I've managed to find some good little finds at Wal-Mart. For instance, I found one of those metal folding trowels for $6.00 - a cheaper knock-off version than the $18 one at a major backpacking equipment store. And I couldn't see any difference between the Wal-Mart one and the more expensive one. At another discount store, I found a great headlamp - a Cyclops Atom for $5.99 and it rocks! It weighs less than an ounce, is BRIGHT, and you can take it off the headstrap and clip it on a hat or whatever. Of course, it is only on or off and doesn't include strobes or Morse-code SOS flashes or anything like that. But it's a great little headlamp and I use it a lot. I also found a neat Sterno-type stove that comes with a windscreen/potstand that sits on top of a can of Sterno-type fuel, but I can also use it as a windscreen/potstand with my Trangia burner. Cost was $5.99.
The thing is, you can occasionally find some useful, cheap things at stores other than the mainstream major backpacking stores. True, you get what you pay for, but you can score some fairly good items here and there. Part of the fun of shopping for me is looking at items in the stores and finding things that might work for backpacking.