The “Secret” $1 Trader Joe’s Section I Shop Every Holiday Season
Most of the time, I make a grocery list in my phone’s Notes app before heading off to the store. But when it comes to Trader Joe’s, I am a mere mortal — I am going to put 2 to 10 things in my basket that were not on that list. One way I’ve assuaged some of that impulse purchase guilt and worked it into my budget is by adding “and a little treat” to my grocery list, which is a catchall for a new frozen dish I’ve been wanting to try (please, someone tell me where I can find the kimbap) or a mini bag of dark chocolate almonds that I can snack on while walking home. When the holiday season rolls around, though, there’s one oft-overlooked section for which I happily abandon my grocery list: the 99-cent card section.
If you’ve bought a card from any other store recently, you know that those little guys can cost anywhere from $4 to $10. Given the effect inflation is having on, oh, everything these days, spending that much on every occasion isn’t ideal. Especially around November through January, when many people send out holiday cards, those costs can add up quickly. I tend to get extra sentimental around this time of year and like to send friends festive thinking-of-you cards. And when I do, I pay a visit to the Trader Joe’s card section, where I know I can find an assortment of silly and lovely cards for just under a dollar.
I’m not at the life stage where I need custom cards printed with a family photo or a value pack of 100 cards to ship off for the holidays. But picking up whichever ones I need from Trader Joe’s means I can choose one that suits each person I’m sending it to, and can always buy more if I forgot one. Plus, you don’t have to send them all out in one batch. You can send a “thank you for being in my life” card around Thanksgiving or a “let’s actually plan a trip together this year” note just after the New Year begins. As far as I’m concerned, there are no rules in holiday card sending, and buying what you need when you want (for $1 a piece) allows for the flexibility you probably require during the holiday season, without feeling like you missed the boat on sending cards altogether.
Recently, as part of a Halloween craft party at work, I bought a bunch of Trader Joe’s cards and painted little ghosts on them. Did they end up looking more like off-brand Pac-Man than poltergeists? Kind of. Have I sent them out to friends yet? No! But the craft was so fun and inexpensive, and I know my friends won’t mind receiving a weirdly-late Halloween card in the mail.
Pretty soon, I’ll be journeying to TJ’s for another batch of holiday cards. Who knows, maybe I’ll paint little Santa hats on these ones. Even if they end up looking a little more like random red triangles, I know what really matters is the message inside.