I love dollar stores because they have great deals on so many different types of products, ranging from plates and cups to toiletries and crafts. Dollar stores are simple and quiet, there is an amazing variety of merchandise and everything is only a buck, not to mention the fact that you’ll never have to compare brands or prices from different stores, because really, can you get any cheaper? Despite all the great deals, there are a few pitfalls to dollar store shopping, and these are some tips for getting the most out of a trip to the dollar store.
How To Shop At The Dollar Store
Before setting out for the dollar store, make a list of items that are needed. If you are only buying a few items, do not use a shopping cart since it may be tempting to fill it with things that are not on the list. Impulse buys can bust the budget because shoppers often do not realize how many items they have tossed into their cart. While it is fine to give in to temptation once in a while, it is important not to overspend. Shoppers who cannot keep an accurate count of their budget or costs can use a pocket calculator or smartphone to keep track of their spending habits.
Toys, books and games may be the best bargains available in dollar stores. Crayons and coloring books, plastic toy cars and water pistols are standard fare for young children and are priced far less than similar products in discount stores. Items for infants like bottles, bibs, wash cloths, spoons and dishes are great buys, but for safety reasons it is usually best to buy name brand, age-appropriate toys for infants. If you need goody bags or prizes for a kid’s party, the dollar store is the best place to shop.
Shoppers looking for big name brands will be disappointed since personal care items, detergents and cleaning supplies are usually off brands. No Hallmark greeting cards, Tide, Dawn or Fabreeze are found on these shelves. For consumers who are willing to try different brands, the dollar store has some great buys. Coupons are usually not accepted so extreme couponers may find better deals elsewhere. Consumers may not be able to use EBT cards since many dollar stores do not accept these government issued debit cards.
Greeting Cards and Wrapping Paper
Greeting cards are generally priced at $3.00 or more, so a greeting card for $1.00 is a money saver. A dollar a roll for wrapping paper is a good deal, but if you have lots of gifts to wrap, check unit pricing on gift wrap. It may be possible to get 50 or more square feet of paper on a roll for $3.99 in big box stores while dollar store gift paper rolls may be as little as 10 square feet, making the price per square foot or unit higher at the dollar store. Gift bags are a real bargain since one or even two bags for a dollar is about half the price charged at discount stores.
Personal Care Items
Cosmetic and personal care products are usually cheaper at the dollar store, but don’t expect name brands at these prices. Shampoos and conditioners are sold in smaller bottles so the savings may not be very much, especially when compared to bargain brands like Suave and White Rain. Nail polish, polish remover and make up are usually good values, but selection is limited. Disposable razors and feminine hygiene products are the real deals when compared to product prices in other stores.
On the other hand, there are certain personal care items you just should not buy here. Take caution when buying hygiene or feminine products that may adversely affect your health. Though pregnancy tests, tampons, pads, and vitamins may be cheaper at dollar stores, consider paying the premium for these essential healthcare products.
Home, Crafts, and Holiday Decorating
Dollar store crafts are one of the best categories for savings here. Ornaments, garland, window and wall decorations for Halloween, Christmas and Independence Day make decorating for holidays affordable for most families. Indoor and outdoor light strings should be checked for UL approval since safety is more important than price. Table runners, table clothes, dishes, glasses, artificial flowers, scented candles and other decorative household items are great deals. Kitchen utensils are another money saver offered in these stores. The beauty of buying these products so cheap at dollar stores is that, if they break, stain, or get worn out quickly, you won’t feel bad because replacing anything is extremely affordable.
Party supplies like paper plates, cups, table clothes and streamers are cheap and readily available, but other paper goods like paper towels and toilet tissue may not be much of a bargain. The off brand paper towels sold at dollar stores usually have large or very thin sheets so they are used faster. Additionally, the rolls are often smaller than those of name brands. Toilet tissue is sold in single rolls or double packs and may be cheaper per roll at larger retailers offering six or eight packs. Let’s face it, you aren’t in college anymore, you probably want to buy the soft toilet paper and paper towels, instead of wiping with sand paper.
Dollar stores have good deals on snack food, candy and cookies, but canned foods are cheaper in supermarkets. The exception is soup which is usually more than $1.00 per can in other stores. The way for consumers to save money is to comparison shop so they get the best prices on the food items they buy. Since dollar stores do not accept coupons, supermarkets are usually a better bet for food and they have a much wider selection of products. Most dollar stores do not carry fresh, refrigerated or frozen foods.
You should also consider the size of packaging, as overall pricing may be misleading you to believe you are getting a better deal, when in fact, you are getting less product too.
While you will not find a large selection of clothing at a dollar store, it is a great place to buy small items like hats, scarves, gloves and socks, especially if you plan on getting dirty or throwing them away after a trip. While these items may not conform to the latest fashion trend, children and adults often lose gloves and socks so it is smart to buy them as cheap as possible. Young kids also outgrow clothes quickly.
Many stores carry undergarments, but it is often cheaper, particularly for children, to buy these items in packages of 5 or 7 at discount department stores. Headbands, brushes, clips and bows are good values for women and girls.
Batteries, Light Bulbs and Hardware
If quality is an issue, dollar stores are not the best place to get tools, although they carry screwdrivers, hammers, pliers, wrenches and wire cutters. These are okay for small jobs like hanging pictures, but the tools will not handle heavy use. Off brand light bulbs and batteries do not last as long as name brands so they are not really a good deal. Light bulbs, in particular, are not energy efficient and may end up costing you more in utility costs than upgrading to a better quality manufacturer. Automotive cleaning products and deodorizers, duck tape, household oil like WD 40, adhesives and glue are the best buys in the dollar store hardware category.
While it is possible to buy mops and brooms, the quality is usually poor so it may be better to spend more money on cleaning supplies that will last longer. Dish drainers, sponges, dish towels and pot holders are better buys. Aerosol and spray cleaners are a good value, but dish and laundry detergents may be sold in smaller packages so it is important to compare prices with similar products in other stores to get the best deals. Room deodorants are generally cheaper than comparable products elsewhere.
Smart consumers can save money at dollar stores, but everyone should do a little research since even at a dollar, a product may not be a good value. You should always shop with a plan and budget to avoid overspending. Comparing prices and shopping frugally gives consumers the most for their money no matter where they choose to shop.