Top 10 Bargains at the Dollar Store …and What to Avoid
January 22, 2014
Yes, I love bargains. I will push my cart unashamed through the dollar store. But I’ve had to realize that just because it doesn’t cost much doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bargain. In my book, the item must meet certain criteria before I classify it in my “bargain” category:
- It has to be of acceptable quality. I say “acceptable” because, c’mon, it cost a buck! But neither do we want to throw away our precious dollar if the item can’t function for its intended use.
- It has to really be the cheapest price. Beware paying a dollar for an item you an buy for 65 cents somewhere else! This goes back to being a savvy shopper and knowing your prices.
- It has to be something you actually use. This may seem obvious to some folks, but I remember times in my naive, teenage years spending hard-earned dollars on stuff I thought was a bargain, but ended up sitting in a shoe box under my bed.
Top 10 Dollar Store Bargains
Now that we’ve got that settled, here’s my list of the top bargains you can score at the dollar store:
- Gift wrapping supplies. If you don’t read any farther, you will probably save the most with the #1 super saver. Gift bags (even the huge ones), tissue paper, curling ribbon and rolls of wrapping paper are all… drumroll… a buck! Compare that to prices at Walmart or (yuck) the grocery store, and you might just faint.
- Organizing bins and baskets. Super for organizing bathroom drawers, cosmetics, kids toys, camping supplies, you name it. Some are cute enough for displaying. In the summer I use a flexible, lime green basket to hold my S’mores supplies; when we head out to the fire pit by the pond, it’s a simple matter of grab-n-go! You can’t buy a silverware tray anywhere else for less either.
- Pails. A rural living necessity. We use them in the garden, to water chickens, and to corral cleaning supplies. My husband steals them from the house to mix bleach water and use for oil changes. And if they crack, no biggie! (This is where “acceptable” quality is just fine because any pail would die if subjected to some of the abuse we can dish out.)
- Metal chip clips. Love these things! Just make sure you get metal ones instead of plastic, and they’ll last forever. I purchased a card of 6 for $1, and use them ALL the time.
- Organic, No MSG, Gluten Free food. Depending on when inventory is stocked, and what your local dollar store carries, you can score some amazingly good deals on food items. Our store carries Onion Soup Mix without MSG and no trans fats (hard to find), and has 3 in a box! There’s also organic broth, spices, whole flaxseed, and more.
- For kids. Foam sheets, popsicle sticks, poster board, stickers, coloring books, glow sticks, and more. You can’t find playing cards cheaper, especially if you need a Canasta deck (6 decks of regular poker cards).
- First aid. I hate spending more for fabric band-aids at Walmart, but plastic ones never stay on. So when I found boxes of 30 regular, fabric band-aids for $1 I was pretty thrilled. You can also get triple antibiotic ointment and benadryl cream, some staples for a home first aid kit. My folks like to purchase nasal spray at the dollar store too – comparable prices at Walmart are around $4 — and when you get over a cold you can just throw the bottle away.
- Cleaning supplies. Scrub brushes, dish scrubbies (= never having to touch yucky stuck-on food), pails/caddies, rubber gloves etc.
- Seasonal stuff. Some holiday decor is pretty cute; they also have an abundance of picks (bunches of imitation greenery, berries, flowers, holly, etc) to create your own wreaths or add to gift baskets.
- Wedding decor and party supplies. We used a lot of glass vases from the dollar store in our wedding. Plastic tablecloths, party cups, crepe paper streamers, etc., are great for any celebration.
What to Avoid at the Dollar Store
This post would not be complete without mentioning “the dark side of the dollar store.” Because there are things you should definitely NOT buy there, because it doesn’t meet the criterion I mention above, or because it’s not safe.
- Tools. As far as I have seen, all the tools and auto gadgets at our dollar store are basically junk. They don’t have the quality to stand up to real use.
- Toilet paper and paper towels. I’ve never seen these items end up being a good trade for my dollar — they are either overpriced compared to what you can get somewhere else, or the quality is so abysmal that you’ll swear to never make that mistake again.
- Plastic food storage. Some folks might disagree with me, but dollar store plastic foodware scares me a bit; I am pretty picky about what ends up inside my family. The exception to this may be if you carefully read labels to make sure that it’s BPA free and never microwave in plastic.
- Toys. Unless you have a hankering to have junk toys clutter your house, I would usually avoid buying dollar store toys. They break, they’re cheap, they’re often lame; it’s like they’ve got the shortest half-life ever.
- Snacks. Most of the snacks (at our store anyway) are highly processed, full of refined flour, high in sugar, and full of unpronounceable ingredients I don’t want inside my family. The caveat here is if you choose with a discerning eye (not a hungry tummy) and read the labels.
- Anything you don’t NEED. Yep. Nailed ya on that one, didn’t I? But seriously, if it’s important to you to live simply and avoid becoming enslaved to excessive stuff, then anything you purchase that you don’t actually need or use is simply junk.
So there you have it. What bargains do you buy at the dollar store? What do you never buy at the dollar store? Leave a comment and join the conversation!