99-Cent Shopping: Here’s How To Do It


No one knows the ins and outs of 99-cent bargain hunting than this little cheapo, so please listen to my pearls of advice, even if they’re fake pearls that are only worth $1.06 with tax.

When you go to Jack’s 99’s various locations or any other 99-cent store, kindly abide by these completely free rules:

*Don’t turn into a barbarian, but do be aggressive.

If you stand around politely waiting for a chance to move down the aisle, you’ll be knocked over and eaten by the swarm. (They’ll see it as another bargain.) So move carefully and energetically toward your destination or you’ll get lost in the discount shuffle.

*If you see something amazing there, buy large quantities of it. You may never see that item again.

I learned this the hard way when I assumed Jack’s would always carry frozen waffles. But in a horrific quirk of fate, they stopped doing so a couple of years ago! What these stores carry often seems randomly capricious, so your visits there can be as chancy as a date with a rentboy.

But rather than sing “If I Could Turn Back Time,” I’ve simply changed my purchasing philosophy. Recently, when I found piles of whole wheat gnocchi there, I scooped up enough to feed an army. (Don’t worry, it won’t go bad. Besides, I consume things very quickly.) And just last week, when they were offering 12-packs of Brisk diet ice tea for 99-cents, I broke my back trying to ride a few of them home on my bike. And I’m glad I did. At eight and a half cents per bottle, it was deliciously reasonable and reasonably delicious.

*When you’re all paid up and ready to leave, do so without looking at a single piece of merch on the shelves. Look straight ahead and march to the exit, dearie.

If you so much as glance at a candle, jar of marinated peppers, greeting card, or shower curtain, you will surely start getting overcome with acquisitive longing and you’ll find yourself pushing your way right back to the register. You might never even leave.

Which is sort of my dream, actually.