Living in a Dollarama world…

Years ago, if someone asked me to think of a dollar store, my mind went to a dimly lit room with shelves stocked full of crap. Plastic dolls that vaguely resembled Barbie (if the lights were bad and you squinted enough). Ones with arms and legs that didn’t move and heads that popped off. Plastic wrapped note sets with pens that didn’t work and pads barely wide enough to write a single word. Plastic cars with wheels that fell off. And gaudy ceramic vases; I’m pretty sure the vases simply moved from one dollar store to the next as one store closed and another opened. I certainly never saw anyone buy one. Then I entered Dollarama.

I can’t remember why I was at that end of town. I just remember I had too much time to hang around the bus stop and not enough time to go anywhere… but there was a new dollar store right there. Right where Biway used to be. I walked in and WOW! It was bright and clean, an actual store instead of a hole in the wall. The first aisle held gift bags, nice ones at that, and real toys. I wandered up and down the aisles, keeping track of the time, and promising myself I’d go back. I definitely went back, I ended up working there.

Many years have passed since then. Dollarama’s spread a lot and improved even more. Of course their price has increased as well from a buck (or less) to $4 (or less) but I think the quality makes it worthwhile. I’ve found things that were regularly double, triple, or even quadruple the price in other stores. Same brand… same packaging. Recently Dollarama was selling RO tablet holders which were shaped like wooden bread boards. They retailed for $45, Dollarama sold them for $4. Sadly I never found any.

I raised my kids as a single Mom and never had much money. There were so many birthdays and holidays that simply wouldn’t have happened if Dollarama wasn’t there. But the events all happened with happy kids and fond memories. Dinkie cars, toy Spiderman, art sets, stuffed dolls, figurines, articulated wooden snakes… they were all loved and played with.

These days I’m in my empty nest but I’m also living off disability so money’s still tight. Luckily I found a Facebook group called Dollarama Hauls and Finds. The group is amazing. People post about the purchases they’ve made, items they’ve found, and what they’ve done with said purchases. Many include photos. My favourites are when someone goes around the store taking photos then shares forty pictures. It’s like window shopping without leaving my room.

new kitchen artI use the group to sort out what items I really want to buy, either for myself or to put away as a gift. It’s helped a lot because I know exactly where to look when I go shopping and there’s been a few items I would have missed if I hadn’t actively been searching there. The downside is there’s gorgeous items I’ve missed out on, like the aforementioned tablet holder, that I never would have known about otherwise. But I have found incredible things. Watercolour canvases, funky pop art, wooden word art, artificial succulents in clay pots, ships in glass bottles, Cuisinart wooden knife blocks… the list is extensive. My home would be almost barren if it wasn’t for Dollarama.

And tomorrow I’ll be off to another Dollarama because one thing the group has sucked me into is barnwood stickers. They are being stuck everywhere on any flat surface and I have an ugly front door to cover.

No. Just plain no…

I started shopping at Dollarama before Colin was in school and got a job there, which people joked was simply a way to fuel my shopping addiction. I certainly went home with at least one bag of purchases after every shift. The love affair has slowed down but hasn’t gone. I still shop there once or twice a month.

dollarama self checkout

I forgot to take a picture and pulled this off the internet

I was at our local shopping centre on Friday to meet with friends and buy my bus pass and decided to stop in at the Dollarama there. Thankfully it wasn’t busy and I quickly had an armload of goodies to buy (and of course I didn’t have a basket because I only went in for two things). I got to the front of the line then turned automatically to the cash counter and all the registers were quiet, there were no cashiers at all. What? Then a store employee caught my attention and directed me to a bank of self serve cash registers.

I stood there for a moment. I don’t like those machines and usually refuse to use them but I had that armload of goodies and there was already a line behind me. So I used the machine and left but I’m not going back to that location. So far there’s still cashiers at my current location but, then again, there was at the shopping centre last month. If they switch to only self serve, I’m not shopping there either. If they all switch over then, well, I’ll miss Dollarama but c’est la vie.

I remember in the 90’s, going to the bank and standing in the line for what felt like forever. Then they brought out automatic tellers and suddenly you could take out your money in a matter of minutes. Then came debit and you didn’t even need to take money out. And now tellers, which used to be a stable job, are becoming a thing of the past. I can see the same thing happening with cashiers. Why hire four employees to staff your cash registers when you can hire just one to supervise people at the self serve checkouts? That’s three wages you don’t have to pay.

Loblaws isn’t that bad but Walmart routinely tries to encourage me into their self service area. First by getting rid of their express lanes, they’re now a second self serve area, and second by having people urge me to go there. I always politely refuse. I saw a joke earlier with the tagline of, “No thanks, I don’t work here”. Maybe someday I’ll use that.

We’ve lost so many jobs already through cheaper wages overseas, automation, obsolescence, and computerization. We don’t need to let retail jobs slip away too. So many people’s jobs are at stake and all because of those tiny, little machines.

Decorating while (really) broke…

I’ve had a few people ask me how I manage to decorate on a limited budget. They want a nice looking home but just can’t afford the prices they see pretty much everywhere. They can’t be the only ones who are curious so I figured I’d post my tips here. And, if you have any tips, please feel free to comment below.

My first tip is to check the dollar stores. Seriously, you can find some amazing stuff there. You just have to go often and be selective. Don’t pick up a picture or other decoration just because it’s there and in your price range. My favourite shop is Dollarama. Sorry everyone else in the world, Dollarama’s only in Canada. I’ve found some fantastic finds. They get items in regularly that were from everyday stores. Maybe they were overstock, maybe they’re out of season, maybe the store went under. Either way Dollarama’s got it for $4 or less. You can buy pictures, wall art, pillows, lap throws, table cloths, dish towels, artificial plants… the list goes on and on. But you can’t just go once in a blue moon. Often the good stuff comes only in the amount of two or three and they go fast. If you see something good, get it then, it might not even be there tomorrow. Plus check different stores. They mostly have the same items but sometimes you’ll find something special that wasn’t in your usual store.

Dollar Tree is okay. I find where they stand out is with wall art. They get some amazing wall stickers there and those can really tie a room together. I found a cute glittery unicorn sloth on a rainbow once but otherwise I’m not impressed with their decor.

Second hand stores are great too. They’re obviously hit or miss but they can have some gorgeous things. I’ve found ficus trees there before (I only have one now) and a lovely ceramic hot chocolate container. Colin found a ceiling lamp that looked like it belonged in an old bar. I think they’re called tiffany lamps. Google says I’m right and, oh my goodness, they’ve got some pretty ones out there.

Don’t forget to check out the clearance section. I have found so many things at Icing, Marshalls, and Homesense. Icing has a buy three – get three free deal which includes their clearance rack too.

I also order online. I use Aliexpress but I know other people have used Wish. It is buyer beware but I’ve had good luck with their wall art stickers and small items. Just remember it’ll take up to two months to arrive.

And, of course, what you need are pictures of what you can find for inspiration. Remember, when you go to the dollar store or thrift shop, you might find nothing at all or you might find something you adore. It’s all part of the adventure.

Just breathe

This Just Breathe sign was bought at Dollarama. It wasn’t there for long. The vase in the back was also a Dollarama find as is the flowers (which I sadly cut off in the picture). The table’s a freebie I found in the laundry room. I’ll get around to refinishing it… someday.

fit happens with blurry m

Both “Fit Happens” and “every day – is a – fresh START” are from Dollarama. They certainly don’t look like they are though.

desk wall

The word art starting with “each day” is from Dollar Tree and is very sturdy while the gold glittery picture is from Dollarama. They still have glittery pictures but not this particular one.

bedroom wall

The two pictures on the left are from Dollarama, the circle is a glow in the dark moon from Aliexpress and it glows really well, while the last picture was on clearance at Icing. I love that store!

kitchen

The folding dish rack and mat are from Dollarama as are the miniature topiary, spice racks (under the spices), wire utensil containers, potted plants, and the lemon “live your life with zest” hanging. The lemon wall stickers, the towel saying “Love, laugh, & gather together”, and the word art on the cupboard reading “The secret ingredient is always love” are from Dollar Tree. And the tree “window” is from Aliexpress

Just breathe and sloth

This “Just Breathe” sign is also from Dollarama as is the metal bucket. The flowers are from Clair de Lune and were on clearance. And, as said above, the rainbow unicorn sloth is from Dollar Tree.

living room wall

The “home is where your story begins” sign is from Dollarama and was one of two. “This is my paradise” is also from Dollarama. It’s fabric and held to the frame with twine.

Dream big

This is one of my Icing finds. I absolutely adore it. I’m a sucker for glitter!

word art2

This is another Dollar Tree find. I love having family photos on the wall and this just ties them together.

kitchen finds

This is an old picture from 2016. It shows my hot chocolate jar and a plate (with apples on it) that I found at Value Village. The “Today’s Menu” chalkboard is from Dollarama. Oh, and the rice container/cookie jar is from Goodwill going back years ago.

Obviously if I went out and spent all that money today it would be a fortune, dollar store and thrift shop or not. But spread out over the course of a year or two(ish) it’s definitely manageable… anywhere from $4 to $12 a month and the results are very much worth it. Happy shopping!!!

 

My favourite store…

It was in the early 2000’s and I’d heard about a new dollar store opening where Biway (a now defunct Canadian discount chair) used to be there. I must admit my expectations were low. I figured I’d find a dimly lit store with dusty, poorly made products, pretty much nothing I really wanted to buy. Instead I found clean shelves and a variety of products I actually was interested in.

A month later I was dropping a resume off at a new store. I had two so I dropped one off at Dollarama as well. I hadn’t even taken my shoes off when I got a call asking for an immediate interview. I turned around and headed right back to the store, where I got hired on the spot.

My fellow co-workers used to laugh at me because I always went home with bags of toys and treats for the kids… claiming I was volunteering there because my pay was going to my kids’ toys and ultimately Dollarama. My parents would have the kids tucked up in bed but as soon as I walked in the apartment they’d come running down to say goodnight and see what they’d got that day.

One of my favourite memories of Kait was her wanting to know if I’d seen Santa. I was very confused and simply told her “no”.

“All my presents and stocking stuffers are from Dollarama so I wonder if he went through your till.”

It took a moment to come up with an answer. “Sorry hon. Santa must have gone through someone else’s till.” Thankfully she was satisfied with that.

As the years went on, the stores became more and more plentiful. I have two within walking distance. The price has gone up to a maximum of $4 but the quality has gone up as well. I bought a new strainer yesterday, a lovely dusty teal one made by Pioneer Woman, a WalMart brand. I already have a strainer that works just fine but I have no happy memories of it, it was bought by my ex, and this one’s gorgeous!

my-new-collander

I don’t have much money and I buy presents where I can afford them. This year, with me saving up for moving and juggling a sick cat, I could barely afford a dollar store. But Dollarama was there for me. Where else can I find mermaid tails, sequined stuffies, mermaid sequin purses, mermaid pictures, neon figures, Himalayan salt night light, hovering helicopters, loads of books, floam, art work, word art, toiletries, boxes of chocolates and, of course, my colander.

If there wasn’t a Dollarama (or two… or five) nearby, I wouldn’t have presents for pretty much most of my family. And there’s a Dollarama near where I’m moving so I’ll still be able to spend time in my happy place.

Sweet dreams…

I used to have extremely vivid and memorable dreams, the kind that would make my kids laugh happily when I told them then they’d pronounce me as weird. Like it’s my fault my mind comes up with such things as flying platypuses. Then I went on several psychiatric medications and it all changed. I now wake up from a richly vivid dream then it quickly disappears, like cotton candy in water. One second I have the whole dream, as detailed as a fine tapestry, then I only have somethi- and, oops, it’s all gone.

A couple of days ago I had two nights in a row with very short and memorable dreams. The first dream involved me going to Dollarama. All of you non-Canadians don’t know what you’re missing. Dollarama is the dollar store and I love going there for decorations like pictures, wall stickers, and word art. This dream found me, as usual, in the decor aisle where I found something, a picture of some sort, that was glittery, sparkly, and immediately loved.

The next time Colin and I went to Dollarama, we walked the aisles like usual and finally made it to the decor aisle. There something caught my eye on the bottom shelf where it would be easily overlooked. It was gold, sparkly, and the only one like it. I already know where I’m going to put it when I eventually move. It’ll be perfect in the dining room with my favourite photos of the kids.

20180801_174425

Some of the stars have gemstones and the sequins are loose

The next dream found me outside and sitting on a bench, I don’t know where, maybe Lakeview Park. A bubbly, vivacious woman approached me and complimented my hair. Then she asked me out. I, of course, accepted.

I don’t believe in fortune telling or prophetic dreams but I think I’ll be spending a bit more time loitering around park benches than I usually do.

Jeremy’s in love…

Zie fell in love at Target and it was infatuation at first sight. At least on Jeremy’s side, I’m pretty sure the toaster was indifferent.

It wasn’t just any toaster though, it was this…chevrons
… an expensive, chevron coated toaster. Jeremy stopped so suddenly, I almost walked into zir.

“Oh wow,” zie breathed. “Mom! Look at those!”

“Yes, that’s a lot of chevrons.” I blinked rapidly. The patterns were blinding.

“We have to get them! At the very least the toaster!”

I couldn’t manage to stifle my sigh. By this time we’d been through all of Dollarama and half of Target with Jeremy begging for “just this” every few steps. If I’d bought everything zie wanted, I’d need to rent a U-haul to take it home. Besides…

“I bought a toaster this summer,” I reminded zir. It was zir turn to sigh.

“Our toaster’s boring. You have no sense of style,” Jeremy retorted. Zie gave the toaster a longing glance. “This is fabulous. We need it. Look! It has a bagel button.”

“Our toaster already has one.” Which was pointless because we might have two or three bagels a year. “I’m not spending $40 on a toaster we don’t need.”

I snapped a quick picture than we left with Jeremy muttering under zir breath about my decorating skills. I ignored the comments. I also didn’t remind zir about how much zie liked our toaster when I bought it.

And if this is a taste of how Jeremy’s going to decorate when zie has a place of zir own, I’m going to need to stock up on sunglasses.