There was a time when you would catch me standing in an aisle at my local dollar store with my mouth hanging open 'cause I'd just seen something I thought would cost way more than a buck. One of the first times was when I looked up and spied those giant boxed Hersey's Kisses on a shelf. Nowadays, I take these sightings pretty much for granted and grab a couple of packs when I see them 'cause, for sure, they're not gonna stay on the shelf very long.

This year, I snatched up a couple of tubes of After Eight "straws" for a buck each. Stuff like this make great stocking stuffers or basket fillers. Later on, I saw the exact same thing in the same size at a department store for nearly four bucks. Uh, yeah, no thanks.

When it comes to sweet treats and shiny baubles for Christmas, try your friendly neighborhood dollar store first. You never know what you might find. Here's a round-up of what's being advertised at the various stores this week:

Dollar Tree has boxes of 50 miniature tree lights in clear or multi-colors, boxed or candy-filled gift mugs, a box of 12 candy canes or 32 miniature canes, some very pretty tree ornaments, a 6.6 oz box of Zachary cherry chocolates, a 10 oz. tin of Washburn's Old Fashioned hard candy, 4.25 oz. Pirouline rolled wafers in chocolate or hazelnut and a whole lot more. For a buck each, how can you go wrong?

The 99-Cent Only Stores ad is showing Brown and Haley English Toffee, large candy canes with gift tags, 18" plush stockings or Santa hat, glittery fruit ornaments, various sizes and counts of colored ball ornaments and tinsel garlands, along with other useful items like wrapping paper, bubble wrap and a 2-pack of Scotch tape. And I'm sure you'll find a heap more stuff in-store, as well.

Family Dollar seems to be the place to go if you've got kids. It's got a wide assortment of toys for only five bucks, including Littlest Pet Shop Gift sets, 11" bendable fashion dolls with accessories, a battery operated flip-over car, a transport truck with six die cast cars and lots more. Check out their Christmas Toy Book for hundreds of toys and gifts in the $5 range. Get a copy of this catalog in-store.

Marlene Alexander is a freelance writer and dollar store diva. She writes ideas and tips for home decorating using only items from the dollar store and is the author of Christmas - Dollar Store Style, an e-book that shows you how to decorate, entertain and give great gifts using only items from the dollar store.

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