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12 Items You Should Buy At The Dollar Store

By Casey Slide

One DollarI’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)

Casey Slide
Casey Slide lives with her husband and baby in Atlanta, GA. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and worked for a prominent hospital in Atlanta. With the birth of Casey’s son in February 2010, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Casey’s interests include reading, running, living green, and saving money.

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  • http://www.abczoohome.com Amanda

    I know of 2 big chain “dollar stores” – they have “Dollar” in their names even – which have may products upwards of $15. Almost everything in my local one is around $2, at least everything I’m usually in there for, but I’ve seen several items for $20 and everything in between. Which is not to say that you can’t still find some good and even great deals there, but it’s been over 10 years since I saw a dollar store that truly had nothing over a dollar. Just sayin’…

    • Casey Slide

      Oh really? That is interesting. Both dollar stores near me have nothing that is more than a dollar. I asked them to be sure.

      • http://www.abczoohome.com Amanda

        That’s cool – good to know they are still out there. We could sure use one of those here. :)

    • Adam Slide

      Yah there are a few different dollar stores that charge more than a dollar for items, but Dollar Tree is one of the stores where everything is only a dollar.

  • http://mocove.blogspot.com mocove

    The dollar store is the only place I can find coloring books for my mom. She is in a nursing home and likes to color. The dollar store has bible, national geographic and animal coloring books. They are not just for kids and they are only $1!

    • Casey Slide

      That’s great! Thanks for sharing!

  • Kevin Vesga

    For canned food, I think it really depends on what you want. iirc, buying deviled ham at the dollar store is cheaper than grocery stores especially if you want the Underwood brand.

    • Casey Slide

      Good point!

  • Donna B.

    I have to disagree on the food. My dollar store has canned spaghetti sauce for $1 (same brand, size that I spend more for at the grocery store), the large Arizona Iced Teas for $1 (I get them from time to time because my son loves them), and my latest score – 3.5oz crumbled feta cheese for $1!!!!!!! YES! I bought one and tried it since I wasn’t familiar with the brand – a little saltier than the one I usually get, but it was fantastic. So I went back and bought the other 50+ they had and stuck them all in the freezer.

    I also go tthis great Kosher salt for $1, a very large container which would have been easily $3 at the grocery store.

    Last, I got Wyler’s diet lemonade mix – 3 pouches (each one made 2 quarts) for $1. Again, I bought everyone they had :) They also had a diet raspberry mix but I didn’t like it as much.

    I am picky about what I buy, but I’ve scored a lot of great food buys there. You just have to look at the labels and shop wisely.

    • Casey Slide

      Feta cheese for a dollar?! That’s awesome!! Yeah, those are some really good deals. I might need to look a little closer at the food section of my dollar store…

      • Donna B.

        Yeah, I was pretty stunned when I saw it :) They looked fine, were well in-date, the packaging was intact. Luckily it’s on the way home, so I bought one and tried it (I figured worst case, I’d only be out a buck) – and raced back the next day to claim the rest! HAHA

  • de

    Yeah, I love the Japanese 89 cent store, too, even though nothing is less than $1.89!

  • sewingirl

    When I shop, I always hit the dollar store first! Their grocery items are top rate! They don’t always have 16 kinds of katsup, but the two national brands they do have are about half the price of the regular grocery store. It’s worth it!

    • Casey Slide

      I am going to have to look more at their groceries then. It sounds like you are getting some great deals!

  • http://www.billeater.com Jessica Bosari

    I have to disagree on toys at dollar store, unless your kids are over age 7 or so. These are so cheaply made, they may be harmful to kids. If your kid still puts stuff in his mouth, avoid these cheepo toys. I’m also uncertain on cleaners. They seem watered down to me. Your thoughts?

    I wouldn’t buy ANY electronics from dollar stores.

    I really like going in there around the holidays for decorations. These holiday items are perfect for crafting use. You can spend $10 on what would cost $50 at the craft store and let your imagination go wild…

    • Casey Slide

      I have bought a couple toys for my baby there and have not had a problem with them, but you certainly make a good point. It is important to be selective in which toys you buy from there.

      I haven’t had a problem with any of the cleaners either. However, they have so many there, and I have only tried a few. Either way, its only a dollar.

      • WifeOfSeth

        We buy a cleaner at our local dollar store called “Awesome”. Seriously, it is. ;) It’s super concentrated. I use about 1/4C of the cleaner to a gallon of water- and it’s the only cleaner we use in our house. It comes packaged like it’s meant to be used right out of the bottle, but we’ve just found that it’s so strong we can dilute it substantially and still get superb cleaning power. I love being able to keep my home clean for about $1 every 5-6 months.

        • Casey Slide

          Awesome! I’ll have to look for “Awesome” next time I go there.

        • Carrie L.

          We have that at ours, too. It’s my favorite and I don’t buy anything else!

    • http://www.money-and-kids.com/ Brad Castro

      I’m agreeing with Jessica on the toy issue. In a best case scenario, you’re just going to be putting them in the trash or recycle bin in a week or two, and in a worst case scenario you might be exposing the child to unregulated/underegulated Chinese chemicals.

      Good list otherwise.

      • Cheryl D.

        China has gotten a lot better in recent years about lead and pthalates, and the toys at the dollar store are in large part the same ones in the toy aisle at the grocery store…. also, as was mentioned, most kids don’t play with something long enough anyway… would you rather spend $20 for a littlest pet shop playset at walmart, knowing that it will get played with for about a week before the pieces (and interest) are lost, or $1 for a similar pet type playset, that will also last about a week before pieces and interest are lost?

        We took my 10 yr old there with her birthday money to help her learn about spending money and counting back change.

  • vicky

    Just as in everything else, you should know your prices on the items you buy. Some things are good deals and some aren’t but I find this to be true for every store without exception. I used to think that you should only buy canned things at dollar stores because the boxed or bagged items could have bugs in them. I wouldn’t buy bread there until my daughter, who as working at a nearby drugstore, said the bread is fresh because she saw the bread truck deliver there every day. As for toys, most kids will play with something only a few times, and they love to pick out their own toys, which you can easily do for a buck every time you visit the store.

    • Casey Slide

      That’s a great tactic to keep your kids from picking out an expensive toy! That is interesting about the bread. I am sure people can ask their dollar store how often the bread truck comes to them too.

    • WifeOfSeth

      Vicky, any food you buy from anywhere could, and probably does, have (dead) bugs in it. That applies whether you pay a dollar for a loaf of bread, or $7 for a loaf of bread. The guidelines for food processors and manufacturers in this country are fairly loose. For example, the FDA allows up to 10 fly eggs in about a juice glass sized amount of tomato juice. Gross, I know. But maybe it’ll help put things in perspective for you.

      This article, from The New York Times, highlights some of the allowable amounts of insects, larvae, rodent parts, etc, that are allowed in our food. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/13/opinion/13levy.html

      • Casey Slide

        Oh, I had no idea. Thanks for sharing!

  • not given

    Buy flour. Put it in the freezer for 2 weeks, then make bread out of it.

    There’s a federal guideline about how many bug parts can be found in something

    • Casey Slide

      That’s a great idea!

  • The Equallizer

    I buy light-bulbs (4) for a buck all the time! I like the warmth of incandescent lights and the CFL savings is over-hyped. I’m stockpiling an attic full for when Gov-Co outlaws them!

    • Casey Slide

      I like the “warmth” of the incandescent lights too, but they do make CFLs with a similar color. As far as the savings being over-hyped, I am not sure about it, but I think it would be interesting to research. Thanks for your comment!

  • http://www.lainiesips.com Lainie Petersen

    Dollar store stuff is great when going camping: I just don’t worry about losing it or it getting ruined. Dollar store goods can also be a godsend when moving: Stock up on household goods at dollar and thrift stores, and then as your cashflow eases up, buy the new things you really want over the next few months.

    • Casey Slide

      Great tips, Lainie! I like the idea of stocking up when moving.

  • Louise M

    I’ve started gathering things for as my mother calls it, “a glory box” but really just things I know my partner and I will need when we move in together. The dollar store is fantastic for tea-towels, bake ware and cutlery! All the basics really. I have a $4 loaf pan that has stood the test of time. A lot of them are now introducing cheaply priced furniture. It might not be the flashiest but hey if you just need a book case for your books then go for it. My partner and I have decided that will be a good way to furnish our new place and we can splurge on a more expensive item like appliances and a really great couch! Super article :)

    • melizer

      I’ve heard it called a hope chest, but never a glory box! (Wikipedia says that term is from Australia.)

  • Maria

    I will removed the recomendation of buying toys for liite kids.

    • Casey Slide

      Yes, several people have said that they would not recommend toys. Maybe the better idea would be just children’s books, coloring books, and balls.

  • debi

    Salty snacks are a great buy at the dollar store also. Chips for a buck in a big bag.

  • Dennis

    I shop at my local dollar store (one of those with “Dollar”) in the name. Five years ago, most everything in the store, with the exception of electronics, was $1.00. Prices have gradually increased to 1.35, 1.55, 1.85…
    Not only that, now they are asking for your silver change to go to The Literacy Fund. I thought my tax dollars were paying for public education. In fact, we recently added $.01 to the sales tax to go to the schools. I still shop there for one or two items, but if I’m stocking up I’ll drive the extra few miles to go to Wal-Mart.

  • http://profiles.google.com/ruraynor Ruth Raynor

    Cleaning stuff. My local 99p store had a microfibre venetian blinds duster that was a godsend! I also got a washing line and pegs in a peg basket for 99p each, which was great because I didn’t have £20 to shell out for a clothes horse.

    • Casey Slide

      Oh I’ll have to see if mine has a blinds duster! What a great find! Thanks for sharing!

  • Abi

    During the holidays, my daughter takes my grand daughter to the dollar store to do her Christmas shopping. She always knows how much my grand daughter is going to spend, and we always have a great time seeing what my grand daughter thought someone would need…Back scratcher for grandpa or a tacky surfing turtle for his office desk!!

    • Casey Slide

      That sounds like a lot of fun! And it keeps the cost low. Thanks for sharing!

  • Fayzie090

    My 99cent store has fresh produce and it is great. A large honeydew melon for 99cents that was delicious is incredible. Also, they have everything for the salad which was all fresh. I tried an off brand of cream cheese that a customer told me about and was as good as Philadelphia brand.

    • Casey Slide

      Really? Wow. I’ve never heard of a dollar store having fresh produce. Glad to hear it is good! What a deal!

    • Casey Slide

      Really? Wow. I’ve never heard of a dollar store having fresh produce. Glad to hear it is good! What a deal!

  • Maxdotlison

    My god, the dollar tree is my savior! Im 14 and since school is startIng soon, its a great place to get school supplies. Especially since myparents are a couple of cheapskates! They’re just glad that my and my brother love the dollar tree as much as they do!

  • http://twitter.com/Ar1Tony tony

    I TRAVELED THE COUNTRY SEA TO SHINING SEA IN MY 25 YEAR OLD VOLKSWAGEN DIESEL THAT I FUELED WITH DOLLAR STORE “VEGETABLE OILS”, CANOLA ,SOY, CORN …EVEN HAIR PRODUCTS WHATEVER CHEEP AND OILY AT THE DOLLAR STORES CAN POWER A SIMPLE DIESEL ENGINE THAT IS ONLY MODIFIED SLIGHTLY… ALL I CAN SAY AFTER WITNESSING THIS BOUNTIFUL GREAT NATION AND INTERACTING WITH HER PEEPS ALONG THE MY TRAVELS… “WHEN AS A NATION DID WE GET SO FAT! “WHY? DOES ANYONE KNOW WHAT DOLLAR HEDGEMITY MEANS?? HOW ABOUT TRADE DEFICITS? OR INFLATION?? DO THEY NOT TEACH ADAM SMITH “THE WEALTH OF A NATION” IN OUR FAILING BLOATED GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS!! DO YOU NOT SEE WHAT THE REST OFF THE WORLD KNOWS AS TRUTH? DO YOU REALLY THINK THERE IS A FREE LUNCH…. ?? OR A DOLLAR LUNCH? THAT DISTORTED PRICED “BARGIN” ITEM AT THE DOLLAR STORE,WHY WOULD A NATION LIKE CHINA WANT TO MAKE PRODUCTS THAT THEY CANT AFFORD FOR PEOPLE IN A NATION THAT THINK IT IS INSAINLY CHEEP…. WHY IS THE USA SO SPECIAL PEOPLE IN OTHER NATIONS ARE WILLING TO SLAVE TO MAKE PRODUCT THEY CANT ENJOY BUT YOU FIND INSANLY CHEEP??! PRODUCT CHEEP PRODUCT NOT UNENCUMBERED…. ! OMG !THEY ARE SHEEP! REALLY,.. YOU HAVE NO IDEA OF —THINK! I know they dumb you down when they gave you formula instead of breast milk. LEAD IN THE TOYS ENDOCRINOL BLOCKERS IN YOUR PLASTIC FOOD GRADE CHEEP CONTAINERS… FLUORIDE IN YOUR WATER AND MEDICINES PESTICIDES HERBICIDES GMO … …MSG HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. MODIFIED FOOD STARCH IN YOUR PROCESSED FOOD.. EMF OVERLOAD TELEVISION AS A MENTOR… UNCLE SAM AS DAD…FEMINISM CHERISHED MOTH HOOD SMIRCHED , DEPARTMENT OF GOVERNMENT RUN SCHOOLS M NOW YOUR HEALTHCARE … THE LAST VIABLE SECTOR OF THE ECONOMY… GONE! READ SEEK TURN YOUR TV OFF AND TAKE A WALK AND EXPLORE.. THINK! YOUR BRAIN IS NOT THAT HEAVY THING YOU SIT ON ALL DAY…. WHATMAKES A DOLLAR WORTH ANYTHING AT ALL? ITS JUST A PEICE OF PAPER WITH INK ON IT! WHAT DOES RESERVE CURRENCY STATUS MEAN? REVISION TO THE MEAN? REMEMBER SACRED LAW IN ECONOMICS, “THE MARKET ALWAYS WINS… 100% WINS NO WAY, DELAY WIN MAYBE BUT NO AROUND I… NO FREE LUNCH!. CHEEP PRODUCT NEVER REALLY CHEEP… I GETS PAID MARKET PRICE EVENTUALLY… BY SOMEONE OR IN SOMEWAY….EVERY FAKE FIAT CENT. PAID. IN FULL. YES IT DOES…! .

  • http://twitter.com/Ar1Tony tony

    MY ENGLISH NOT GOOD IM CHINESE I BET YOU NOT SPEAK ANY OTHER LANGUAGE AT ALL … AND EVEN THAT NOT SO GOOD ANYWAY…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/UWYXU4IOS7UYPGA47G2K6YRHJE Suzan X

    I disagree about light bulbs. The newer spiral type are made in China, never last as long as they claim, and because of their mercury content, they are buried underground after disposal. Not cool.

  • Megan

    I found some progresso starters like the fire roasted tomatoe at the dollar tree where it’s more like 3.5 at Safeway. I picked up a can for food storage! I also picked up toilet paper since we’re broke and I ran out. We are tight on money so things we usually get for 30 a month cost me 10.18 at dollar tree after tax!!!! I also got perfume.

  • Sam Spade

    I’m putting together a ‘survival DVD’ that will list essential (storable) items you can buy on a limited budget from the dollar store and other places. It’s pretty amazing what you can buy for a buck or three, and its always a good thing to think ahead. While I don’t want to sound like a doomsday freak, it never hurts to be prepared by buying and storing essential items in the event of civil unrest, viral outbreak, a Katrina-type natural disaster or anything else that leads to a breakdown of law & order.

  • Jermaine Mintuck

    I have bought and seen the craziest good quality things at dollar stores. I bought a quality pair of kids winter boots and got a friendship bracelet square loom there for the most recent things I bought there. Earlier than this, I found ,I don’t recall how many, but buttloads of REAL Chicken Soup for the Soul titles and FULL VERSION, NO GUFF! I bought them indeed. I possibly look like a ditzy girl tourist in some Paris tour trap every time I go into dollar stores in Canada.

  • bobfairlane

    Curly bulbs suck. Dollar store bulbs are great.

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