Dollar Stores: What To Buy and What To Skip
Dollar stores can be tremendous spending traps, but they can also be a great way to snag a bargain. It’s all in how you plan your visit.
Before you start browsing…
Everything is just a buck, you say. How can you possibly go wrong?
Unfortunately, with that mindset, you might find yourself going way overboard with your spending. Before you set out for the dollar store, create a physical or mental list of what you need to purchase. Don’t just browse, or buy for the sake of buying.
Love to throw just-for-fun products into your cart? The dollar store is a great place to do that, so exercise caution. You don’t want to blow tens of dollars on stuff you don’t really need and might never use. Establish a limit of how many of those items you can pick up on your trip before you set out. If you always find yourself pushing your self-imposed limit, only shop with cash so you’re forced to stick to your budget.
What’s HOT and what’s NOT at the dollar store …
- BUY: Get clean for less by stocking up on Ajax, bleach, glass cleaner, scouring pads, spray bottles, off-brand Swiffer refills, sponges, dryer sheets and ammonia.
- SKIP: The following cleaning supplies at the dollar store are either made too cheaply to be worth the price or can be bought for less in other stores: dishwashing soap, tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, garbage bags, laundry detergent.
- BUY: Visit the dollar store before hitting chain stores for your holiday decorations. Cute decorations, cheap gift boxes, and wrapping paper is all at the dollar store.
- BUY: Load up on bubbles, sidewalk chalk, balls, card games, birthday party goodies, and kites.
- SKIP: Small toys for young children that aren’t made well can quickly become choking hazards. Also, dollar-store dolls and toy cars are likely to break the day you bring them home.
- BUY: Get your frozen fruit and veggies, string cheese, spices, name-brand condiments, rice, oatmeal, and snack foods at the dollar store.
- SKIP: These foods can be bought for cheaper in a grocery store: pasta, soda, gum, canned goods, chocolate
- BUY: Stock up on bargain-priced storage bins and containers, whimsical kitchen décor and glasses. Paper plates, cups and napkins can also be bought at super low prices.
- SKIP: Plastic cutlery from the dollar store is too cheaply made to be worth the few cents you’ll save. Ditto for disposable baking dishes. You’ll also want to stay away from can openers, knives and oven mitts, as these items need to be well made to do their jobs.
- BUY: Greeting cards, wrapping paper, balloons, ribbons, streamers, birthday candles, party decorations and gift bags can all be bought for, you guessed it, a dollar each.
- BUY: You won’t be able to find every item on your school supply list that’s actually worth the price, but you can load up on project display boards, tab dividers, binder clips and poster boards at the dollar store.
- SKIP: The following supplies can be bought for less money and of better quality in stores like Walmart and Target: lined paper, composition notebooks, glue, crayons, markers, Post-its, pens, pencils and highlighters.
- BUY: The dollar store is a great place to stock up on rainy-day supplies for the kids. You’ll find some great books, puzzles, craft supplies, colored papers, stickers, activity books, coloring books and more.
- SKIP: Cheaply made soap, shampoo and cosmetics can be harmful to your skin. Don’t buy name-brand travel-size toiletries either; you can usually get tiny shampoo and soap bottles for less than a buck at big-box stores.
When it’s not a bargain
When making a purchase at the dollar store, hold it up to this checklist. If your item fits any of these criteria, you’re better off without it:
- It’s sold in tiny quantities. Often, what looks like a bargain is just a product in a really small package. Check the size on food items and cleaning products; you can often get more for less money when you buy a product in a bigger size at a larger store.
- It’s made with harmful toxins. Check all health and beauty products for toxic and carcinogenic ingredients.
- You don’t need it. A dollar spent on something you don’t need is a dollar wasted.
- It’s made super-cheaply. If it’s going to break during the first day of use, or even the first hours, leave it in the store.
- It isn’t food-safe. Check all products that will come into contact with food, like serving platters or dishes, for a label that claims they are food-safe.
- It’s expired. Be careful to check the “Sell by” date on candy and other food so you’re not paying for expired products.
Learn how to shop smart at the dollar store and you’ll go home with true bargains!