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How to Shop and Save at a Dollar Store

How to Shop and Save at a Dollar Store

Dollar stores can save you money, but only if you buy the right types of products.  That’s because products at dollar stores vary dramatically.  Some products are the same brand name as in other stores, whereas many products are clones or cheap knockoffs that may be priced low but that are not even worth the dollar they cost.

Finding good deals means knowing which items to buy.  Hopefully, reading this guide will help you find some items that will save you money.  And if you have ideas not on this list, make sure you add them in the comment section below.  Here’s my advice.

Things to Buy at a Dollar Store That Save You Money

Gift supplies.  I’ve found that almost any type of gift supply is cheaper at a dollar store.  For example, wrapping paper for a dollar is a good deal.  It is at least three times that at most other stores.  And while the wrapping paper may not be as thick, it’s just going to get torn off anyway.  Gift bags and tissue paper are also much cheaper at dollar stores.

how to save at a dollar storeGreeting cards.  Now that most other stores have launched 99 cent cards (like Target), there is some competition for these items.  However, dollar stores still have a much bigger selection of cards for a dollar than stores like Target.  If you don’t go to a dollar store often, stock up on cards by buying several birthday and anniversary cards so that you’ll have them at home and ready to send for the next occassion.

Party supplies.  Streamers and party decorations are a good deal at the dollar store, but the best deal there is the party balloons.  The high quality foil lined helium balloons are only a dollar.  That is a fraction of the cost of other places.  The selection isn’t great but most kids don’t care what the balloon looks like, as much as they just love having them.

Holiday decorations.  Holiday decorations at department and even discount stores like Walmart are pretty expensive.  They are usually much more than a dollar.  While the decorations at the dollar store may be a little cheaper, they are still a good deal and the lower quality isn’t that big of a deal.

Games.  There are many card games such as UNO that are offered for a dollar.   You can also find dice, cards and crossword books that are a good deal.

Beauty supplies.  If you’re not picky about the type of beauty supplies you use, you can find lots of different supplies including lotions, cotton balls, cuticle scissors, pumice stones and gels.

Dining supplies. If you’re just looking for casual diningware then there are some good deals.  You can find decent quality plates, glasses and utensils.  And if you’re looking for inexpensive plasticware sets you can also save some money.

Things to Avoid Buying at a Dollar Store

Anything electric.  I’ve heard that most electric items at dollar stores are not a good deal.  Specifically, I’ve heard that the light strings are so cheap that they often melt.  That sounds dangerous.  And let’s face it, a dollar is not enough to build any type of electronic device.  I’ve also heard that the batteries that they sell are very low quality, don’t last long at all, and are more prone to corrosion.  If you buy batteries, don’t put them in an expensive product.

Food.  While I’ve heard of people getting great deals on food at a dollar store, more often than not the items avaialable there can be found cheaper in a grocery store, especially if you shop the store brands.  You may still find some good deals but don’t assume that they are all good deals.

Toys.  While the toys at dollar stores may be good enough to stuff in a goodie bag for a party you are throwing, they are not good quality.  While my kids always want to buy a toy there, they almost never play with that toy when they get home.  Even the kids can tell how cheap they are.  I wouldn’t recommend buying very many of the toys.

Many of the knock off brands.  Dollar stores are filled with knock off brands.  You know, the items that use similar logos and colors so that they look like the real deal.  Batteries, aspirin and other products like this may or may not be a good idea depending on your use, but tread carefully when buying these knock off brands.

What Others Say About Saving at Dollar Stores

Most others agree that shopping at a dollar store can help your budget and is a good way to save money.  Here is an excerpt from the Fun Times Guide that discusses how they avoid buying the wrong items:

#2 Inferior quality sometimes makes dollar store items not worth it.

For  example, paper plates need to at least be able to  hold a sandwich  without collapsing.  If you can squeeze a roll of  toilet paper flat  with 2 fingers, then you probably shouldn’t buy it.   Kitchen utensils must be stainless steel in order for me to buy them.  Be careful not to buy  anything that will rust.

#3 Closely examine deals that seem too good to be true.

For example, I recently came across  a large bag of brand-name t-shirts at  the dollar store, and threw a  bunch into my cart.  Before purchasing  them, I decided to inspect them more closely and I found that 80% of the shirts had holes in  them.

I also read on another site (can’t remember where to credit them), that most items at dollar stores remain there for a long time.  Their advice was that when you find a good deal at a dollar store, write it down on your dollar store list so that you can remember to save money on that item by buying it at a dollar store in the future.

Do you have any comments about what is and isn’t a good deal at your local dollar store?

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • S.O. Price June 9, 2012, 7:27 pm

    I personally think that there are still a fair amount of good deals at dollar stores for food. Just recently, I had stopped at a bulk food store where I picked up 400 packets of saccharin for $5.49. I also stopped at a dollar store and checked the price there for saccharin and found 100 packets for a buck. Needless to stay, I stocked up and will be returning the 400 packet box and will save myself $1.49. I think the key is to really look at the ounces and/or quantity of product that you’re buying. It can be less expensive to go to a regular store.

    Dollar stores definitely have their place, but one still needs to be very shopper savvy to get a true bargain.

  • jentyree June 15, 2012, 5:10 pm

    To the previous comment -The article is talking specifically about the Dollar Tree stores, where everything is a dollar. Not Dollar General or Family Dollar, as you can find really good deals there (and they take coupons!).
    I’ve actually bought the black plastic utensils from a dollar tree, and it melts when you use it! I was so mad, and thought, never again! But your right, party streamers and balloons, and even cards, they are great deals there at those dollar stores.

  • FirstBaby2011 August 24, 2012, 9:34 pm

    I agree that dollar stores offer you the best prices for gift and party supplies. I purchase all of my gift bags for baby showers, birthdays, and Christmas at our local Dollar Tree. This method saves me money, time, and frustration as my hands were just not made for gift wrapping. Our family is constantly reusing them if they are still in good shape so they are definitely worth buying. Thank you for the tips!

  • professionaltightwad August 25, 2012, 9:53 am

    With dollar stores, I find that many of the knock-off brands are terrible quality but don’t rule them out. For a buck, it’s worth trying a product that is a lot cheaper than your usual brand. If it is terrible, then you just don’t buy it again. I’ve found a few items that I actually like better than the more costly brands.

    As a note, check with your dollar store to see if they take coupons. Most dollar stores do get at least some brand name products. Most won’t take coupons but larger chains are changing this policy. Dollar Tree has announced their entire chain will take manufacturer’s coupons beginning Sunday, August 26.

  • GSBryce November 28, 2012, 1:44 pm

    Dollar Tree has recently started accepting manufacturers coupons. They will only allow one printed coupon per transaction. The coupons that are available in the newspapers are completely acceptable. The only coupons that they will not accept are free item coupons. For example, try 1 20oz Coca Cola for FREE with this coupon. I don’t think they have the capability to process those yet, but hopefully sometime in the future.


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