There's no trick to shopping for greeting cards and gift bags at the dollar store, but if you're after some items to spruce up your home decor, here are a few tips on how to find the good stuff.

1. For convenience, I prefer a dollar store chain that is large, neat and well-stocked like a mini department store. I save time by always knowing which aisle to look in for a vase or a picture hanging kit.

My favorite store here in Canada is Dollarama. Dollar Tree is one of the U.S. stores that are popular. Don't discount the smaller, less organized stores entirely. If you have the time to sift through some clutter, treasures can be found anywhere. I once found a clear glass embossed cup and saucer set at one of these independent stores.

2. I've noticed that what becomes popular in the larger world usually shows up in the dollar store sooner or later. A case in point is heat-resistant silicone kitchen ware. You can get spatulas, trivets, tongs and spoon rests at the dollar store. So, keep your eyes open for the trends.

3. If you find something you like -- it's pretty/useful/decorative -- chances are others will too, so it's best to nab it while you can. You may not be able to find the same things next week or even the next day. This is especially true of seasonal items.

4. Tastes vary and any store can be guilty of tacky merchandise but, as a guide, look for items that are similar to those seen in department stores and decorating magazines and are made of sturdy materials. Recently, I brought home some Libby brand stemmed water glasses and votive candle holders. The items pictured are all from the dollar store and cost under $7.00.

Marlene Alexander is a freelance writer and dollar store diva. She writes about decorating with items from the dollar store on her website www.dollarstorestyle.com.


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