I’m a big fan of dollar stores. They are small, not overcrowded or overwhelming, and everything is under a buck. There is no need to compare prices of similar items within the store because the pricing is all the same. Life seems simple inside a dollar store. Nowadays, dollar stores have a lot to offer. I am always surprised at the products they have every time I go. Unless you are an extreme couponer, dollar stores are one of the best places to get some really great deals. However, not everything is as great a deal as it might seem. To help simplify things for you, I’ve identified 12 things that are worth buying at the dollar store:
1. Greeting Cards – With the average price of greeting cards somewhere around $3, a greeting card for a buck is a deal. And a greeting card for 50 cents is a steal, which is how much greeting cards cost at my local dollar store. After you put on a stamp to mail your card, all you have paid is $0.94 to tell someone how much you care. These cards may not have any glitter or audio, but as long as your message comes from the heart, it shouldn’t matter.
2. Decorations - You would be surprised by the nice home and holiday decorations that you can find in dollar stores if you haven’t been in one recently. They have Christmas stockings, ornaments, candles, knick-knacks, and frames. Where else can you find that kind of stuff for a dollar or less? I have a friend who decorates her home beautifully for each holiday, and when I asked her where she got it all, she of course said at the dollar store.
3. Books – If you are looking for a particular title, dollar stores may not be where you want to go, but if you don’t have something in mind, check them out. Dollar stores have a pretty good selection of subjects. They are also a wonderful place to get children’s books. Considering that most book stores sell kids books for at least $8 and up, this is a great deal. I buy my baby a book every time I go there. Eventually, he will have a nice library!
4. Gift Bags and Gift Wrap - It is outrageous how much gift bags can sometimes cost. They range anywhere from a dollar to $5 but probably average somewhere around $3, including just the simple, plain bags. Dollar stores have really nicely decorated bags, wrapping paper, and bows.
5. Toys and Games – Are you looking for something fun and cheap to do with your significant other or friends this weekend? Why not pick up a puzzle or game from a dollar store. Have another friend bring a bottle of wine, and voila: a perfect evening! Dollar stores also have great toys for kids. My kid is excited about toys no matter what they cost. I have learned very quickly that sometimes it is the simple, cheap toys that are a bigger hit than the toys with all the bells and whistles.
6. Personal Items – If you are a big-time couponer, you may be able to get better deals on your personal items elsewhere. But if you’re not, start going to dollar stores for your personal items! They have toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, deodorant, and makeup. They even have pregnancy tests which normally cost around $7 at your local drug store.
7. Office Supplies – This can be a great place to buy school supplies. Most dollar stores should pretty much have everything you might need: pens, pencils, paper, tape, crayons, scissors, and post-it notes. This is where I buy bubble mailers so I can send gifts to my family and friends.
8. Tools and Household Supplies – Yes, you can buy tools at dollar stores! They are probably not the best quality, but if you do not do any heavy-duty projects and just need something basic, dollar store tools may be all you need. They also have household supplies such as paintbrushes, work gloves, and duct tape. I know I have paid up to $6 for duct tape in other places! Tip: Do not buy light bulbs at dollar stores. Although you can get several for a dollar, they are not energy efficient light bulbs (CFLs or LEDs) and therefore are not worth it in the long run.
9. Clothes – Although I have not seen a ton of clothes at dollar stores, they do have socks, hats, gloves, and baby clothes. I once bought a hat for $1 that retailed at another store for $11.99!
10. Kitchen and Tableware- I was surprised when I went into a dollar store the other day and saw that they had dinnerware and flatware as well as bakeware. Although these products may not be the same quality as ones you might find at some other retail stores, they would be great for someone who just needed something practical, like a college student. A college student really only needs a $1 frying pan, a $1 bowl, and a $1 plate in their dorm room!
11. Storage - Even at low-priced stores such as Walmart and Big Lots, storage bins can still be $5 or more. At a dollar store, they are only a dollar! They also have some really unique storage items such as a tortilla holder for a dollar. Anywhere else that would be $8 or $9.
12. Cleaning Supplies- Dollar stores have some great deals on cleaners. Again, if you are a couponer, you may not be saving much here. Also, you can save a lot of money by making natural household cleaners, so take that into consideration as well.
What Not To Buy
In addition to the light bulbs, there are a couple of other items that I would advise you not to buy at dollar stores. The first is paper towels. Dollar store paper towels typically have large sheets that force you to use up the rolls quicker. If you pay to get the smaller sheets, you will end up saving money by consuming them more slowly. (Additionally, you could save money on paper towels entirely by using washable cloth instead!) I would also caution against buying food at dollar stores. While they do sell some cans of food for less than a dollar, you can still get them cheaper at your grocer. Also, the $1 price can be misleading since some of the food products have smaller portion sizes.
One more word of advice before you begin shopping at dollar stores: Make a list before you go! Otherwise, you will leave the store buying a lot more than you intended. It is easy to buy extra things because everything seems like a great deal at only $1!
(Photo Credit: Gaspa)