Save a Little: Which Items Should You Buy at a Dollar Store?

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Recently, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar agreed to a merger. According to The New York Times, this merger will allow the stores to provide lower prices to customers, while also witnessing higher profits. The two stores offer different types of supplies, but both are known as stores you should shop at in order to get a great deal. Although dollar stores in general are cheaper than many other stores that carry similar merchandise, many people avoid them because they are not sure whether or not the merchandise is worth buying.

Dollar stores are also an ideal place to waste money: even if you save a few dollars, you will probably lose it immediately by indulging in impulse buys that seem like a good deal. In addition, some items are best bought at a traditional grocery store (or other store), with reliable name brands. So how do you know which items can be purchased at a dollar store?

According to MarketWatch, certain items should be avoided. Bath towels, although cheap, will not last as long as more expensive towel, and may even shrink. Children’s toys are often cheaply made (which is why they often cost a $1 at these stores) and can be a poor choice. There is also the chance that the toys might be a safety hazard if they are not made well. Conditioners and shampoos are another waste of money, as the brands are often lesser known, and you can usually find several affordable, name-brand shampoos and conditioners on sale at most major grocery or other stores.

Food and drinks at dollar stores may seem like a good deal, but they often are sold in very small amounts, which means they are not really a great deal at all. Many food items also come from brands that the consumers haven’t heard of, but if you are comfortable with this, the food can sometimes be a good deal. Occasionally dollar stores have name-brand food that is much cheaper than traditional grocery stores.

Cleaning supplies at dollar stores are a little trickier. While you probably want to avoid bigger items (like a broom) because they are often poorly made and won’t last long, certain cleaners will be a good deal. Items like baby wipes or antibacterial soap might seem like a good deal, but the prices are often comparable at other stores. Sometimes dollar stores also have name-brand makeup and other health items. You don’t always have to have the new brand, either. Just like at a traditional grocery store, some off-brands work just as well as name-brands; sometimes figuring out which items work well requires trial and error.

As far as items you definitely should buy at a dollar store, there are many. Dollar stores are a great place to prepare for a party. You can often find a wide range of birthday decorations, cups, plates, and napkins, and they are often less expensive than at a party store. Many dollar stores also have a range of books, and although you won’t have much luck looking for a particular book, you might find something if you are just looking for something to pass the time. Greeting cards are another great buy at a dollar store.

Although some of the kids’ toys are poorly made, there are other kid-related items that you can purchase. Candy and decorations for Halloween, Christmas, and other holidays are often a good deal. There are also kids’ activities books that can be a great deal. Dollar stores can also be a great place to get art supplies; for example, you can get a cheap picture frame and decorate it.

Batteries are one item that people seem to argue about when it comes to purchasing the cheaper brands. According to Wired, it really doesn’t matter if you buy name-brand batteries or batteries at the dollar store, because the price will all even out in the end. Cheaper batteries cost less, so you have to replace them more often, but more expensive batteries that last longer cost more. However, your decision should be made partially on what you are going to use the batteries for as well.

The merger has left some people wondering if Family Dollar stores will end up closing. While dollar stores are popular, it’s difficult to answer this question, especially since Target and other stores now have its own dollar areas. What we do know is that you can currently get a good deal at many of these stores, as long as you make smart purchasing decisions.

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