15 Secrets Dollar Store Shoppers Need to Know

Dollar stores seem immune to changing consumer interests. The discount chains continue to attract customers who want to save money on necessities. Whether you visit Dollar Tree, Dollar General, or a competitor, check out these tips before shopping. One little-known coupon will make a huge difference in the money you save (page 9).

1. Not all dollar stores are the same

dollar tree store

Dollar Tree | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

There are a few major differences between Dollar Tree and Dollar General stores. But beyond that, even certain Dollar Tree locations can have extremely different merchandise. The product selection at the dollar store near your house might pale in comparison to the larger location on the other side of town. It’s worth checking out several locations while shopping to find the best one.

Next: Most people don’t realize this convenient thing about dollar stores.

2. You can shop online

Hands holding credit card

Online shopping | iStock.com/Popartic

Did you know you can buy dollar store items online? You’ll have to purchase multiples at once, but shopping online can come in handy if you’re stocking up on school supplies or throwing a party and need a bunch of dollar store decorations or favors.

Next: This is the best time to shop for this merchandise.

3. Shop early for holiday stuff

Christmas decor on bench

Christmas decorations | SolVasquez/iStock/Getty Images

The sooner you shop for all your holiday décor and accessories, the better selection you’ll find. Dollar Tree is known for their huge selection of holiday items that are perfect for parties or just making your home look festive. But everyone knows this already — so be sure to shop early to get the good stuff before it sells out.

Next: Find the best merchandise when you do this.

4. Visit the store regularly

lady shopping with a full filled cart

Lady shopping with a full filled cart | Freer Law/iStock/Getty Images

The more often you shop, the better items you’ll be able to find. The constantly changing selection is part of the reason people love shopping at the dollar store so much — it’s like a discount treasure hunt with something new to discover every time.

Next: Here’s the one thing you should do while you’re there.

5. Shop every aisle

Dollar General aisle

Dollar General aisle | Excel23/Wikimedia Commons

Think you don’t need anything in the housewares aisle? You might be surprised. Dollar store organization isn’t always logical, and you could find something you never knew you needed in an unexpected place. Take the time to go up and down every aisle and find some treasures.

Next: Keep a close eye on this detail to get the best deals.

6. Be wary of sizing

Travel size beauty products

Travel-sized products | JulyProkopiv/iStock/Getty Images

Not everything for sale at the dollar store is a great bargain. Pay close attention to the sizing of whatever you’re purchasing and then calculate the price per ounce or item. Sometimes you’ll pay less per unit for a larger size. For example, one dollar for four rolls of paper towels equals 25 cents per roll. But at warehouse clubs, you’ll often find name brand paper towels for 17 cents per roll or less. In those cases, you’re better off buying in bulk.

Next: People are surprised to find this at the dollar store.

7. Check for brand names

Boxes of General Mills brand cereals are displayed at Scotty's Market

Cereal | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

You might be surprised by how many brand name items you can find at the dollar store. Check each aisle for national brand merchandise in slightly different sizing than you’ll find at traditional retail stores. Savvy dollar store shoppers look for items like brand name loaves of bread as some of the best bargains.

Next: This is one thing you should never buy at the dollar store.

8. Don’t buy your vitamins at the dollar store


| Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A Consumer Reports study found that many of the vitamins at the dollar store didn’t have the percentage of nutrients that the bottle claimed. Yes, they may be cheap, but in this case you get what you pay for. Purchasing name brand vitamins is a much safer option.

Next: Use these little-known coupons for even more savings.

9. They accept manufacturer coupons

scissors with grocery coupons

Coupons | Kreinick/iStock/Getty Images

Did you know you can use coupons at the dollar store? Dollar Tree accepts manufacturer coupons if they match up to the item being purchased (size, brand, quantity, etc.) and it’s not a store-specific coupon, like one from Target or Walmart. You can only use coupons for an amount greater than one dollar but the total discount amount will be reduced to one dollar.

Next: Get paid to shop at the dollar store with this easy trick.

10. Save even more with rebate apps

iPhone 4s screen with app store and settings

Apps | bedo/iStock/Getty Images

Install rebate apps such as IbottaCheckout 51, and MobiSave before heading to check out. Often you’ll find cash-back offers for products that also have coupons. Use a coupon at the register then submit a photo of your receipt to the apps for even more savings.

Next: This is the major issue with always shopping at dollar stores.

11. They don’t always have the best deals

Dollar General

Dollar General | Random Retail/Wikimedia Commons

It’s understood that a lot of things you’ll find at the dollar store, especially off-brand merchandise, might be worse quality compared to name brand items. At the end of the day, you’re better off paying five dollars for a spatula that lasts forever than you are getting the dollar store version that breaks the first time you use it.

Next: This can be a big problem with dollar store items.

12. Certain items can be toxic

Shower curtain on shower curtain rod

Shower curtain | iStock.com/fusaromike

Concerned about toxins in your home? Then there are certain dollar store staples you’ll want to avoid. Items such as plastic shower curtains and children’s toys contained disturbing amounts of potentially harmful chemicals that you’re better off steering clear from.

Next: This one thing pays for itself.

13. You can buy the Sunday paper

Man sitting on sofa reading newspaper

Newspaper | Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

You don’t have to subscribe to the newspaper all year to enjoy the Sunday comics and sale ads. Head to the dollar store and get a discount on the Sunday paper each week, which pays for itself when you clip just a few coupons and use them.

Next: Never skip this one section.

14. Always check the clearance section

Dollar General

Dollar General register | Excel23/Wikimedia Commons

Some people are surprised to find that even the dollar store has a clearance section where you can find a bunch of awesome merchandise for even less than a buck. Check in after holidays to score fantastic bargains on decorations for the next year.

Next: Here’s why you should keep an open mind while shopping.

15. You can repurpose certain items


Baskets | littleny/iStock/Getty Images

The dollar store doesn’t have everything, but if you have a bit of creativity, there are plenty of ways you can repurpose what’s there. Use baskets for organizing just about anything, magazine holders for storage, plastic hooks for hanging frames, and so much more.

Read more: 15 Surprising Products You Should Always Buy at the Dollar Store

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!