I'm convinced everyone overlooks the best deal at Trader Joe's -- and it isn't food

Business InsiderThe actual pile of birthday cards I keep in my desk for coworkers. This is separate from my at-home pile.

My favourite part of Trader Joe’s is the checkout line.

Not because of the Belgian chocolate bars or sea-salt brownies that line the aisle (although, I’m not objecting), but because the checkout line is home to one of the best deals at Trader Joe’s: the greeting cards.

They range from whale cards for birthdays (“Have a sea-riously awesome birthday!) to colourful cards for congratulations (“Here’s to you!”) to engagement, new baby, and sympathy cards. If you have an occasion, Trader Joe’s has a card for it.

That in itself isn’t remarkable. What is remarkable is that they’re 99 cents. I don’t know if you’ve popped into the card aisle at CVS recently (and I love CVS — more on that another time) or, worse, into a lovely high-end stationery store like Papyrus, but it isn’t uncommon to see a $US6 price tag on greeting cards. Even at the drugstore, it seems like you can’t get anything for under $US2. And frankly, the 99-cent cards at the dollar store are usually cloying, boring, or both.

Trader Joe’s cards are fun. They’re stylish. They’re cards you actually want to give and receive. And even if you buy them and keep them in your drawer for when you need them, they don’t look like they have been in a pile for the past year.

When I asked my team if anyone would want to read about my deep love for Trader Joe’s greeting cards, one of my coworkers voiced an objection: Doesn’t buying an expensive card show you really care?

“No,” I told him. “It shows you’re dumb enough to spend $US6 on a piece of paper. Also, isn’t what you write in the card more important than the card itself?”

Food for thought.

Another coworker — one with whom I regularly exchange links to gorgeous stationery — was surprised I would take such a strong stance, as someone who appreciates and admires beautiful cards.

“That’s the point!” I told her. “Trader Joe’s cards are beautiful and cheap.”

Now, here are a few things Trader Joe’s cards are not: They are not a way to “save money.” Buying 99-cent cards instead of $US4 cards won’t make you rich. And if you go through a 10-card impulse-buying spree, like I sometimes do, they might have the opposite effect.

And maybe for you or for your loved ones, an expensive card does show you care. In that case, spend away. Put your money where it means the most. Maybe you’re over paper cards, and you do your wish-sharing exclusively through Paperless Post. That’s cool. Maybe you’re really getting on the frugality bandwagon and buying blank cards a box at a time, to customise for every occasion. Excellent saving of cents. You do you.

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume you like paper, and you need a card. Maybe you even have some groceries to pick up. Trader Joe’s greeting cards a great deal.

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