8 of the Best Things You Can Buy for $1 These Days

At one time or another, most of us have had people tell us clichéd stories about how when they were a kid, bread was only a dime or a can of soda was only a nickel. Today, these costs seem unheard of to us, as you can’t really buy much of anything with a nickel, dime or even a quarter — except for when you visit a gumball machine.

A dollar would have been worth $13.54 in 1944, and if we go further back to 1914, this value rises to $23.83, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Inflation Calculator. Of course, those days have long since passed. These days, we’re told more and more to use caution and compare cost with value. We’re even warned against buying certain items from dollar stores, items like toys, beauty supplies, and electronics.

It may be a good idea to steer clear of the imitation fancy perfume courtesy of guy on the street corner for a price of $1. However, there are quite a few things you can get for $1 that are still a pretty decent buy.

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1. A pack of pens or crayons

Yes, we can buy a pack of standard pens for about $1. We can also buy a 24-pack of crayons or a 10-pack of colored pencils for children. Other office supplies — highlighters, notebooks, and possibly even staples — are available at discount stores for a price of $1, as well.

About 50 years ago (in the 1960s), however, we could buy three gallons of gas or 20 world class postage stamps for the same price.

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2. Books at the thrift store

Most thrift stores sell books for anywhere between 25 cents and $1. And we’re not talking about books from authors you’ve never heard of — they sell hits from renowned authors, too. Why are the they so cheap? Well, the books are donated, so the thrift store therefore turns around and sells these titles to consumers for inexpensive prices. Generally, it works out well for everyone.

With the price of new best-selling books being anywhere between $15 and $50 a pop, the thrift store’s $1 books are a great deal.

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3. Certain food items

You can still purchase a variety of foods for less than $1. Canned foods (especially veggies), bananas, condiments, candy, and beverages are a few examples of items you can easily find for under the $1 price point. Some fast food restaurants even sell prepared foods, like small hamburgers and french fries, for 99 cents.

But according to Dummies, in the 1960s, we could buy a lot of foods for less than $1 — hence our parents’ “When I was a kid” stories. Here are the costs of some common foods in 1965:

  • Gallon of milk: 95 cents
  • One regular-size bottle of Heinz ketchup: 22 cents
  • One dozen eggs: 53 cents
  • One-ounce Hershey bar: 5 cents
  • Pillsbury cake mix: 25 cents
  • Pound of sirloin steak: 85 cents
  • Six-pack of Pepsi: 59 cents

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4. A broom or cleaning supplies

Dollar stores and discount stores sell brooms for around $1. The $1 broom you buy from the discount store may not be the best-looking broom and it may not be the best-quality broom you’ve ever purchased, but it will get the job done. Even if it breaks after a few months of use, it still serves as a floor-sweeping tool for a price of $1, which is a pretty good deal.

You can also find mops, squeegees, spray cleaners, sponges, and other cleaning supplies for under the $1 price mark.

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5. Knick knacks

For those who enjoy decorating with items like snow globes, angel figurines or candles, knick knacks may be right up your alley. Discount stores and thrift stores are a great place to find little decorations to place on shelves or inside a curio cabinet.

Picture frames can also be purchased for $1. Although you may not find elegant or extravagant frames at the dollar price mark, you can still find something that will hold a document, showcase a picture, or display something else that’s important to you.

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6. Handsoap

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “researchers in London estimate that if everyone routinely washed their hands, a million deaths a year could be prevented.” Washing our hands is ingrained in us: wash after the restroom, before you eat, after you eat, in the morning, and anytime you get your hands dirty.

Hand soap and even antibacterial hand sanitizer are household essentials. In the average household, you can find a hand soap and maybe even a sanitizer at every sink. Fortunately, you can easily find a quality hand soap with a price tag of $1.

You can also find shampoo and conditioner for $1, as well. Some of the lower-priced brands, like Suave Naturals, generally cost around 89 cents.   

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7. A few pictures

A picture is worth a thousand words – and about 10 cents at Walmart. These days, many of us snap pictures with cellphones and mobile devices. Then, we upload these pics to computers, save them to the cloud or onto our hard drive, and we forget to print them out.

The way we take and store photos has changed quite a bit over the past 20 or 30 years, from the Polaroid camera to the film rolls we’d bring to the store to today’s memory cards and smartphones. If you think about it, $1 for a small stack of printed pictures is a pretty good value.

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8. A chance to earn more money

Although the chance to earn any real money is small, you can buy anywhere from one share to a few hundred shares of penny stock for $1. Most financial professionals say that when dealing with penny stocks, it’s wise to read all disclaimers, avoid being glamoured by success stories, focus on high-volume stocks, be wary of short selling, and finally, if you see a return, sell your stock quickly.

While a dollar won’t stretch too far these days, it can still buy a few useful items. At the end of the day, it’s important to keep in mind that even though a dollar is a small amount of money, each one counts, no matter how many we have.

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