Are You Really Saving a Buck at the Dollar Store? - Main Street Meltdown
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Main Street Meltdown

Are You Really Saving a Buck at the Dollar Store?

 I love shopping at the Dollar Store.  What's not to like?  Right away, I know the price (everything is a dollar...sometimes two for a dollar!), there is a wide variety of items, and I'm saving a lot of money.  Or am I?  A dollar for each item seems cheap enough, but is it really a bargain?  The real answer is:  it depends.  

Most of the items I buy at dollar stores are either food items that I know I'm getting for a steal, or cleaning products, if it is something that I don't make at home myself with vinegar and lemon juice.  However, there are items at the dollar store where you could be paying more than you need to...even for a dollar.

First, when buying cleaning products or toiletries, check the size.  Many items in those aisles are actually smaller than the regular sized packages.  That is how the store can get away with charging only a dollar for them.  What you are actually getting in some cases is a glorified sample-sized package.  

Check the food packages.  Is the item expired, or will it expire within a day of purchase?  The same goes for pet food. If it is expired, it's not really a bargain.  Check the sizes on these items, too.  

It's best to skip the toys. More often than not, the toys and lunch boxes are made in China, and they could contain lead-based paint.  Also, check electrical items.  Make sure they carry the UL, or "Underwriters Laboratories"  seal.  This certfies that the item is safe to use with U.S. electrical outlets.  If the item doesn't have the UL seal, skip it.  You are just risking an electrical fire.  

 Before stocking up on items at the dollar store, shop around.  You might be surprised that you can get many of the same items for even less than a dollar at other discount stores such as Family Dollar, Dollar General or Wal-Mart.  Dollar stores do have some great bargains, but they are able to offer these bargains because they are able to get the items they sell in bulk at a lower price, they are able to purchase close-out items from other stores at pennies on the dollar, and they sell some items for a dollar that really would sell for less than a dollar at many other stores. 

As always, keep a price book, shop around, and make sure that you really are saving a buck at the dollar store.  





Hofmama said:

It always comes down to knowing your prices, doesn't it? I've heard the same complaint about warehouse clubs many times (that they seem like a bargain but aren't--although you can't beat Sam's Club Brand baby formula with a stick!)

November 5, 2008 3:18 AM

frugal_fun said:

I agree with you.  It amazes me that people don't factor in quality when shopping.

Truthfully, we generally do not shop at dollar stores.  Because of my allergies, I need to eat "whole foods", which eliminates the food section.  After the scare with Chinese toothpaste, I'd be scared to buy toiletry items or chemicals.  I do love the paper section, though, which is about how much cards and bags "should" cost.

For cleaning supplies, we buy only 3 items: Simple Green in a gallon jug which can be diluted 20:1, window cleaner (also in bulk and can be diluted) and soap scum remover.  I'd recommend Simple Green to anyone not into making their own cleaning supplies.  Cheap, easy to dilute, safe, and used by the pros.  We use it to clean toilets, floors, and everything imaginable.  (Except windows and soap scum!!)  *grin*

November 7, 2008 6:52 AM

Festival of Frugality | On a Quest To Be Debt Free... said:

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November 11, 2008 9:27 AM

JH in Portland said:

I use the Dollar Tree for certain items. They have good holiday cards, crossword books, puzzles, and kid's socks (my dog eats them so my kid's use allowance to replace since they leave them out). As you see, not a weekly visit place. The toys, food, and cleaning products are either poor quality or not a great value.

November 12, 2008 10:05 AM

howdah said:

Even if the item is smaller at the dollar store it still might be the best fit. For example, I can get a small bottle of Goo Gone for $1.00. It may cost more per ounce than the same item in the supermarket, but this small bottle will last me for several years since it only takes a drop or two for most messes. The last bottle accidentally got knocked over and spilled and I was only out $1.00.

I also got a tiny bottle of clear nail polish, again probably more expensive ounce for ounce. But I only use it to stop runs in nylons and to put a drop on the screw of my glasses now and then so the lens stays in. The bottle will be too thick to use long before it is empty, and again I have only invested $1.00.


November 12, 2008 11:30 AM

Suzy Queue said:

I have been reading more and more about the "value" of supporting local businesses to help out our local economies and in the end our own pocket books.  Here is a link to a pretty interesting article from the American Independent

Business Alliance - amiba.net/.../benefits_doing_biz_locally.pdf


November 12, 2008 9:41 PM

Monroe on a Budget » Tips from the money bloggers said:

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November 13, 2008 7:00 PM

Weekly Carnivals and Roundup said:

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November 14, 2008 12:03 PM

Jake said:

Excellent point.

I'm currently developing a price book and I recently compared Wal-Mart to Dollar General on approximately 30 items. Wally World (I hate their practices but I hate being in debt worse, and yes I do feel a bit guilty) had DG beat on everything but toilet paper, paper towels, and candles (I use the candles while showering in my bathroom instead of leaving the light on). This list included food staples and necessary toiletries.

January 5, 2009 4:45 PM

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