What to Buy and Not to Buy from the Dollar Store

I swear every time I go into a real dollar store I can’t leave without buying things I don’t need. It’s so tempting when it’s all only a dollar!   I have found through personal experience and others some things that are worth buying, and some that are not.  What I do like about the dollar store (Dollar Tree, $.99 Store, etc) is that because all their items are only a $1, you know can get a price point on every day prices.  If you can find it for $1 at one of these stores and see it elsewhere for more, you know it’s overpriced.  Of course, always consider the quality of the item but in general it will give you an idea.  So here we go!  Here is a list of things to buy and not to buy at the Dollar Stores:

Things To Buy:

Sunday Paper - upwards of $2 in many areas, some dollar stores will have them for $1… this is a great deal.

Party Supplies – Foil balloons are about $3-$8 at Party and Grocery stores! A reader just let me know that she has kept the balloon and when it lost it’s helium, took it back in and the refilled it for free.  Family Dollar and Dollar General have the foil balloons for only $1.50. They often have decorative birthday candles, gift bags (large and small), wrapping paper, colorful plates and napkins, favor boxes, birthday banners and other party supplies for only a dollar.  I found cupcake liners with little toothpick flags there as well-similar ones at the grocery store were $3.50.

Reading Glasses – I have never needed these, but I have seen them for about $5 at drug stores and they look like the same product.

Name Brand Make Up – I have seen name brands (Maybelline and Covergirl) at my Dollar Tree. It’s totally worth getting those items for a dollar! I had a blush brush from a private make up company that broke after a couple years, and one day just grabbed one from the Dollar Tree that is still going strong today. You can also get 5 combs for $1, and lots of different types of brushes. Great for kids to take to sleepovers when you don’t think you’ll see them again!

Hair bands – Dollar Tree has tons of Scuunci brand hair ties and head bands!  Headbands are $8-$15  at the mall.  I have bought headbands at the dollar tree and refinished them into cute little products for my nieces.  The dollar stores also have those hand little plastic hair ties, bows and clips, hair claws and scrunchies.

Name Brand cleaners – Occasionally you will run across those, grab them if you do. You can also use the regular $1 cleaning supplies they have. Oxygen cleaners, window cleaners, those types of things. They were tested and found to be almost the same ingredient wise, but maybe a little more watered down. For everyday cleaning I wouldn’t mind using off brand supplies. But if they’re not as concentrated you might want to get the “real” stuff for bigger jobs. I probably wouldn’t buy the laundry detergent. I have found that laundry detergent is one area it’s worth splurging on.

Microfiber scrubbers – The quality might not be as high, but they’ll do just as good a job and you won’t pay nearly as much.

Rubber gloves – These run about $3 a pair anywhere else, so if you need a pair don’t be afraid to buy them here! Once you start using them when you clean you will wonder why you have never used them before.

Off Brand Magic Erasers – I haven’t had to use these yet as my one baby is still being an angel, but I have heard they work just as good and they’re half the price at 2 for $1.

Trash bags – I know some people would say no-but I bought some in a pinch one time and as long as you didn’t let it get too full, they were just fine. I would prefer the name brand, but when you need trash bags you need trash bags :) You can also find doggy poop bags (the ones the come on a roll), and my personal favorite because they make you look like super Mom when you pull one out, the little blue baby powder scented individual diaper bags. If you have to change a poopy diaper somewhere, you can put the diaper in the little scented trash bag and don’t have to worry about where you toss it, or leaving it in the diaper bag til you get home. I was so happy a friend had bought these for me when I was at a friend’s baby shower and had nowhere to throw the diaper.

Seasonal Items – I have bought strings of 100 lights at Christmas time for $1 when they were $4 everywhere else. I found those LARGE novelty ornaments for $1 when they were $8 at Hobby Lobby, and I quite a few other cute seasonal items. Sometimes the quality is questionable, so use your judgement, but I think there are some great finds at the Dollar STores on seasonal items.

Pregnancy Tests – I have learned from the 13 nieces and nephews I have that a pregnancy test is a pregnancy test. I told my husband for a week that I knew I was pregnant and he didn’t believe me. Finally one night I convinced him to at least let us grab a couple tests from Dollar Tree. AFter all, it was only $2. I took the tests and of course my intuition was right, a second very faint line showed up. We were excited, but he was still skeptical of the faint pink line. “I am not going to let the Dollar Tree decide something as important as our first child, I want a clear “YES you are pregnant or NO you aren’t!” So we went to Wal Mart and spent $15 on 2 of the digital tests. They gave us the exact same result.

Cooking and dining items – Dollar Tree carries Betty Crocker brand utensils, you can get apple corers and slicers, cutting boards, bowls, spoons, knives, can openers, and tons of essential kitchen items, all for $1.
Prices for many of these items start at $2 elsewhere.

Children’s books – often times they have large coloring books, regular books, board books and others.

Home Essential Supplies – Paint trays, tape, buckets, brooms, seeds and even 10lb bags of potting soil can be found for only $1. Those are great buys because more often than not, the quality isn’t what is important. A paint tray is a paint tray, and a bucket is a bucket.

Greeting Cards – They have some durn cute cards at the dollar stores, and many have a section where you can get 2 for a $1. At that price, you can stock up and have them on hand should you suddenly need one.  They’re also the only ones I know of who carry those over sized novelty birthday cards consistently.


Laundry detergent – I have mentioned this, but I would stay away from laundry detergent that isn’t name brand or you haven’t used before. I have had some clothes ruined from borrowing detergent from someone I didn’t know (Laundromat, college, not the brightest idea)… and all my clothes came out slightly lighter than when they went in. It’s also not worth it if you are having to use triple of the cheap stuff to get the same result.

Air fresheners – I know Dollar General has them for about 3 for $1.50, so getting 1 for $1 isn’t that much of a steal.

Toilet Paper – I don’t think this needs further explanation.

Dish wand and scrubbers – They just don’t seem to last as long, you can just take one look at them and know they will fall apart very quickly. Sometimes it’s OK to pay more for something that will last longer.

Vitamins – A study showed that the labels might not be giving you the correct amount of what is actually in the bottle. If you are buying Vitamins, go with a known brand or trusted store brand.

School Supplies – When I made the teacher vase, I saw that you could get 16 pencils for $1. Not that bad of a price, especially for the very cute decorative ones kids love. But I had got my pack of 24 pencils from last year’s school sale at CVS for I think free, or almost free. School supplies are best bought when they are on sale at the end of summer. I know Wal Mart has the big pack (48 ct? I forget) of crayons for $.24, whereas the Dollar Tree has 48 for $1. And Dollar Tree’s crayons were very waxy.  Although the poster board is usually 2 for $1, and that’s pretty good.  But we are talking real supplies here.

Ibuprofen, aspirin and other medicines – Medicines should be bought with care, and I personally prefer to buy them from a trusted drug store (especially when I have a coupon and they’re on sale). It’s worth the piece of mind.

Canned food – A lot of time the canned food is an off brand, and it’s still a $1 a can. You can often find name brand canned goods on sale for $1 or even less.

Batteries – Cheap batteries won’t last as long and have a larger chance of leaking acids and ruining your $15 Maglite. Just saying.

Electrical cords – I have several cords I have purchased at the Dollar Stores, and I don’t use them with anything that I would be heartbroken if it exploded.  I just read that sentence and then thought, “Wait, why would I use them if I thought something would explode…”  Hmmm.  I might need to invest in some from another store. Anyway, some of them have been recalled, and some are not UL approved, and sometimes the dollar store electronics are mislabeled, so be careful.

Toothpaste – I don’t know why any couponer would ever pay for this anyway, but be careful about buying it at the dollar stores. Some of the toothpaste from China was found to have traces of chemicals similar to what you find in anti-freeze. Awesome.  I do know that Dollar Tree carries Colgate brand, so maybe that’s OK, but I actually haven’t paid for toothpaste in years and I don’t plan on starting anytime soon!

I hope this list is able to help you out! Feel free to add to it by leaving a comment, it’s nice to learn from other people!

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  1. Heather B says:

    I am so glad you posted this – I have wondered about some of those things. I never feel bad about buying tons of myler balloons at Dollar Tree. If you keep your receipt, you can have them blow up the balloons for you on a later date, and even at a different location. :)

    • For reals!!! I didn’t know you could blow them up again-I am going to include that :)

      • Heather B says:

        Let me clarify: if you purchase balloons on a Monday and do not need them unti l Saturday – keep your receipt. You do not have to get the balloons filled w/helium immediately after purchasing them. I am not familiar w/how long you can wait to fill them – and always call and check first just in case employees are not familiar w/that. I did not mean to imply you get 2 helium fills for the same balloon. :/

  2. Jayel Kirby says:

    About the toothpaste – I once bought toothpaste at a dollar store. Let me repeat … ONCE! The tube said it was Crest, regular flavor, but actually turned out to be something more like Colgate. I’m thinking that if it wasn’t what the label said, I don’t want to know what it is. I’m glad you put it on the “don’t buy” list.

  3. I would like to add: chocolate, unless it’s name brand or actually lists chocolate or cocoa as one of the ingredients. I’ve seen some Christmas candies there recently that actually say “chocolate flavored” on the package.

    • Good call. I bought some Christmas bells there last year and while they were edible, would not be a second purchase.

  4. Dang, I just bought some Colgate from there fairly recently, and Christmas lights. Scared now!

    • I would trust the Colgate brand, Donna! I bet that’s safe. I wouldn’t go with a brand I didn’t recognize though. Also, I bought little candle lights there this Christmas and they were fine for me!

  5. You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the most useful blogs on the net.

    I’m going to recommend this web site!

  6. ” I personally prefer to buy medicines from a trusted drug store (especially when I have a coupon and they’re on sale)”

    Best place to get meds is always Costco or Sam’s. Their prices blow away all competitors, including Walmart and the dollar stores.


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