Can you be a minimalist and still shop at dollar stores? Or is the temptation to buy lots of inexpensive goods because “they’re only $1.25” too much? As someone who has followed certain minimalist tendencies for years, it is possible to shop smartly at dollar stores without bringing too much clutter into your home, but it’s good to have a plan before you go into the store.
What is Minimalism?
When my husband and I were practically newlyweds and we first bought our house, we hardly had enough furniture to fill it. The two of us — plus our cat — had plenty of space in our three-bedroom home. As the years have gone by and we’ve added some children, things have found a way into our house. We now have plenty of kids’ gear, toys, musical instruments, and clothing. We also have furniture, books, decorations, cookware, camping gear, luggage for travel, and everything else that can fill up a house.
I like a cozy home filled with meaningful things such as family photos, houseplants, books, and aesthetically pleasing decorations, including a few pieces of furniture and mementos that belonged to beloved grandparents now passed away.
However, if I permanently kept everything that passed through our front door, we’d have no space to live. That’s why I have come to appreciate the philosophy of minimalism. Minimalism promotes a lifestyle with fewer material belongings.
Minimalism comes with several benefits:
- You spend less time organizing and cleaning when you don’t have as much stuff.
- You free up mental space because you can do other things besides clean or think about how to make everything fit.
- You focus on what’s most important.
- You aren’t constantly wasting time hunting for something you need in the midst of a lot of clutter.
- You may reduce anxiety. I know I feel edgy if my house isn’t at least moderately tidy. If my home is cluttered, my mind feels cluttered. There is science that indicates clutter can cause stress and anxiety.
Minimalism exists on a spectrum, and you can choose how much you want to embrace it. Some people have extremely sparse homes, while other people may still own plenty of possessions, but they try to be intentional about what they own. Decluttering often goes hand in hand with minimalism, as people seek to organize, sort, and donate or throw away things that are not useful or essential.
How do Minimalists Shop?
One thing is a given when you are attempting any kind of minimalist lifestyle: you must be purposeful about what you buy.
The world is full of pitfalls and traps for minimalists. There are online shopping options such as Amazon and even the big box retailers like Target and Walmart, with their promises of convenient shopping and free shipping. In person, purchases from the Target Dollar Spot near the store’s front entrance can add up quickly. There is also Aldi with its budget prices and all the surprises in its famous middle aisle.
Then there are dollar stores. It can be easy to spend a lot of money at dollar stores and come home with bags full of stuff. After all, everything is so cheap, especially at Dollar Tree where most products cost only $1.25.
Is it possible to be a minimalist and shop at dollar stores? Yes, you can embrace minimalism and still shop at dollar stores, but it helps to follow a few guidelines.
How to be a Minimalist and Shop at Dollar Stores:
Stick with Necessities.
There are some products you always need. I’m thinking of toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash or bar soap, hand soap, and more. There are also cleaning products including toilet bowl cleaner, bathroom or kitchen cleaning sprays, and even laundry detergent. Finally, you might find some dollar store deals on certain food items such as snacks, convenience meals, or even canned goods or frozen produce. Just don’t go overboard on the junk food, which comprises a large portion of the food selection at dollar stores.
Another caveat is to check prices to make sure the dollar store really does offer the best deal on your food, toiletries, or household goods. Sometimes, especially at Dollar Tree where prices are steeply discounted, you aren’t always getting the lowest price per ounce, so it pays to do some price research.
Be Careful in the Seasonal Aisle.
Holiday decorations can be pricey at some retailers, but dollar stores sell cute holiday and seasonal items, including decorations, serving ware, and more. I’ve actually found some great deals on home goods such as whimsical owl-themed fall placemats, ceramic animal figures for Easter or Halloween, and front door hanging decorations.
Before you buy, ask yourself whether you really need these things. Do you already own enough holiday decorations? Are you willing to store them when not in use? Perhaps more importantly, do you have storage space for them? What’s the chance they’ll end up in a donation box or in the garage sale pile next year?
If you still really want something in the seasonal aisle, try to limit your purchases to just one or two items unless you know you just can’t do without them.
Exercise Caution in the Toy Aisle.
If you’re like me and have kids, toy clutter can be one of the most difficult things to corral when it comes to minimalism. We admittedly have found some cool stuff in the toy aisle at Dollar Tree, including some Final Faction action figures and cute cardboard dollhouse kits, but a lot of toys for $1.25 might be of iffy quality, so shop carefully.
Beware the Home Décor Area.
For years, I’ve remarked to friends and family that Dollar General is like a poor man’s Target. I’ve found clocks, lamps, placemats, pot holders, kitchen towels, shower curtains, and all kinds of home goods that look as nice as those tempting displays at Target, and for a fraction of Target prices.
It helps to know what you need before you walk into a dollar store. Do you need to replace a broken lamp? Are your kitchen towels worn out and you need new ones? Stick with what is on your shopping list and buy only what you really need, and try not to be tempted by all the other cute things.
Be Purposeful About Craft Supplies.
Dollar Tree and some of the other dollar stores have fairly robust craft supply sections. If you’re a crafter, though, you know how easy it can be to get overly ambitious and purchase more than you will use. If you’re an avid crafter, you also know that this can be a hard area to apply minimalism to. It’s tempting to buy a lot of supplies because you might need them or find a good use for them someday. Try to know exactly what you need before you find yourself standing in the craft supply aisle, and stick to your budget.
Are you a minimalist who shops at dollar stores? Share your tips in the comments below.