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What to Buy (What to Skip) at Dollar Stores

Some people swear by dollar stores and try to do most of their shopping there; others never step foot in the dollar store because they are convinced everything there must be cheap and poorly made. There is truth in both of these opinions. Some things you can buy at dollar stores are great deals, and others should be avoid at all costs.

What to Buy at Dollar Stores

Spices. Spices at a typical grocery store can run $4 to $8 per small jar. The dollar store, on the other hand, offers them for a dollar. True, they may not have an extensive collection, but they are likely to have the basic pantry spices such as cinnamon, chili powder, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper, among others. While they may be a little dated, which affects their freshness, it’s usually still worth it. Just use a little extra.

Greeting cards. Greeting cards can cost upwards of $6 at card and grocery stores. I was expecting the dollar store to sell cards for, well, a dollar, but they actually sell them for $0.50 each. If you send out 20 cards a year, you can save up to $100 just by buying your greeting cards at the dollar store.

Socks. Most packs of socks cost $7 to $11, but the dollar store sells them for $1! How can you beat that? If you have a family to buy socks for, this can again add up to a substantial savings. Considering how quickly our socks wear out or get lost, I now only buy our socks at the dollar store.

Coloring books. Save a dollar or more by buying kids’ coloring and activity books at the dollar store. This summer I bought some workbooks for each of my kids, and they got several hours of use from them. These also make great stocking stuffers for small children.

Seasonal items. Our local dollar store already has Halloween (and Christmas!) decorations out. Because each decoration is only a dollar, you could decorate most of your house for only $10 to $20. If you are gentle with the decorations, you can store them for next year and stretch your money even further.

Party supplies. Buying invitations and decorations such as streamers, confetti, napkins, cups and other items for a party can add up quickly, unless you shop at the dollar store. Considering most party decorations are used once and only once, the quality doesn’t really matter, and you can save a lot of money.

What to Skip at Dollar Stores

Toys. I have a friend who buys many toys at the dollar store. Not only are they cheaply made and break quickly, but I worry about the standards, especially when the toys are plastic. Our babysitter bought my daughter a tiara at a dollar store, and within just a few minutes of wearing it my daughter had little silver flakes all over her face. Even after washing her face, I couldn’t get all of the flakes off.

Food. Some food is okay if you don’t mind eating it right away, but the majority of the food items are close to the expiration date. Of course, I am a bit uptight about the freshness of my food, so this may not be an issue for some people.

Paper products.  The paper towel often comes with a large separation between perforations, so you use up the paper towel more quickly (and use more than you may need). In addition, the paper products are often just one ply and not durable.

Oven mitts and dish towels. Often, the oven mitts are poorly insulated, providing your hands with little protection when removing hot items from the oven. The towels can also be thin and wear out quickly.

Certainly there are good deals to be had at dollar stores such as socks and greeting cards, but there are also poorly made items that you should avoid. Shopping selectively and you can reap greater savings without compromising standards.

What are your favorite items to buy at the dollar store? What items do you avoid?

(Photo: diaper [3])