Everyone loves to get something at a discount. I mean, who doesn’t seriously L-O-V-E a good deal? However, one thing we all need to learn is how to discern if a deal really is the good bargain it seems to be.… A good deal has to actually be a good deal.
If you like to shop at a dollar store you might be making the mistake of assuming any item for a dollar is a good deal but that might not be true.
Here are a few tips to review before your next trip to the dollar store to make sure you are getting the real deals that are offered.
Make a List.
How many times have you run into a dollar store to pick up a couple of items and $76 later, you come out, hands full, with stuff you never intended to buy. You need a list of items to buy so you can avoid mindless shopping and blowing your budget on items you just don’t need!
What items should be on your list:
- Office supplies
- Art/School project supplies
- Cleaning supplies
- Home Décor
- Party Décor
- Small Door Prizes
- Stocking Stuffers
- Hostess gifts (bath & body lotion, wash, pretty scented items)
- Beauty Products (shampoo, soap, hair accessories, hair spray, cotton swabs, and etc.)
What should NOT be on your list:
- Medicine, (from a financial perspective alone, 8 pills for $1 isn’t a good deal!)
- Plastic Wrap
- Paper products like paper plates, cups, toilet paper- quantity and quality issues make this a no deal.
- Batteries –
Something else you should not have on your list is any item you have not priced out prior- for example, food.
A can of vegetables seems like a great buy- it’s just a $1, right? But had you shopped at your grocery store, you could have gotten them for .50 cents or less on sale. It turns out that isn’t such a great deal after all. Another great example of this is meat. Our local dollar store sells bologna, ham, turkey, etc. for $1. But it’s a 1/8 of a pound so I am paying $8 for a pound of meat! No. Again, any item that you have not calculated at a comparable price at another store should not be bought at the dollar store. Chances are you will be overpaying.
Something to remember; always check the quantity of any item you are buying. $1 for a product simply packaged smaller is not a good deal, even when it feels like it! Run the numbers before you shop!
More money saving ideas: 1 Simple Trick to Save Money on Kids’ Clothes All Year Long
Frequently Asked Questions:
Are the products at the dollar store actually a good value compared to regular stores?
Whether the products at dollar stores are actually a good value compared to regular retail stores is a complex question with some nuance. On the surface, paying $1 for any item seems like an automatic deal. However, the old adage “you get what you pay for” definitely applies in many cases when shopping at dollar stores. The lower prices typically mean a reduction in quality, durability, or functionality.
Determining the true value requires a deeper analysis of the specific product and how it will be used. For disposable items meant for limited, short-term use like party supplies, greeting cards, or basic school supplies, dollar stores can offer decent value. You may not get artisan-grade paper plates or archival-quality pens, but if you just a pack of pens to toss in your bag or paper napkins for a birthday party, paying $1 serves the purpose just fine. On the other hand, buying longer-term use products like tools, storage containers, or electronics means quality counts more. A $1 hammer that breaks after light use or a mini fridge that breaks in less than a year ends up being a terrible value compared to investing slightly more upfront at a big box store for longer-lasting goods.
When evaluating dollar store value, it pays to be a savvy shopper by carefully inspecting packaging, materials, durability, and expiration/freshness dating. Check if items are final sale or have returnability if they do not meet your quality standards. While dollar stores can occasionally offer great deals on surplus major brand inventory or overstock products other retailers are clearing out, many items tend to be cheaper generic alternatives with questionable lifespan. Avoid assuming that just because something costs $1, it’s automatically a steal. Carefully weigh the purpose you need an item for and if very limited use, a dollar store purchase likely serves that need just fine. But for frequent reuse, higher retail prices often deliver superior long-term value through better construction and longevity.
What food items make sense to buy at the dollar store?
When it comes to food, dollar stores can be a smart place to shop for certain non-perishable essentials, while most fresh foods and anything requiring refrigeration is best avoided. Shelf-stable staples like sugar, flour, rice, cooking oil, salt, or spices sold in plastic or cardboard packaging are usually safe dollar store buys in a pinch. Opt for known brands whenever possible and check expiration dates, even though non-perishables last awhile. Various boxed and canned goods like cereals, pastas, beans, broths, and vegetables tend to also offer decent value at just $1 per item if you need to stock up. Just confirm cans aren’t severely dented and bagged cereals or pasta aren’t open.
Certain pre-packaged snacks and candy likewise hit the impulse buy sweet spot at dollar stores if you just need a small treat. They usually taste identical to versions sold at higher prices elsewhere. You’ll also discover an array of generic soda, juice, and water bottles that quench thirst just as effectively for only a buck versus $5 packs elsewhere. Basic bread products like peanut butter sandwiches, rolls, English muffins, and tortillas remain affordable goes-withs for only a dollar. However, do carefully inspect packaging integrity, freshness dating, nutritional labels if health conscious, and ingredients to check if bargain versions use cheaper substitutions like more preservatives.
On the flip side, dollar stores pose higher risk for dairy, produce, meat, and frozen foods. Even if seemingly a good deal, the lack of refrigeration control until purchase means questionable safety and freshness. Likewise, off-brand baked goods have shorter shelf life. And packaged foods or beverages using bottom-barrel ingredients risk awful taste or texture. While dollar stores might offer the convenience of grabbing almost everything in one place, you’ll have to temper expectations on taste, quality, healthiness, and safety with many edibles. Ultimately selective savvy matters most at dollar store food sections. Stick to shelf-stable essentials under trusted brands and within expiration range for better results flavor and budget wise. But venture into perishables and obscure labels at your own risk – a lesson many learn the hard way after disappointingly bland bread or scary dairy sourness.
Are over-the-counter medications and vitamins okay to buy at the dollar store?
When it comes to health and medications, you generally get what you pay for. And despite seeming like a major score to snag vitamins, pain relievers, antacids, and other over-the-counter drugs for just $1 at the dollar store, serious quality concerns should prompt you to proceed with ample caution before purchase. The core issue comes down to meeting FDA pharmaceutical production protocols and consistency dosing. Mass market brands from leading companies invest greatly to meet quality control and testing measures for potency of active ingredients, purity of inactive ingredients, dissolution rates for proper absorption, accurate labels, plus safe storage and transit – measures dollar store suppliers likely skimp on despite appearing outwardly identical products.
Additionally, dollar stores typically don’t adhere to rigorous protocols on the handling of medications from transit to shelf. Light, heat, or humidity fluctuations can degrade ingredients when not climate controlled or quickly sold like big box and pharmacy retailers aim for. So just because dollar store packages mirror the look and listings of name brands doesn’t guarantee equivalent efficacy – or safety with who knows what extra fillers or improperly formulated dosages. Going the dubious dollar store route for critical medications that manage health conditions or supplements meant to truly enhance diet runs risky compared to paying a few dollars more at reputable pharmacies or grocers.
In a pinch, certain topical antiseptics, skin creams, toothpastes or first aid products from dollar stores may suffice since absorption and ingestion carries lower risk. But definitely take time to thoroughly read labels for familiar active ingredients, credible companies, seals demonstrating verifiable medical grade quality, legitimate contact details for reporting issues, plus reasonable – not expired – use by dates even for OTC products. Compared to ingestible drugs and vitamins where too much is on the line health-wise to take a gamble, the external uses for creams, gels, wipes allow more leeway including trial and error to test effectiveness. Still, inspect everything closely out of extra caution before trusting dollar store bargains with your medical needs. While the odd branded clearance product scores a win for value and outcomes, most dollar store remedies prove too dodgy to reasonably rely on with the penalties too high for subpar quality from obscure producers. Your health deserves bigger investment for the extra assurance.
What basic household items like cleaners and paper products can I reliably purchase?
When stocking up on essentials for household cleaning, hygiene, and general paper product use, dollar stores offer extensive options for about a buck that deliver entirely passable quality for the price. Multi-surface cleaners, glass/window sprays, tub/tile scrubbers, toilet bowel treatments, and floor polish formulas sold at dollar stores tend to provide adequate grease-cutting, disinfecting, deodorizing power for general upkeep needs between deeper cleans. Just realize cheaper formulations usually rely on harsher chemical agents than premium brands to derive cleaning efficacy. But for routine maintenance brightening a bathroom mirror, freshening the garbage can, or mopping the kitchen floor, dollar varieties mix affordable and effective.
Likewise, paper towels, toilet tissue rolls, napkins, tissues, paper plates, and plastic cutlery sold in bulk packs at dollar stores offer household essentials without blowing one’s budget. Towel sheet thickness and tissue ply counts obviously can’t compare to plusher name brand counterparts. But household members tend to waste less of the cheaper paper goods. So thinner squares and rougher texture ultimately stretch farther as toileting, blowing noses, wrapping food leftovers, or supplying outdoor gatherings serve basics just fine. However, one paper product where dollar stores unsurprisingly fail expectations falls with printer paper. Those reams tend to feed poorly through machines and degrade output results with higher jams and warping compared to better constructed office paper from Staples or Best Buy.
When it comes to household cleaning agents and disposable paper goods, dollar stores certainly supply shoppers a budget-friendly scale of products usable for regular upkeep. Just temper expectations for luxury feel or ultimate performance with dollar varieties where suppliers cut corners on material quality to offer home essentials for the reduced cost. Store brands from big box retailers do tend to offer a step up for just a little more money. But families sticking to tight budgets typically find mixtures of dollar store buys blended with the occasional splurge costing extra elsewhere strikes reasonable balance between keeping households tidy and not draining wallets.
Is dollar store makeup and beauty products okay or should those be avoided?
When it comes to personal care and cosmetics, dollar stores offer extensive shelves of shampoos, soaps, skin creams, fragrances, makeup, oral hygiene products, and more for just $1 or $2 an item. However, tempting as the rock-bottom prices may seem, discretion definitely matters when choosing dollar store beauty buys. Ingredients and production standards tend to range wildly in quality depending on brands and manufacturing origins. And with beauty products, subpar components risk not just wasted money from ineffective performance but health issues like infections, rashes, irritation, or even toxicity in some bootleg cases overseas.
By and large, most name brand or major label items like Head & Shoulders shampoos, Olay body washes, Listerine mouthwash, Covergirl mascara, and Wet N Wild lipstick stocked at dollar stores rate as reliably safe purchases equivalent to drugstore varieties after verifying legitimate production seals and reasonable expiration dating. But second-tier no-name brands peddled for ultra cheap alongside better known ones do pose higher risk of unwanted skin reactions or poor outcomes. And the bulk open-bin loose products for hair and skin invite contamination with public handling. Unrealistic marketing on third-rate merchandise also misleads, like skin creams claiming unreasonable anti-aging miracles.
With makeup especially, the adage “you get what you pay for” strongly applies. Bargain bin eyeshadows, blushes, and lip colors typically deliver disappointing pigmentation. And dirty production lines risk higher bacteria counts that edge close to expiration possibly before sale. While the odd outlier house brand scores surprisingly decent reviews rivaling department store quality, most dollar makeup disappoints unless expectations remain quite low.
Ultimately, dollar stores require very prudent shopping for beauty items balancing pennies and safety. Sticking with a few proven name brands costing a little more means you’ll likely enjoy better results. But for trial experimentation on short-term items like shaving creams, soaps, or skin wipes that last a month or less, dollar stores present an acceptable way to sample without overspending. Just exercise caution and common sense, read labelling thoroughly, never purchase anything that appears expired or resealed, invest in some brand familiarity for adequate outcomes, and avoid permanent cosmetics like hair dyes from the dollar store altogether.
What types of holiday/seasonal decor tend to be decent quality for $1?
Seasonal holiday celebrations take festive decorations to the next level for parties or home embellishment. And dollar stores allow shoppers to stock up on party goods, décor items, and craft supplies on a budget thanks to their bargain basement pricing just shy of “free”. For any major holiday from New Year’s to Christmas, dollar store shelves overflow with thematic plates, cups, balloons, banners, confetti, gift wrap, tablecloths and more. Now cheap construction means most paper and plastic goods won’t withstand more than one season. But if just needing green table runners for St. Patrick’s Day or red/white/blue themed barbecue fare for July 4th one time only, dollar store disposable decor does the trick.
Likewise, basic strands of tinsel, silk flowers, wreaths, garlands, window decals, yard inflatables, fairy string lights and candle holders sold at dollar stores generally pass muster for occasional, non-heirloom holiday sprucing at home or the office. Sure, denser pine cone quality or brighter LED longevity may prove lacking. But a month or two of decorative display around Christmas or Halloween justifies only a buck spent versus pricier home & garden store goods meant to impress for years. Just strategically place dollar store knick knacks higher up away from pets or rambunctious kids less likely to damage goods not built for heavy activity or weather exposure. And follow suggested indoor/outdoor labeling when possible, avoiding fussy decorative items outside.
For craft making, dollar stores offer a bonanza of coloring books, construction paper, felt squares, silk flowers, googly eyes, pipe cleaners and other DIY supplies to create adorable holiday gifts, greeting cards or decorations on the cheap. And when finished displaying your personalized creations, don’t fret about carefully storing wares not built to last since you only spent $1 rather than a small fortune on specialty boutique decor.
Ultimately, for temporary, seasonal displays that just need to look festively cute briefly not withstand harsh elements indefinitely, dollar store holiday décor selections check both the function and cost-effective boxes.
Are any toys or children’s items worth purchasing or too poorly made?
When it comes to kids, safety and durability should override pure cost savings from dollar store discounts. And most child toys sold for only a few bucks simply fail reasonable quality measures for materials, construction, and hazards. Plush stuffed animals easily shred with removable button eyes, plastic toy cars and action figures break almost immediately under normal play pressure, and weird chemical odors emitting from foreign-made play sets rightfully give pause about letting kids put such items in their mouths. Sure, you scored 10 little toys for just $10. But once the toys transform into a pile of clutter and safety hazards after 5 minutes, the bargain proves pointless.
However, a few children’s items at dollar stores do deliver decent amusement value and safety if selected prudently. Certain basic board books, fuzzy stickers, bouncy balls, sidewalk chalk, coloring kits, and wooden blocks likely cause no harm while occupying kids at restaurants or doctor visits. Simple puzzles featuring glued-on foam pieces tend to withstand abuse that might wreck cheaper counterparts elsewhere too. And plush toys with embroidered faces bypass loose button choking dangers. For outdoor fun, dollar store sidewalk chalk, bubble blowers, jump ropes, and pool noodle floats enhance recreation. Just realize slip-n-slides and water guns may break easily. Of course, crafty parents can always repurpose random dollar store purchases like felt shapes, yarn, and plastic animals into amazing DIY toy creations if willing to put in effort that the toy makers lacked with their generic cookie-cutter merchandise unlikely to inspire much creativity or fun by itself.
By and large though, dollar toy bins serve best for momentary distraction more than sourcing child development must-haves or cherished favorites to stand the test of time under playroom punishment. Carefully vet choices without expecting longevity or situations may soon require another dollar store toy run when the last round already failed to satisfy or broke.
Are basic kitchen wares and cooking utensils durable enough?
Dollar stores tempt shoppers with their extensive collections of glassware, utensils, storage containers, baking pans, and kitchen textiles priced at just a dollar or two. But do these bargain kitchenwares reliably withstand regular cooking duty or quickly succumb to warping, denting, shattering, and other functional failures? As with most dollar store merchandise, quality proves inconsistent across item categories. Certain goods like hot pad mittens, dish cloths, basic aluminum bakeware, and plastic wrap remain serviceable buys even on the cheap. However, other products risk not enduring typical kitchen wear and tear long despite initially seeming like savings.
In particular, be wary when it comes glass drinkware and dinner plates. Ultra thin glass lacks resilience against chipping or cracking when dropped. Flimsy metal tines on cooking utensils also easily bend with vigorous stirring or scouring compared to sturdier cooking brands. However, basic plastic spatulas, serving spoons, and tongs often retain enough flexibility and strength for miscellaneous kitchen tasks, especially if avoiding high heat exposure scenarios ill-suited for cut-rate plastics.
Meanwhile, specialty cookware like pots or pans made extra inexpensively almost always fail quickly with aluminum and nonstick coatings breaking down rapidly. But sheet pans and basic stainless steel bowls generally perform fine for most oven or mixing purposes outside elaborate recipes. Ultimately, purchasing a few specific items like basic cutlery sets, towels, and storage containers from dollar stores while avoiding spending on more complex kitchen appliances and dinnerware ends up balancing value against longevity reasonably over time. Or thrifty cooks can purchase a wider array of budget $1 kitchenwares with the expectation that higher failure rates simply mean cycling backups in when early breakage inevitably occurs.
In the end, dollar stores offer hit or miss value for kitchen wares. But by sticking to fundamental kitchen textiles, accessories, and preparation tools for limited duty, many items sold for a buck stand chance of adequately assisting cooks on a tight budget. Just prepare for certain glassware, specialized utensils, and ceramic dishes to potentially underperform quality expectations if subjected to intense culinary action given flimsier constructions.
Is dollar store stationery and craft supplies usable or junk?
The variety found in a dollar store’s stationery aisle and craft section appeals like few other departments thanks to the sheer diversity of pens, papers, glues, ribbons, stickers, and misc supplies costing just pocket change. But creativity seekers would be right to wonder – can these no-name supplies actually sustain arts & crafts work or valuable documents? Or does shoddy quality deem dollar art goods mere junk? The reliability varies across dollar store offerings. Certain basic glues, safety scissors, craft sticks, and paint brushes generally work fine for casual classroom projects or DIY decor objectives. Copy paper also suffices for rough drafts or scratch work no one will formally archive or frame up. However, precision tasks require splurging on specialty retailer art supplies instead.
Craft materials from dollar stores allow inexpensive experimenting to spark hobby interest before investing bigger on higher-end supplies for quality outcomes. Budding crafters can learn techniques using dollar store poster boards, pipe cleaners, felt squares, fake gems, and tinsel on starter lanyards, greeting cards, wreaths, or textile decorations without worrying about wasting expensive materials as they practice beginner skills. Even simpler science activities like paper chromatography or volcano explosions utilize dollar store materials like food coloring, vinegar, baking soda, coffee filters, and play dough effectively.
However, serious artists should avoid dollar art pads lacking sturdy binding, oil pastels and paint tubes with lesser pigmentation, and flimsy poster hangers unlikely to properly display fine artwork. And dollar stationery proves disappointing for formal documents when 20-pound paper weight feels nearly transparent, prone to bleeding markers, and jam-inducing printer glitches not found with 30-pound premium sheets. But mid-grade card stock fills the dollar store sweet spot – usable for event invites without demanding archival museum standards.
Ultimately, casual crafters benefit most from dollar stores’ bountiful shelves of stickers, glitter, ribbons, styrofoam balls and other project supplies that reduce waste for playful experimentation. Novices gain valuable hands-on experience without depleting supplies needed for showstopping masterpieces later. But established artists require resilient, high-performing media sold at specialty outlets to actualize next-level visions.
Are batteries or tech accessories reliable purchases or bound to break quickly?
When it comes to powering devices or connecting technology components, determining the wisest purchase requires deciphering if dollar stores batteries and tech accessories offer genuine life value or just money down the drain when shoddy products inevitably fail early. With something as vital and omnipresent as practical batteries powering billions of clocks, toys, remotes, light flashes, portable radios, gaming systems and more, paying $1 versus $5 for name brand cells seems like automatic savings. However, cut-rate batteries notoriously supply far less than their advertised volt capacity and life hour ratings printed on cheap packaging.
Off-brand batteries from dubious foreign dollar store suppliers tend to leak or corrode prematurely as well, destroying the very electronics they aimed to sustain in ironic twists. So that $1 pack of 20 AA batteries powering a WiFi router over several weeks suddenly killing the $200 router equates terrible value. However, occasional use items like TV infrared remotes, fun string lights, singing greeting cards, or laser pointers avoid the most damaging leak risks over shorter battery life spans. So if just needing $1 cells temporarily for lower power novelty items, leaks pose less concern. But for vital emergency tools like smoke detectors, flashlights or continuous devices like game controllers, name brand batteries sold at big box retailers provide far more bang for just a slightly higher buck along with safer chemical engineering and protective insulating against leaks.
Much like batteries, cheap electronic accessories like charging cords, headphones, power strips or USB gadgets found in dollar stores frequently malfunction quickly or deliver abysmal performance lagging way behind specification claims on labels. However, a few exceptions like basic phone cases, stylus pens, screen wipes, or device stands that aren’t electronic by nature may actually suffice with occasional use. But overall, electronics obsessives needing reliable battery power or optimized functionality from specialty tech accessories shouldn’t even glance at the dollar store aisles – paying a bit more grants longevity and compatibility assurances vital for operational technology. With electronics often costing hundreds of dollars, buffering them with equally resilient power sources and connectors retains value far longer through prudent investments that stray beyond dollar store domains.
Are any dollar store tools or hardware equipment decent enough quality to buy?
Home repair and improvement projects require reliable tools and equipment that amateur and pro handymen alike can trust to securely fasten, strongly adhere, and repeatedly endure rough use as they work properties inside and out. And while dollar stores entice shoppers with seemingly deep hardware inventories costing mere dollars, the grave risk with cheapening out on tools looms large in harming not just projects but your safety. Still, select simple dollar store offerings prove decent enough for very light household use if understanding their limitations. Adhesives like super or craft glues, duct tape, picture hanging squares, sandpaper sheets, measuring tapes, basic screwdrivers, and protective gear like goggles, gloves, and masks all grant adequate functionality for most modest home fixes costing only $1 versus $10 at hardware stores.
Just don’t expect power drills, saws, specialty pliers or roofing equipment from dollar stores replicating the caliber necessary for heavier lifting on carpentry, electrical, plumbing, automotive, or landscape labor. Weak magnetized tips on dollar store screwdrivers easily slip from fasteners causing hand slips. And the blades on low-cost scrapers, box cutters, and scissors dull exceptionally fast rendering tools useless quickly. Also avoid any dollar store ladders, ropes, or safety equipment entrusted literally in life or death scenarios. Ultimately, occasional users can fill small gaps in toolboxes and workshops with select dollar store finds for minor tasks. But serious technicians and tradesmen require heavier-grade tools built to higher safety specifications consistently through thousands of hours enduring bumps, scrapes, weather and wears that quickly devastate flimsier discount varieties lacking legitimate manufacturer warranties.
While no hardware aficionado should solely rely on equipment from dollar type retailers, even professionals strategically supplement more expensive gear with cheaper consumable items used less frequently like sandpaper, tape, glue and painting drop cloths. Just ensure to carefully inspect all dollar tools for stability before applying force or trusting welfare to questionably sourced bargain tools made alarmingly inexpensively.
What’s the best strategy – buy certain items only at the dollar store or supplement bigger shopping trips?
Here is a 499-word expansion on whether it’s best to buy certain items only at the dollar store or supplement regular shopping at bigger retailers:
Savvy shoppers employ skills mixing discretionary thriftiness on some dollar store fronts with astute higher quality price matching across essentials requiring durability sold at big box chains or grocery stores to maximize household value. Attempting to exclusively source daily life goods from dollar type shops proves largely unrealistic for most given profound inventory limitations on crucial items like fresh food plus durability and safety issues on certain electronics, appliances and medications. However, selectively supplementing regular bulk shopping with dollar store runs focusing on specific categories smartly stretches more money.
No doubt holiday party supplies, assorted craft materials, school glue sticks, kitchen sponges, paper plates, toothbrushes, matches, bandages, and other more generic consumables easily used short term before wearing out all sensibly qualify as dollar store buys given the right balance between dependable temporary function and super cheap rates once a buck or less. Just know your own household’s reasonable consumption on items like sandwich bags, aluminum foil, gift wrap and cleaning wipes to realistically estimate how many single buck units needed before requiring bigger quantity reorders. Then map routes ensuring dollar stores and significant retailers stand near each other to blend fill-in stints with essential big batch inventory hauls.
Around bigger shopping missions at superstores or supermarkets, gravitate towards dollar outlet aisles supplying jog memory odds and ends easily forgotten yet needed sooner than later like rubber gloves, air filters, sponges and key previous impulse buys. Let the sight of a dollar price spur that reflex “oh right, we’re almost out” decision to grab while accessible since you’re already actively shopping. Then rather than making a separate future trip likely outpacing fuel costs, conveniently tuck those dollar deals into the regular checkout pile. Just know your list limits and avoid going overboard on the marginal stuff when the whole objective serves bolstering primary goods. Think swim goggles and pool floaties well timed as summer nears. But maybe leave the off-season pumpkin carving kits behind if bought too soon they may just gather dust rather than appreciating the spontaneity value when autumn actually arrives. Ultimately, blending dollar category value into bigger all-purpose shopping wields optimum efficiency all year long.