Best and worst dollar store buys


When you're trying to save money, the dollar store can seem like a magical place. Abracadabra, everything's a buck or less! But just because something's inexpensive doesn't make it a good buy at such retail establishments.

Party Supplies: Dollar Store Deal

We went shopping to find out what's a good deal at the dollar store, and what's not:

Party Supplies: DEAL

Everything from party invitations to decorations to balloons are worth buying at the dollar store. For instance, foil balloons easily run from $3 to $8 a pop at party-supply stores, gift shops and supermarkets. But you can get them for $1 each -- helium included -- at the dollar store.


Goodie bags, party favors and color-coordinated paper plates, napkins, cups and plastic cutlery are also a good buy.

More from 

The Best Buys of Spring

Save Money on Shopping and Entertainment

12 Things That Will Cost Less in 2011

Cleaning Supplies:
Dollar Store Deal

Cleaning supplies: DEAL

According to the Good Housekeeping Institute, the cleaners you buy at the dollar store work just fine. You probably won't find many name brands, but the ingredients are similar -- though perhaps more diluted. For everyday cleaning, they should do the trick. (For tougher cleaning jobs, you may have to spring for something more heavy-duty.)

You can also get a good deal on rubber gloves, sponges, and scrub brushes too.


No Dollar Store Deal

Vitamins: NO DEAL

Don't scoop up your vitamins at the dollar store. Consumer Reports found that dollar-store multi-vitamins didn't always have the amount of nutrients claimed on the label. And others didn't dissolve fast enough to be absorbed by the body. You may be better off getting vitamins from a well-known store brand, such as Rite Aid, Walgreens or CVS.


Greeting cards:
Dollar Store Deal

Greeting Cards: DEAL

Greeting cards are nice, but are they really worth $4? We think it's the thought or sentiment that counts, not what you spend. Our local dollar store has a big selection of cards for every occasion, at 50-cents each. They're good-quality, too, so the recipient won't even guess that you scrimped.


Basic School Supplies:
No Dollar Store Deal

Basic School Supplies: NO DEAL

While the dollar store has decent deals on many school supplies, we didn't find them to be much better than the prices at Walmart.

For pencils, notebooks, highlighters, crayons, glue sticks, scissors, sticky notes and more, it's best to stock up when they go on sale during back-to-school season (August-September). The rest of the year, you can hit either the dollar store or Walmart with confidence.


Seasonal or Holiday Items:
Dollar Store Deal

Seasonal or holiday items, such as Valentine's day, Easter eggs and Christmas tree decorations: DEAL

Whether you need to stuff Easter baskets or Valentine's day boxes, or you simply want to deck the halls for your favorite holiday, you might save a few bucks at the dollar store.

Seasonal paper plates and napkins (i.e. with pumpkins or Santa Claus on them) are also a good deal -- we found packs of 20 for $1. On decorations, bargains can be hit-or-miss and subject to opinion. For example, we found a set of icicle ornaments that looked beautiful on our tree this year, but the imitation pine wreaths looked too cheap and scraggly for our taste.


Pregnancy Tests:
Dollar Store Deal

Pregnancy Tests: DEAL

Babies are expensive from the very beginning. The cheapest pregnancy test at our local Walgreens cost $8. But you can get one at the dollar store for a buck. Both are 99% effective, both test for hormone levels with similar sensitivity. And at $1 a pop, you can afford to test and re-test as much as you like if you simply don't believe your eyes.

Pain Medications:
No Dollar Store Deal

Aspirin, ibuprofen and other medications: NO DEAL

Consumer Reports warns that aspirin and other medications may be left on the shelf past their expiration dates. It also points out that some labels may not say where the medicine was manufactured.

While there haven't been any safety concerns about dollar-store meds, generic aspirin from your local pharmacy or supermarket is probably a better bet -- and may not cost too much more.


Gift Wrapping Supplies:
Dollar Store Deal

Gift Wrapping Supplies: DEAL

You can get a 20-foot roll of gift wrap at the dollar store for a buck, while you'll pay at least three times that at big-box and party-supply stores. Gift bags cost up to $5 at other stores, depending on size. But at the dollar store, all sizes are $1. We also found huge savings on tissue paper, up to 75% off prices elsewhere. And don't forget the Scotch tape!



It's tempting to buy toys for only $1. But there's definitely a trade-off in quality. Many dollar-store toys are cheaply made and they can be dangerous when they break.

Baby toys should generally be avoided because they will go directly into the mouth, and dollar-store toys may have unsafe levels of lead and phthalates, which are a class of chemicals found in soft plastics.


Canned food and other pantry items: NO DEAL

You may be able to get these cheaper elsewhere. For example, our nearby dollar store sells Green Giant canned vegetables and Goya beans for $1 a can. But we found the exact same items at Walmart for less, and generic brands at even bigger savings. Dollar-store cake and brownie mixes come in smaller packages so watch the unit price. Also, you should keep an eye on the expiration dates on food at the dollar store. They may be near or past their freshness date.


Batteries and Electronics: NO DEAL

Consumer Reports warns that dollar store electronics and extension cords may have fake UL labels and could be unsafe. It's better to spend a little extra for quality and safety. Also, cheap batteries may be prone to leakage, or may not run your gadgets as long as pricier brands. Many dollar stores sell carbon-zinc batteries which are less efficient than the alkaline variety.


Cooking and Dining Accessories: DEAL

We found spoons, spatulas, cheese graters, ice cream scoops and more at the dollar store for 50% to 90% off the prices at Target and Walmart. We also spotted wine glasses, dining plates and flatware for less. Almost anything is a good buy in the kitchen department, with the exception of knives, which may be flimsy or dull.

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • Tiger Woods Doesn’t Regret Cheating on Ex-Wife Elin Nordegren

      The 40-year-old professional golfer opened up to Charlie Rose on Thursday.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • Man 'fed up' with with children playing on drive jailed after running over and killing neighbour's son

      A man who ran over and killed his neighbour's five-year-old son after becoming "fed up" with children playing on his driveway has been jailed for two years. David Cowell, 42, killed neighbour Riley Ferguson, while he pulled his car onto the drive he shared with the boy's family in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. Cowell had denied the charge of causing death by careless driving but was convicted by a majority verdict.

      International Business Times UK q
    • Ivanka Trump backs her father but doesn't want to fall with him

      Ivanka, soon to turn 35, is still clearly her father's protegee. Having grown up in the spotlight from an early age, at a time when her father's extramarital affairs filled the tabloid press, Ivanka knows how to tend to her own image -- and that of the clothing line that bears her name.

    • Thousands of California soldiers forced to repay enlistment bonuses a decade after going to war

      Short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war. Now the Pentagon is demanding the money back. Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse — after audits revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade. Investigations have determined that lack of oversight allowed for widespread fraud and mismanagement by California Guard officials under pressure to meet enlistment targets.

      Los Angeles Times q
    • Khloe Kardashian And Tristan Thompson Are Reportedly Getting Married

      UPDATE: According to ESPN, the two are not engaged to be married. “Khloe and Tristan plan on spending at least $1 million on their big day,” the source tells InTouch, “and they plan to invite 400 guests.” Thankfully, that massive amount of people won’t have to travel far, as Khloe and Tristan reportedly want to hold their wedding ceremony in California.

    • Deer walks up to hunter and demands head scratches

      Hunter Jordan Maxon from New Richmond, Wisconsin, had a very odd encounter with a very friendly deer.  After setting up a deer stand in a clearing, Maxon looked around to see if any wildlife had wandered into the area before he started hunting. That's when he noticed a buck about 70 yards away.  "I figured I'd wait for him to leave the clearing, however, after five minutes of standing there, he wouldn't leave," Maxon explained on YouTube.  SEE ALSO: Deer fearlessly leaps through house window, becomes viable stuntman Instead of leaving, the buck approaches Maxon, who gently convinces the dear to come a bit closer with noises you'd use to coax a cat or dog.  The deer comes so close that Maxon is

      Mashable q
    • Pictures of two Egyptian children engaged to be married trigger outrage — once again

      CAIRO – While celebrating his eldest son's lavish wedding, at which a number of famous singers and belly dancers performed, Nasser Hassan decided to "double the joy," he later recalled. He announced that his son Omar would marry his cousin Gharam. At the wedding, held in a province about 75 miles north of Cairo, the guests didn’t find it strange. Some would later tell Egypt’s Al Watan newspaper that there was “nothing inappropriate,” adding that it was only “an engagement, not a marriage". Omar is 12 years old. His fiancee, Gharam, is 11. Egyptian laws prohibit official registration for marriages for anyone under the age of 18. But the practice remains prevalent. According to UNICEF, 17 percent

      Washington Post q
    • Two Children Shot and Killed in Georgia Home Invasion

      A 15-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl were shot to death in a suspected home invasion in Georgia

    • This brilliant 13-year-old figured out how to make clean energy using a device that costs $5

      Maanasa Mendu thinks she's cracked the code on how to make wind and solar energy affordable...

      Business Insider
    • Why Russia and China Fear America's Seawolf-Class Submarines

      The Seawolf-class submarines were envisioned as the best submarines ever built. Designed to succeed the Los Angeles–class attack submarines and maintain America’s edge in the underwater domain, the class suffered from cost overruns and the collapse of the Soviet Union. While still some of the best submarines ever built, they were built at reduced numbers. In the late 1980s, the U.S. Navy was faced with a crisis. In 1980, the Soviet Union had received information from the Walker family spy ring that the Navy could track its submarines through excessive propeller noise. As a result, the Soviet Union went looking for advanced Western machinery to make better propellers. In 1981, the Japanese company

      The National Interest q
    • Trump gains on Clinton, poll shows 'rigged' message resonates

      By Emily Stephenson and Amanda Becker NEWTOWN, Pa./CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gained on his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton among American voters this week, cutting her lead nearly in half, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling released on Friday. The polling data showed Trump's argument that the Nov. 8 election is "rigged" against him has resonated with members of his party. "Remember folks, it's a rigged system," Trump told a Pennsylvania rally on Friday.

    • 6 Recipes for Tender Ribs That Fall Off of the Bone

      We promise these 6 ribs recipes will make your mouth water!

      The Cheat Sheet q 26 min ago
    • The Best All-Inclusive Packages at Adults-Only Resorts (7 photos)

      Hear that? Its not the sound of a baby on an airplane , or an argument between two kids. Its the roar of waves crashing on rocks, tree frogs chirping from the canopy, and of complete, grown-up silence. You dont have to be a parent to value the absence of potentially noisychildren. Everyone can appreciate the absolute tranquility of a kids-free hotel. Thats not to say adults cant get rowdybut adults-only properties tend to foster a relaxed, laid-back vibe. Guests are typically seeking a low-key (and yes, quiet) reprieve from life; especially if that life has three kids between the ages of 1 and 7. Resorts such as these know theres only one thing more calming than an escape from the myriadday-to-day tasks ofparenthood (or a romantic getaway that isnt stifled by shrieking infants or toddlers peeing in the pool ): an all-inclusive package. Forget about nitpicking every cocktail or excursionall-inclusive packages make a resort stay a totally worry-free experience. You already know what the bill will look like when you get return home. Even your tips are included. If all this sounds like just what you need, read on for a few of our favorite all-inclusive packages at the top adults-only resorts.

    • Kanye West Gives Kim Kardashian a Priceless 36th Birthday Present — See It Here

      Kanye West created a video for Kim Kardashian’s 36th birthday from old home video footage — watch

      Us Weekly
    • Somali pirates free 26 hostages held for nearly five years

      Somali pirates have freed 26 Asian hostages held for nearly five years after the hijacking of their fishing vessel, the last commercial ship seized at the height of the country's piracy scourge, negotiators said Saturday. The crew of the Naham 3, the second longest held hostage by Somali pirates, were taken captive when their Omani-flagged vessel was seized in March 2012 south of the Seychelles. "We are very pleased to announce the release of the Naham 3 crew early this morning," said John Steed, coordinator of the Hostage Support Partners (HSP) who helped negotiate their release.

    • Bermuda Triangle mystery solved? Experts say 'air bombs' sank ships and brought down planes

      The mystery of Bermuda Triangle may have been solved according to a new documentary. A documentary by the Science Channel showcases new satellite imagery from NASA over coastal Florida, revealing "a series of hexagon-shaped clouds," which meteorologists say can produce 170 mph (273kmph) wind air bombs above the Bermuda Triangle. Steve Miller, a satellite meteorologist from Colorado State University, says that the straight-edged appearance of the clouds is pretty unusual.

      International Business Times UK q
    • Pakistani tea seller turns model after fame on social media

      ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani tea seller with striking eyes who saw his life change overnight after a picture of him at work went viral, said Friday he was totally unaware of social media until recently, when boys and girls suddenly started thronging his tea stall to take selfies with him.

      Associated Press
    • Zack Snyder just shared this badass picture of “Wonder Woman” and we are loving it

      There’s action, there’s fire and there’s a great female lead…we can’t wait for the movie, or in this case, movieS! Zack Snyder,…

      Hello Giggles
    • Always Broke? 4 Things Debt-Free People Never Do

      Do you want financial freedom? Don't do these four things.

      The Cheat Sheet q