Best and worst dollar store buys

Kiplinger

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 Kiplinger.com: 

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.

 

Vitamins:
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!

 

Toys: NO DEAL

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

    • Fox News Host Brenda Buttner Dead at 55

      Brenda Buttner, host of the Fox News show Bulls and Bears, has died after a battle with cancer. She was 55.

      People
    • Trump's Russia scandal takes an unexpected turn

      On Friday afternoon, FBI Director James Comey delivered a classified, hour-long briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Russia scandal, and soon after, the Senate Intelligence Committee sent “formal requests to more than a dozen organizations, agencies and individuals, asking them to preserve all materials related to the committee’s investigation” into the controversy. We don’t know much about how the briefing went – committee members were tight-lipped following Comey’s presentation – though Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted late Friday that he’s “now very confident” that the committee will conduct “thorough bipartisan investigation” into Russia’s “interference and influence.” Reading

      MSNBC q
    • Doctor gets life in prison after intentionally botching spine surgery in Dallas County  | Courts

      They heard from Philip Mayfield, who cries when he thinks of all of his son's football games that he hasn't been able to watch because he often passes out from chronic pain, and Barry Morgaloff, who limps with a brace and a cane as a result of irreparable nerve damage in his spine. They heard from Jeff Cheney, who woke up paralyzed from the neck down on his right side, and Jackie Troy, who talks in a permanent whisper and almost died from an infection after she was left with puncture wounds in her throat after Duntsch performed neck surgery on her. "I'm just trying to stay focused and be thankful that I'm one of the lucky ones in this situation," said Troy, who's alive to talk about her encounter

      Dallas Morning News q
    • Footage shows ISIS fighters smiling before suicide attack

      A new video posted by ISIS reportedly shows a team of suicide car bombers — including one smiling Brit — driving Mad Max-style death-mobiles towards an Iraqi army base, moments before blowing themselves up. The footage, posted by the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency, shows a British-born fighter named Abu Zakariya al-Britani grinning from ear to ear as he sits inside one of the four car bombs used in a deadly attack near Mosul on Monday, Al-Masdar News reports. Al-Masdar reporter Chris Tomson tweeted out a portion of the ISIS video, showing three out of the four cars that were used. A pair of army officers told the Associated Press that at least two of the jihadists managed to reach a base west of Mosul, where they detonated their explosives — killing and injuring a number of troops.

      New York Post q
    • Dozens fired after skipping work to participate in 'A Day Without Immigrants' protests

      Across the U.S. employers fired hundreds of protestors who skipped work to participate in rallies.

      CNBC.com q
    • When a Pimp's "Bottom Girl" Does the Dirty Work, She's Often the One Who Ends Up Punished

      A particularly poignant example comes from a 2012 case Melton tried as a San Antonio prosecutor. Melton went after a pimp who had sold a 16-year-old girl for sex over two years. The girl suffered horrific abuse at his hands—she was raped, impregnated, and forced to have an abortion. When she tried to run away, the pimp carved his initials into her forearm. The pimp got a 20-year sentence. A year later, the same girl was 19 and headed to prison herself. A federal judge sentenced her to three years for helping her new pimp recruit a San Antonio high school student. Melton said what happened to the girl, who never received treatment, broke her heart. "It's a great example of the cyclical nature

      ELLE q
    • Elderly Woman Stuck in Chair for Months Found `Molded` to Chair

      Residents in a Springfield Township neighborhood had no idea one of their neighbors was living in squalor until emergency vehicles lit up their typically quiet street, the Toledo Blade reported.

      Tribune
    • Burberry Gives Us the Best of Britain (19 photos)

      Every fashion city has a few designers that make up the essence of that city and embodies what their fashion week stands for. New York has Calvin Klein and Marc Jacobs ; Milan has Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Giorgio Armani; Paris has Chanel , Givenchy and Saint Laurent. But in London , there is only one name: Burberry. Burberry is the quintessential British heritage brand that has outlasted every cool Britannia label that has tried to take over the mantle. Tonight Burberry showed us (again) why it’s the best of Britain! Let’s keep in touch! Follow Yahoo Style + Beauty on   Facebook ,  Twitter ,  Instagram , and  Pinterest . Read More: Gabriela Hearst’s Clothes are Beautiful and Political  Bella Hadid and Presley Gerber Walked in Zadig & Voltair’s First New York Fashion Show Proenza Schouler Says Goodbye and Hello Follow Yahoo Style on Instagram , Facebook , and Pinterest for nonstop inspiration delivered fresh to your feed, every day.    

      Yahoo Style 40 min ago
    • UFC fighter asks for Ronda Rousey after knocking out her boyfriend

      Derrick Lewis brought up Travis Browne’s past domestic abuse allegations and took a step further when he brought up his opponent’s current girlfriend, the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion.

      Cagewriter
    • Walmart Cashier Pays Half of Grocery Bill for Family of Five: ‘I Think Y’all Need a Blessing!’

      A South Carolina mother of three, was “absolutely blown away” when a Columbia Walmart cashier insisted on covering half of her $200 grocery bill —with her personal credit card. On Friday evening, Ashley Jordan and her husband, Michael, were shopping with their 1-year-old baby daughter, Kinseigh, at the store while their other two children Cayleigh, 5, and Aubreigh, 3, stayed at home with a sitter.

      People
    • Melania Trump's sister shows rare behind-the-scenes look

      (CNN)Melania Trump is beginning to forge her own path as America's first lady, assembling a team of aides and advisers. But the name of one longtime confidante, and perhaps her most trusted friend, won't be announced with a news release or statement or a new title: her sister, Ines Knauss. Knauss, Trump's older sister, lives just blocks from Trump Tower in the Trump Park Avenue property, public records confirm. She was Trump's maid of honor at her 2005 Palm Beach wedding, People magazine reported at the time. And the first lady called Knauss "an incredible woman and a friend" in her July speech at the Republican National Convention. And the sister of the famously private Slovenian-born first

      CNN q
    • Police say newly freed gang member killed California officer

      LOS ANGELES (AP) — A gang member who was recently freed from jail killed his cousin and stole his car Monday then shot and killed a California police officer and wounded his partner before being wounded himself, authorities said.

      Associated Press
    • Lakers Rumors: Andrew Bynum, Robert Sacre Cost L.A. Chris Paul, Hassan Whiteside?

      The Los Angeles Lakers are in the midst of their worst run in the history of the franchise. Even though things are beginning to look up, the team will likely miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, and the futures of Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak are in question. One reason the Lakers struggled to maintain relevance over the years was their inability to attract another star player to team with Kobe Bryant. The major one who was almost brought in was Chris Paul, but of course, that trade was vetoed. Apparently, another issue that hurt the possibility of that deal was center Andrew Bynum. According to Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, Buss refused to include Bynum in a Paul trade, despite

      Lakers Nation q
    • Disturbing video shows man dragging dog behind motorized wheelchair

      MISSION, Texas -- Police in southern Texas have arrested a man after a neighbor filmed a video of him allegedly dragging his dog by a leash behind his motorized wheelchair. The incident happened Wednesday evening in a neighborhood in Mission, Texas, near the U.S. border with Mexico. A neighbor, Melissa Torrez, told CBS affiliate KGBT she saw the man dragging the struggling German shepherd and confronted him. “I turn around. I see him dragging his dog from the middle of street. ... I’m out of my car yelling at him, asking him, ‘What are you doing? What’s wrong with you?’ And he just keeps going, telling me to mind my own business, it’s his dog he can do whatever he wants,” Torrez told KGBT. Torrez

      CBS News q
    • Father and Son Killed in Head-On Collision After Their Cars Crash into Each Other While Returning Home

      Alabama investigators claim that alcohol played a considerable role in a horrific head-on collision that killed a father and son that were driving separate vehicles early Saturday. According to AL.com, Jeffrey Morris Brasher, 50, and Austin Blaine Brasher, 22, were both killed in a crash that occurred shortly after 4 a.m. on Saturday. • Pick up PEOPLE’s special edition True Crime Stories: Cases That Shocked America, on sale now, for the latest on Casey Anthony, JonBenét Ramsey and more.

      People
    • Tully Monster mystery not a closed case, scientists say

      Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Scientists are calling for the Tully Monster mystery to be reopened. Last year, two scientific papers claimed to have solved the Tully mystery. According to the two studies, the Tully Monster was definitively a vertebrate -- a member of the lamprey lineage. Now, a team of paleobiologists claim those papers were flawed. "This animal doesn't fit easy classification because it's so weird," Lauren Sallan, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a news release. "It has these eyes that are on stalks and it has this pincer at the end of a long proboscis and there's even disagreement about which way is up. But the last thing that the Tully Monster could be is

      UPI q
    • Rob Kardashian just shared his “favorite pic” with Dream after his split from Blac Chyna

      Though he hasn’t exactly had a stellar couple of months, Rob Kardashian just shared a photo with his daughter, Dream, that (hopefully)…

      Hello Giggles
    • GOP health plan: Lower costs, better care, or road to ruin?

      Top House Republicans say their outline for replacing President Barack Obama's health care law is a pathway to greater flexibility and lower costs for consumers

      ABC News q
    • Trump’s first month travel expenses cost taxpayers just less than what Obama spent in a year

      On Monday, President Trump returns to Washington DC from his private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, where he’s spent the last three weekends. The Washington Post reports that those three trips “probably cost the federal treasury about $10 million, based on figures used in an October government report analyzing White House travel, including money for Coast Guard units to patrol the exposed shoreline and other military, security and staffing expenses associated with moving the apparatus of the presidency.” So far, the highlight of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trips has been he and his aides struggling to deal with an international crisis in full view of diners and staff during the evening of February 11. The

      ThinkProgress q