dollar store drama

Here’s this week’s column. I am a shopping nightmare.

“I am spending money faster than a trailer park millionaire.

America is awesome. Living in the USA we completely take for granted beautiful inventions like dollar stores, Walmart, Target–many of which come super-sized to better serve the busy soccer moms among us. America is the home of big cars and big roads, we’re all about overstuffed comfort.

And how many countries are there in the world that offer thousands of mini marts selling 54 ounces of Diet Coke, straight from the tap, for mere pennies? No wonder Easter candy is everywhere, the bunny wants to live here too.

But in just about three months, fingertip shopping is going to be a completely different thing for me. My family and I are moving to Germany, and most of me can’t wait.

It will be the adventure of a lifetime; me and my not-so-subtle children traipsing across Europe, butchering the language and ruining ruins. This is going to be awesome.

However, having lived overseas for a few short periods of time in past years, my shopping bone is freaking out. I know from experience that things across the pond are simply more expensive.

My shopping motto is simple:  if it doesn’t come cheap, it doesn’t come home. I have mental caps for everything I buy, especially clothing.

My boys wear through jeans faster than a shoplifter in a fire drill, but I’m not about to spend more than $9 a pair to replace them. The bigger the size, the harder they are to come by, and I’m happy to hunt if it means saving a greenback or two.

But living in a foreign country, my money eye gets all wonky. Foreign money doesn’t seem real. I can spend euros like monopoly money, breaking bills right and left. Without Benjamin and Hamilton and Jackson around to shake their frugal fingers at me and stick up their noses at my non-essential purchases, I’m like Paris Hilton on vacation.

My game plan for this move is simple: in order to get the best deals, I need to do some serious pre-purchasing before we change countries.

I’ve got bedding to buy, area rugs, dressers, possibly a couch–do not ask me where the extra dollars are going to come from because there’s no way our garage sale is going to bring in that kind of cash. It’s a game of priorities.

Then there’s the kids’ clothing (way cheaper here), makeup, my really special hair spray; the list is endless.

I realized our bank balance was officially at shopping threat level red this week after stopping by the dollar store. I went in to buy one thing. Just one. One little gift bag for one little birthday party.

Now, we all know the dollar store is the spider’s most ingenious shopping web. Things you pay $3 for can cost a mere 99 cents at the lovely dollar tree, but things that cost 14 cents can as well.

And the moment I stepped inside that plastic infused haven, I knew: you can’t get this kind of cheap goodness where I’m going. Even if they have euro stores, that’s nearly twice the price. Looking around, I desperately wondered how many things I could fit in my SUV (aisle 5?), and how to hide it all from my husband.

73 items later, I walked out to my car, satisfied with the knowledge that I now have enough gift bags, tissue paper, and birthday trappings to get my family safely through the apocalypse.

Village living, here I come.



  1. That’s my Annie….thinking ahead….well prepared. Just like food storage and stuff.
    and Do. Not. Leave without your quota of sufficient hairspray special hair spray.
    Hey. I just live across the border…NOT across the pond……….and DO YOU KNOW…you can’t find beanless chili here……..WHAT THE WHAT. How am I supposed to make my special kaysadea (don’t know how to spell it so I did the whole phonetic thing)……………..
    Do not leave Unprepared. Spend millions if you have to HERE…………so you don’t go without.
    your hubby will understand.

    • annie valentine says:

      Wendy, thank you for saying something nice about this. When I read this in the paper today I thought it was the worst thing I’ve written in ages. Then I hit a full day of radio silence. I love you, and I now feel less stupid for sometimes publishing stupid stories.

  2. Charisse says:

    IT’S SO TRUE. I’m in London attending grad school, and when I came home to visit for Easter break I brought an extra suitcase just so I could bring back all the shopping I knew I’d be doing in the States. I testify to the peace of mind that shopping and shipping and storing can bring – but I’ll tell you from experience that trying to get liquids through the mail is no good. Ship everything else (even a kid if you have to) but make sure the suitcase has the extra hairspray (and in my case, shampoo, conditioner, and Victoria’s Secret bath line) and face wash! SO. WORTH. IT.

    (And hey, holler if you need a babysitter some weekend! OK, London isn’t quite around the corner from Germany, but compared to the States it sure feels like it!)

  3. Hi Annie, I’ve been following your Blog for a while now and just wanted to say how funny and witty I think you are. Only you can take something like the dollar store and make it interesting and funny! For me, the minute I step into Costco, it’s like money magically appears in my bank account and I can never seem to get out of there without spending $100 +.