Oh, bargain stores. They get a bad rap, don't they? No doubt your mum tells you to avoid their crockery like the plague – it's cheap and nasty and fractures easily. Your friends probably raise eyebrows when you buy bargain store lollies that taste like plastic and are usually the same price as the name brand supermarket sweets anyway.
But bargain stores – like the $2 shops that never sell anything under 5 bucks – are in fact one of the true joys of the human experience. The independently-owned ones are best – the ones without a catalogue that arrives in your letterbox each weekend. Why? Because you could spend hours wading through their treasures and find something unique each time.
With all these bellies to rub, you're sure of some good luck.
It's a different experience than wading through treasures of the past in vintage and antique stores, where you might find valuable items and pieces with serious history. Bargain stores are more about finding the magic in the seemingly mundane world of factory mass-produced goods. And trust me, if you go into one of these stores with your eyes peeled, you'll find goodies galore.
One of Australia's best bargain stores is Spoils (with the fabulous subtitle of "WHERE EVERYTHING'S CHEAP"). It's located right next door to The House of Bespoke Couture in Ballarat Central Shopping Centre. What will one find at Spoils? Incense, candles, crockery, notepads, ornaments, fake flowers, dog toys, lollies, money boxes and wrapping paper are really only the beginning.
Bargain stores are undeniably good for penny pinching.
Here are the top five reasons you should visit a bargain store:
1. It's a cultural experience. What did we ever do before the bargain store arrived on our shores? It must have been nigh impossible to find ornaments from the faraway lands of Asia, Africa and India, just to name a few.
2. Ignite your creativity. This is a two-pronged statement. Taken on a literal level, bargain stores offer budget versions of scrapbook materials, canvass paper, paints, pencils and glues. This stuff would cost you a fortune at the art supplies store. On another level, bargain stores spark your creativity because you will find some odd and yet strangely beautiful things in here that will open up your appreciation for whimsy. A lovely object at Spoils is a sauce holder held up by three tweeting birds.
3. Decorate your home – cheaply. Money is awesome, and it's great if you're loaded to decorate your home with fine furnishings. However, you can still have a beautiful home with a more "slender" wallet – but you need to have a trained eye. If you look around through the bargain stores, you will actually find objects of beauty such as stunning wooden clocks and intricately decorated Asian teapot sets.
4. Bargain stores are incredibly funny – and fun. Some of the bits and pieces – such as Buddhas with flashing, light-bulb stomachs – are hilarious. Go bargain shopping with a friend and you're sure to have a ball together.
5. Sharpen your treasure-hunting skills. These places are loaded full of lost treasure! Revert back to your Easter egg hunting days and see what goodies you can locate. Humans are naturally geared towards bounty hunting – just look back at the Goldrush era – or perhaps even our natural inclination towards gambling. Indulge this side of your nature in a safe way.
Bargain stores are part of the national psyche and are so much more valuable than simply being a place to find cheapo options of products you'd normally buy at the supermarket. They're an entire experience of fun and whimsy that you should put aside time to explore.