Dollar stores are a bargain hunter’s dream come true. Household basics, party supplies, decor, and snacks—all for the low price of one dollar. Another perk of dollar store prices? You won’t lose track of how much you’ll be spending as you put things in the cart.
But one thing to consider before your shopping trip is whether dollar store prices are actually a good deal. Some things you can find a considerable discount on, while others are of such poor quality or sold in such small quantities that the $1 price tag just isn’t worth it.
Do you want to know how to get the most bang out of your dollar(s) at a dollar store? This guide to what you should and shouldn’t buy at the dollar store will help.
What You Should Always Buy at the Dollar Store
Wondering what you should always buy at the dollar store? Cross these items off your regular shopping list and look for them instead at your local dollar store:
Some of the best deals you can find are on paper goods, such as paper plates, table cloths, cutlery, and napkins. The quality may not beat a pricier brand, but for something that will be tossed anyway, that usually doesn’t matter. Stock up on paper products for parties, cookouts, and nights you just don’t feel like doing the dishes.
There’s no need to spend big bucks on a simple, clever greeting card for a friend or loved one. Dollar stores often sell cards two for $1, which is a steal compared to the cards that retail at $3 or more at other stores. The cards may not be glittery, but they will do the trick.
Wrapping Paper and Gift Bags
While you’re at it, pick up something to wrap your present in. The price tag on these at a big retailer is ridiculous. Save money on holidays and gifts by saving on your wrapping supplies.
Dollar stores have some surprisingly attractive home decor and holiday decorations. Decorate your home for each season and actually make it look great without blowing through your budget. You can find decorations for every holiday when the respective season comes along. You may even find some nice Christmas stockings and ornaments.
Going on a trip? You can usually find name brand samples and travel-size toothpaste, deodorant, soap, shampoo, and more at a better deal than at major retailers. You’ll also find great deals on regular-sized toiletries as well.
Need a baby shower gift? Working on building your child’s home library? Children’s books usually cost $7 and up, but you can find great books for kids, toddlers, and babies at the dollar store. You might consider buying a few to keep on hand for birthday parties and baby gifts.
Often you can find great puzzles for kids and adults at a cheap price. They’re great for a vacation or trip—you won’t stress out as much over lost pieces thanks to the dollar store prices.
This might come as a surprise, but dollar store pregnancy tests are just as sensitive as name brands that retail at $7 or more. If you’re trying to get pregnant and going through a lot of tests, you might as well get the cheap (but effective) ones.
School and Office Supplies
Find everything you need for back-to-school shopping or a home office: pencils, crayons, paper, tape, scissors, folders, and binders. You can even get bubble mailing envelopes.
Look for picture frames, candles, vases, and more that look great—but don’t have a high price tag. You can decorate your home and make it look nice with one trip to the dollar store.
What You Should Not Buy at the Dollar Store
For some products, the $1 “bargain” is actually too good to be true. While there are many items you definitely want to get at the dollar store, there are others you should skip over. Here’s what you should not buy at the dollar store:
While dollar store food is safe and you can often find name brands, it isn’t always the best bargain. Wondering why food at the dollar store is so cheap? It’s often sold in smaller quantities or smaller sizes. Ultimately that might mean you need to buy more. Sometimes the food is a dollar store brand instead of a recognizable national brand, and those can be hit or miss on flavor and quality.
If you’re having a tough month and need to make it until your next paycheck for a big grocery store trip, the dollar store food section can tide you over. Be careful, though, about canned foods, which you can find at regular grocery stores for less than a dollar.
Dollar store paper towels usually aren’t worth the dollar store prices. They are smaller and come with larger sheets, so you run through them more quickly. You’ll end up saving more overall with larger rolls from other stores, or just by using reusable cloths.
Be careful with dollar store toys. Cheap prices make them appealing, but the toys are definitely low quality and have a large chance of falling apart and disappointing your child. If you just need something small and cheap, like party prizes or something for your kid to fiddle with while traveling, they might fit the bill—just recognize they aren’t going to hold up over time.
Pet food at the dollar store isn’t going to be the best quality around. It may be closer to its expiration date or made overseas by off brands. Pet toys and food dishes, on the other hand, are great buys at dollar store prices.
Germ-killing products flew off the shelves in 2020, but think twice before buying a dollar store brand. Many off-brand hand sanitizers have been recalled because they are dangerous, and this includes some available at dollar stores. Stick to name brands at other retailers.
If it goes on your skin, just say no. Makeup and other beauty products sold at dollar stores may be watered down or made with low-quality ingredients that can irritate your skin.
Dollar stores are fun and quirky places to shop, and they can be especially helpful when things are tight in your budget. There are plenty of deals to be had, but not all dollar store prices are actually a bargain. Next time you take a trip to your local dollar store, keep this list in mind so you can make sure to spend your money well. Change your dollar store shopping habits so you can make the most of your money.
Looking for more ways to save money? Discover 11 common spending leaks and figure out where your money is going.