Dollar stores lure us in with rock-bottom prices. Sometimes you get what you pay for, but often the things they sell are good products at a tremendous discount — a real bargain.
Here’s what bargain-shopping experts say are some of the best buys at dollar stores.
1. Greeting cards
There is no reason to spend $5 or more on a greeting card when dollar stores often have a selection available for $1 or less. In fact, the only ways we know of to get greeting cards any cheaper are to make them yourself and to take advantage of Hallmark’s periodic freebies.
Availability at dollar stores can vary, and you might not get textured paper or fancy extras such as ribbons. But the heartfelt message you write inside will be the same regardless of how expensive the card looks.
2. Seasonal decor
From extra ornaments for your Christmas tree to a scarecrow to stake in your front yard in the fall, dollar stores can have a surprisingly robust selection of seasonal decor, as we illustrate in “23 Holiday Items You Should Buy at Dollar Stores.”
Caution: When shopping for holiday lights, buy only those with the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) label showing that they have been tested and verified to be safe. Some electronic items sold at dollar stores are not worth the risk, according to The Washington Post:
“Off-brand electronics can be risky purchases, as their supply chains are not as consistent as the name brands you find at other retailers. Power strips and chargers are likely to be cheaply made and could damage your devices.”
Buy notebooks at a dollar store and save on paper. Mini notebooks are a great way to carry around to-do and grocery lists in a purse or pocket. They’re also nice to have on hand to write notes or for meetings. Kids like composition books for doodling or journaling.
4. Party supplies
You can often save lots by using party supplies from a dollar store. Get party hats, plastic tablecloths, paper plates and cups, streamers and favors — and save a bundle.
Don’t forget to look for Mylar or foil balloons too. These can be an absolute bargain, selling for much more elsewhere.
5. Gift bags, boxes and wrapping paper
While you’re getting your party supplies, look for gift bags and wrapping paper too. You could end up paying a good deal less than you would for gift bags and boxes at other stores.
In addition, wrapping paper can be a steal. You might not get the same thickness as with expensive paper, but for something that’s going to end up in the trash, why pay more?
6. Storage containers
Organize clutter with containers you can store in a closet or drawer or under a bed. At a dollar store, you can afford to buy all the containers you need to organize every room in your house or office. They are perfect for toys, craft supplies, clothes and more.
7. Reading glasses
As we age, the lenses of our eyes lose some of their elasticity, making it more difficult to focus on close objects. In many cases, a simple pair of reading glasses is all you need, and the reading glasses at dollar stores usually will do fine.
However, if you have trouble seeing at a distance, it may be time to schedule an eye exam and see about getting a prescription pair.
8. Hair accessories
From headbands to bobby pins, you can find hair accessories at dollar stores at a fraction of the price elsewhere. Combs and brushes can be a bargain too.
9. Pregnancy tests
Grocery store pregnancy tests could set you back $10 to $15. You can find pregnancy tests at some dollar stores for only a buck.
Note: Pregnancy tests expire, so check the date on the box.
10. Tote bags
Tote bags are never at your fingertips when you need them; they seem to disappear like socks. Buy a bunch of reusable polyester bags at a dollar store. Shop carefully: Some are a bargain while others might not be.
Use them instead of paper or plastic for your groceries, to hold gym clothes, for delivering items to family and friends or to pack for kids’ overnights.
11. Vases and decorative bowls
Don’t bother with other stores for vases and decorative bowls. Your dollar store probably carries a number of styles at a price that can’t be beat.
These vases let you skip the florist and make your own, less expensive arrangements. Or spruce up decorative glass bowls to make inexpensive gifts for family or friends.
12. Mugs and glasses
Mugs and glasses are another great buy at dollar stores. You typically can purchase the number of items you need, not an entire set.
Dollar stores also often have a nice selection of open-stock dinnerware or dishware. They may not be top-of-the-line quality, but these stoneware plates, bowls and mugs are perfectly serviceable.
For those with little kids, dollar-store dishes can be just what you need to get through that phase of life when something seems to get broken in the kitchen on a weekly basis.
14. Plastic food containers
Plastic food containers also get a thumbs-up when it comes to great dollar store buys. In the grocery store, you can easily pay up to $5 for a disposable container. Get brand-name food containers at a low price at the dollar store instead.
You can also find some great deals on food storage bags, but be wary of off-brands that may not seal correctly.
Dollar stores have been working to remove unsafe plastics from their shelves. Still, shoppers should pay attention to safety and quality when it comes to cheap plastics.
15. Picture frames
If you’re crafty, dollar-store picture frames are an excellent buy. With a little paint or other decoration, bargain frames can look as nice on your walls as their more expensive counterparts.
However, quality can vary widely. Check the corner joints to make sure they are secure and look for stray blobs of glue that may be difficult to remove.
16. Bagged or boxed candy
Checkout lane candy will likely be just as cheap, if not cheaper, at the grocery store. But movie theater-style boxed candy and bagged candy can be a bargain at the dollar store. Head there for your Halloween treats rather than paying supermarket prices.
Much of the clothing you find at a dollar store is of inferior quality and not worth the money. One exception might be socks.
Dollar-store socks can be as good as department store varieties if you buy the right type. Look for men’s, women’s and children’s socks made with acrylic or spandex for a comfy fit.
18. Washcloths and dish towels
The price of washcloths and dish towels at the dollar store can’t be beat. You need to be careful, though. Some towels may not be absorbent enough to dry dishes. But even those can work great as cleaning rags.
19. Plastic buckets
Who doesn’t need a plastic bucket? And who has one when they need it? Grab a plastic bucket at a dollar store for washing cars, cleaning floors, carrying liquids or holding your clams and fish, or garden weeds.
20. Coffee filters
Here’s a bargain you’ll appreciate every day: Coffee filters cost less at a dollar store. They are perfect for home and the office.
21. Travel-size toiletries
Love those tiny containers of name-brand toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, makeup wipes, mouthwash and soap? They’re great for travel and also for carrying in a car, briefcase, purse or backpack.
They typically are a better deal at a dollar store than at major retailers and drugstores, says The Washington Post.