What to Buy at a Dollar Store

what to buy at the dollar store

There’s nothing like a good dollar store, but how do you know if what you’re getting is really a bargain or just junk? The September Issue of ShopSmart Magazine gives us the answers, with a great story on what one should, and shouldn’t, buy from the local dollar store. Here’s some tips.

4 Things You Should Buy at the Dollar Store

Based on the unit price, these items are steals at the dollar store.

  • Heavy-duty Aluminum Foil: At 3 cents per square foot, the dollar store can’t be beat on price.
  • Gift Wrap: Dollar stores had the cheapest price at 2 cents per square foot versus 17 cents at one grocery store. But, skip the tissue paper. It’s more expensive at dollar stores.
  • Cotton Rounds: For something used everyday to remove makeup, the savings could really add up over time.
  • Party Supplies: Gift bags, ribbon, greeting cards, decorations and balloons are all great buys.

Hit or Miss at the Dollar Store

These items tend to be similarly priced at the dollar store and other retail locations.

  • Birthday Candles: Some dollar stores had the cheapest price while others had the highest.
  • Brown Paper Bags: Dollar stores tied with most other stores except CVS, which charged more.
  • Composition Notebooks: Find these for 1 cent per page at dollar, discount and grocery stores.
  • 16 Ounce Plastic Cups: Prices at dollar stores were among the cheapest at 5 cents per cup, but these cups could be found for a good price elsewhere.
  • Napkins: At ½ cent per napkin, they are cheap at many stores.
  • Security Envelopes: Most stores sold a box of 40 for 1 dollar, so buy these anyplace except CVS which charges 6 cents per envelope.
  • Foam Plates: 8- or 9-inch foam places could be found for about 3 cents a plate.

What You Definitely Should Not Buy at a Dollar Store

ShopSmart tested these items in their labs and found many of them fell short of safety standards.

  • Dangers to Kids: Even with warning labels, party favors and toys with small parts should be avoided as they can become lodged in a child’s throat. Also avoid bottles containing potentially harmful substances. For example, bubble-blowing liquid in containers that look like soda bottles and baby bottles, do not have a label to identify the liquid for Poison Control in case a child drinks it.
  • Fire Hazards: Skip tiki torches (they can catch on fire) and utility lighters (even if they have a “child-proof” latch). Novelty lighters can also be a hazard if they are mistaken as a toy.
  • Electrical Products: Extension cords, lamps and other items may have fake UL labels vouching for their safety.
  • Medication: Aspirin and other meds can be on shelves long past their expiration date.
  • Vitamins: Some dollar store multis do not have the amount of nutrients listed on the label.
  • Kids’ Jewelry: Older products containing high lead content might still be sold in dollar stores, even though they were recalled in recent years.

Readers, tell us, what items have you been happy with from the dollar store?

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Catherine Brock

Catherine Brock is a writer, editor and marketer who's been sharing wisdom online since 2002. She's been featured on DrLaura.com, Wellness.com and ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis and KCAL9 Los Angeles. Connect with Catherine on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter. Learn more about Catherine.
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