt’s Bees has quite the selection.

Portable Bluetooth speaker

Portable Bluetooth speaker by Bitty Boomers
Bitty Boomers / Amazon

Portable Bluetooth speakers are both small and wireless, allowing you to stream music from your phone but listen with the powerful sound of a speaker. They make great gifts for tech-savvy friends, as well as people who are always on the move.

Portable Bluetooth speakers come in all shapes and sizes, from speakers with a built-in microphone for taking phone calls to speakers shaped like Star Wars characters.

Mini waffle maker

Dash mini waffle maker
Dash / Amazon

For a fraction of the cost of a full-sized waffle maker, you can get a 4-inch Dash waffle iron. It cooks all the same favorites – waffles, hash browns, paninis and more – just in single-serving portions. This iron has a nonstick surface that heats up in a matter of minutes. And, Dash makes it in several colors and designs. They have a leopard print and a galaxy design and even a heart-shaped-waffle maker.

Mini power bank

Anker PowerCore Mini power bank
Anker / Amazon

A working smartphone is also important in an emergency situation. Enter portable power banks like the Anker PowerCore+ Mini. It’s the size of a lipstick tube and can take an iPhone X from empty to 80% of its battery capacity.

Tile Mate

Tile Mate
Tile Mate / Amazon

Know someone who is always losing their stuff or leaving it behind? An item finder like the Tile Mate could be their new best friend and personal assistant. This Bluetooth tracker helps locate keys, briefcases, lunch boxes and other small items. It can even track down a smartphone on silent.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

12 Super-Simple Ways to Stop Blowing Money

ESB Basic / Shutterstock.com

Financial planning and budgeting can be tough. So, let’s keep it simple.

Here are a bunch of quick and easy tricks to help you save money — on videos, groceries, gas for your car and more. Keeping it simple can be one of the most practical paths to saving.

1. Fill reusable bottles with tap water

Bottled water
Ekkasit Rakrotchit / Shutterstock.com

What are we doing, buying fancy water when it’s available for free out of our home taps?

Avoid that fancy French water in wasteful plastic bottles. Just pick up a solid, refillable water bottle and fill it with fresh, cold water before you head to the gym or out on a walk.

We’ve got more to say about bottled water, in “43 Things You Should Never Buy.”

2. Check out the library for movies and more

JGA / Shutterstock.com

We all know that libraries lend books for free. But you might be surprised by the other things available to borrow from your local branch. Depending on the library, it’s possible to borrow movies, CDs and e-books.

Some libraries even offer things you may not know of: paintings, cake pans, tools and online language lessons, for example. All free.

As your librarian might say, “Check it out.”

3. Learn your ATM’s ABCs

bank customer
Andrey Arkusha / Shutterstock.com

Read the ATM rules at your bank or credit union to help avoid fees. ATM and other bank fees drain your finances.

Some financial institutions have deals with other businesses. For example, I once banked at a credit union that allowed free use of ATMs at all 7-Eleven stores.

Some financial institutions waive ATM fees if you maintain a minimum balance, or make a minimum number of transactions in a specific time frame. You’ll find ATM rules at your bank’s website. Or, just call and ask.

4. Keep an eagle eye on automated payments

Billion Photos / Shutterstock.com

Setting up an automated payment can be handy for recurring payments — to your gym, for instance, or to online services for streaming entertainment or for charitable donations.

As the months go by, though, it’s easy to forget about the payment while money is being regularly sucked out of your account. Take a few minutes to log in to all each of your financial accounts — including PayPal — to track down and cancel recurring deductions you no longer want.

Even easier, use Truebill, a Money Talks News partner, to easily find and cancel payments with little effort.

5. Use reward points to save on gas

Gergely Zsolnai / Shutterstock.com

Pump up the savings! Many grocery stores partner with gas-station chains in programs that let shoppers accumulate points for gas when buying groceries. Punch in your phone number or scan your membership card at a participating gas station to save some serious money per gallon, depending on the points you’ve piled up.

If gas is a major expense for you, consider getting a credit card that earns extra reward points at gas stations. Money Talks News’ Solutions Center makes it easy to comparison shop for gas rewards cards. Use the Cards by Category heading, on the left side of the page.

6. Plant a garden

Gardening
Joshua Resnick / Shutterstock.com

Grandma and Grandpa knew best: When it comes to fruits, vegetables and herbs, nothing tastes as good as homegrown.

Think about what you love best at the local farmers market, and assess whether it’s reasonable to grow those treats at home. Plant nurseries, county extension offices and libraries often have classes and lectures on how to get started.

Live in an apartment with no garden space? Those same experts often can tell you how to lease space in a community garden.

7. Stick to your grocery list

food shopping
gpointstudio / Shutterstock.com

Mmm, that cake sure looks good! Hey, is that a new breakfast cereal?

Don’t go grocery shopping without a list. (And eat something before you go, so hunger doesn’t drive your decisions.)

If you have a list — on paper or on your smartphone — you’ll be more focused. You’ll be less likely to suddenly realize you’ve spent your whole budget and forgotten to get milk.

Check out: “The 27 Absolute Best Ways to Save on Food.”

8. Sign up for grocery coupon programs

comparison shopping
Sergey Ryzhov / Shutterstock.com

Grocery stores typically offer electronic coupons through their loyalty programs. These can be great ways to save on grocery costs.

If you shop at the same chains often, signing up may be worth the effort. Often, the only membership identification you’ll need is your phone number. Look for more savings by logging into the program’s website or app before shopping.

9. Be a coffee achiever

Boyloso / Shutterstock.com

Realistically, the occasional latte isn’t going to break your budget. But there are ways to trim your coffee costs.

If java joints are your soft spot, consider joining their rewards plans or pick up one of the shop’s punch cards.

10. Stock up on Forever stamps

Audrey Saracco / Shutterstock.com

When the U.S. Postal Service first issued Forever stamps in 2007, each stamp cost 41 cents. In 2019, they’re 55 cents.

But you can still use those 41-cent ones today, saving 14 cents off the current cost. Every little bit helps, and this tip pays off especially when you’re sending holiday cards.

11. Compare costs for paying annually versus monthly

Man using laptop and calculator to plan finances
szefei / Shutterstock.com

People and businesses like to be paid in advance. By paying your balance due upfront — on insurance premiums, for example — you often can save.

So, compare costs before opting for monthly payments.

12. Join a local giveaway group

cunaplus / Shutterstock.com

If you’re a Facebook user, perform a search for the name of your neighborhood. You’re likely to find a barter or giveaway group, in which neighbors offer each other used items.

Rules vary. The more than 1,000 Buy Nothing groups require everything offered free. Freecycle groups, as the name implies, also enable users to give and get stuff for free. Other groups allow trading or bartering.

If you’ve got a hobby — from tending fish to collecting Pyrex — seek out Facebook fans who share your passion. They often know where to find the best deals, coupons and trades.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

7 Ways to Save on Thanksgiving Dinner

vectorfusionart / Shutterstock.com

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and anyone who has hosted this feast in the past knows it can get a bit pricey. In fact, the average family spent nearly $50 to feed a table of 10 in 2019, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Fortunately, there are many methods for trimming those costs. We zero in here on a number of them, helping to squeeze savings from the cost of your Thanksgiving dinner.

1. Buy generic

wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

Sometimes, it’s just not worth paying more for the name brand. After all, table salt is table salt, no matter what fancy label appears on the packaging. Seasonings and spices, as well as baking and cooking staples, are just fine in their store-brand form, according to “32 Products You Should Always Buy Generic.”

The same holds true for frozen veggies. And if you typically serve canned cranberry sauce on Turkey Day, hide the generic can and see if any of your guests even notice that it isn’t a brand name.

2. Clip those coupons

antoniodiaz / Shutterstock.com
antoniodiaz / Shutterstock.com

Thanksgiving deals are out there when you know where to find them.

Check your local grocer’s website or circular for product coupons, and keep your eye on coupon sites. Honey is a browser extension that automatically applies coupons, promo codes and deals at some grocery chains.

These small price breaks can add up big-time if you’re having a large dinner party!

3. Don’t worry so much about the wine

Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com
Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com

Nobody wants to be chintzy when hosting loved ones for any meal, and that’s doubly true at Thanksgiving. But sometimes there is just no reason to spend more. Wine is one good example of when spending less can make sense.

The big bottles of wine to be found at your local warehouse store can be a big bargain at any time but especially for a party. Depending on your state’s laws, you may even be able to walk in and buy discounted alcohol at warehouse clubs without paying an annual fee.

Many people swear by Trader Joe’s inexpensive wine selection, which can include award-winning wines at surprisingly low prices.

4. Use fresh seasonal ingredients

Vezzani Photography / Shutterstock.com
Vezzani Photography / Shutterstock.com

Keep in mind when planning your Thanksgiving meal that the cheapest produce, at any time of year, is likely to be that which is in season.

At Thanksgiving, vegetables at peak freshness can include:

  • Winter squash
  • Dark leafy greens, like kale and Swiss chard
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Sweet potatoes

You’ll find local fruits and vegetables — often cheaper since the cost to transport them isn’t huge — at farmers markets, farm stands and independent grocers.

Another potential money saver: generic produce found at Trader Joe’s and big-box stores like Costco.

5. Make your own decor

Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com
Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com

Sure, you’re bound to find some beautiful Thanksgiving decor at your local retailer. But DIY decorations are much cheaper, and they offer a chance to put your own creative stamp on your celebration.

Colorful leaves, if they still are around, or pine cones and pine branches can add a festive touch to your table or mantle.

6. Go potluck

Linda Hughes / Shutterstock.com
Linda Hughes / Shutterstock.com

If money is tight in your household, why not ask your family and friends to help out by bringing dishes of their own?

There is no need to feel guilty about making such a request.

Consider asking loved ones to bring one item to contribute to the meal. For example, a couple of cousins can be in charge of appetizers, while your aunt and uncle can bring dessert.

7. Enjoy your leftovers

Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com
Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com

The price of a Thanksgiving meal drops considerably when you stretch it out over two or three days. Turkey and ham sandwiches are post-Thanksgiving staples, but you can also get more creative with those leftovers.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

23 Holiday Items You Should Buy at Dollar Stores

Woman with holiday card
Alliance Images / Shutterstock.com

The holidays can be a budget-buster. And for millions of people, that can spell trouble, especially in a down economy.

One way you can save is to head to the dollar store. You might be surprised at the items you can find at the dollar store to help you make the holidays merry and bright — and keep your wallet happy.

Don’t pay more than you have to. You’ll find all of these low-cost holiday items at dollar stores.

1. DIY centerpieces

Aaron Freeman / Money Talks News

Show your crafty side and create beautiful, low-cost centerpieces.

Here are lots of great centerpiece ideas, and you can buy many of the components at the dollar store. No one will know how much you saved.

2. Blue place settings

Tercer Ojo Photography / Shutterstock.com

Celebrate Hanukkah — the Festival of Lights — with a table of traditional royal blue place settings.

Paper plates in deep blue are perfect for Hanukkah gatherings, along with napkins, utensils and cups.

At a dollar store, it shouldn’t be hard to find a white plastic table cover, which makes a great accent. Plus, there’s no need to do dishes afterward.

Curious about Hanukkah? Learn more about it and other winter holidays in “34 Awesome Holiday Celebrations Around the World.”

3. Storage bins

Sarycheva Olesia / Shutterstock.com

You’ll need places to keep your new holiday items organized, and the dollar store is the perfect place to stock up inexpensively on storage bins and organizers.

In fact, seize the moment and organize your pantry with low-cost dollar store organizers of all shapes and sizes.

4. Travel-sized toiletries

Young Asian woman in airport.
leungchopan / Shutterstock.com

If you’re traveling for the holidays, you can save time and money with the help of travel-sized toiletries.

Get small containers of shampoo, conditioner, hand lotion, contact lens solution, body wash and toothpaste. You’ll have what you need wherever you go.

5. Serving trays

Woman carrying thanksgiving turkey
LightField Studios / Shutterstock.com

Among my go-to items when it comes to holiday entertaining are the plastic crystal-cut serving trays from the dollar store. These trays are attractive and add a touch of class to any holiday gathering. At Dollar Tree, you can find them in rectangle, round and oval shapes.

Looking for something a little more festive and on-theme? These metallic molded plastic trays are shaped like candy, a snowflake and a tree. They are perfect for serving small treats and hors d’oeuvres, whether you’re having a party at your place or bringing something to the office potluck.

6. DIY menorah

Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com

Using items found at dollar stores, it’s possible to create a lovely — and unique — menorah for the holiday.

For example, if you live near a Dollar Tree, you can assemble a menorah with nine long-stemmed candleholders and any of a number of types of candles, candleholders and other low-cost, pretty items. And other dollar store chains likely have options, too, for creating a DIY menorah.

7. DIY kinara

Ailisa / Shutterstock.com

It’s also possible to make your own kinara for Kwanzaa using dollar-store finds. A kinara, like a menorah, is a candelabra. This one has seven candles.

Consider using glass mirror candle holders with green, red and black tea lights or votive candles.

You could also use glass bud vases in green, red and black, the Kwanzaa colors — or you could paint clear vases if you can’t find them in the right colors. Then, buy a pack of taper candles to insert into the vases. Even LED tapers could work.

8. Nesting holiday gift boxes

Woman holding a gift box
id-art / Shutterstock.com

Take your gift-giving to the next level with gift boxes that offer a festive presentation for small gifts and yummy treats.

You can use both boxes for one gift. Or, it’s possible to stretch your dollar further by splitting them up and putting a different gift in each box.

9. Plastic Champagne glasses

By fizkes / Shutterstock.com

Ring out the old and ring in the new with plastic Champagne glasses.

Many dollar stores carry these staples in packages of four or six, allowing you to buy in bulk.

10. Serving utensils

4 PM production / Shutterstock.com

It’s possible to find a variety of large serving spoons, forks and salad tongs at the dollar store.

These items go well with your serving trays and can make it easier for guests to access food without using their hands. They’re inexpensive, often dishwasher-safe and can be used again at your next gathering.

11. Greeting cards

Woman with greeting card
Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com

Many dollar stores have a card section. It’s possible to get holiday cards individually or get a box of cards, making the purchase even more cost-efficient.

Send cards to your loved ones this holiday season, and do it without breaking the bank.

12. Party accessories

Father and child decorating a Christmas tree
bbernard / Shutterstock.com

Spice up your holiday party with Santa hats and reindeer headbands. It’s possible to get these fun accouterments for a low price at the dollar store. Everyone will love wearing them at your gathering.

13. Placemats

wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

If you’re looking to add a little class to your gathering, placemats can be a great addition.

Depending on the dollar store and the material used, you can typically find placements for a dollar apiece. Or get them in packages of two to four.

14. Stocking stuffers

Alliance / Shutterstock.com

The dollar store is an amazing place to find low-cost stocking stuffers.

From refrigerator magnets to small plush animals and small boxes of assorted chocolates, it’s possible to fill those stockings without going over your holiday budget.

15. Baking needs

Evgeny Atamanenko / Shutterstock.com

For many people, the holidays are all about the baking.

You can find a number of necessary ingredients — including baking powder, baking soda, granulated sugar and confectioners sugar — all at the dollar store.

16. Over-the-counter pain relievers

crazy traveler
g-stockstudio / Shutterstock.com

Many dollar stores keep OTC pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen on hand.

While you can benefit from these low prices year-round, it makes sense to stock up during the holidays, for when you’ve had too much holiday cheer or the stress starts getting to you.

17. Ornaments

holiday decoration
Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com

It’s possible to find tree ornaments for a low cost at the dollar store.

On top of that, many dollar stores have clear glass or plastic ornaments that you can paint or otherwise use to create your own decorations. Making DIY ornaments with items from the dollar store also is a great craft to do with kids.

18. Holiday decor

Alliance Images / Shutterstock.com

Whatever you need to create a festive look can usually be found at the dollar store without too much trouble.

Look for garlands, silk flowers and other types of faux greenery to give your home a festive air.

19. Reading glasses

Reading a book
Minerva Studio / Shutterstock.com

Need a little extra help to read those holiday cards or play games during a gathering?

Many dollar stores carry inexpensive reading glasses. Keep them on hand and stash them around the house for use all year round.

20. Jumbo gift bags

Federico Rostagno / Shutterstock.com

While you can get wrapping paper at the dollar store, you might also need to find wrapping for odd-shaped gifts or presents too big for regular wrap.

In that case, check the dollar store for festive gift bags in many sizes that make managing presents that much easier.

21. New Year’s Eve party favors

YanLev / Shutterstock.com

Don’t forget about the party favors this New Year’s Eve.

Look for party poppers shaped like Champagne bottles (they shoot glitter and streamers high into the air) and glittery party eyeglasses for you and your guests to wear as you ring in the new year.

22. Foil, plastic wrap and parchment paper

Prostock-studio / Shutterstock.com

Whether you need food wraps like parchment paper, aluminum foil and plastic wrap for baking, wrapping leftovers or bringing an item for a holiday potluck, stock up on these necessities at your dollar store.

It’s also smart to have these items on hand no matter the time of year.

23. Table covers

A family eats turkey for Christmas dinner
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

The dollar store has a variety of table covers of different sizes to choose from. You can find plastic and paper tablecloths with a variety of themes, including Christmas and New Year.

You may even find paper table covers made to be colored on, making sitting at the dinner table a fun activity for kids and grownups alike.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com