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.