What to Buy at the Dollar Store (And What You Should Splurge On)

This is an excerpt from my book, The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living

 

There’s little that gives me more of a rush than going into the dollar store and finding things that I would normally buy elsewhere for two or three bucks and getting them for only a dollar. And they have a lot of other stuff that I’ve never seen that seems like a great deal.

But the question is this: what at the dollar store is actually a good deal and what should we spend a little bit more on?

In some cases, quality is more important – for example, you don’t want to put something on your skin or ingest something with poor quality – or even harmful – ingredients. But there are many things you can buy in which the purity and quality doesn’t matter quite as much.  If you are busy trying to stock up, hit your local Dollar Tree or Dollarama and see what they’ve got.

What to buy at the dollar store

These are items you can get at the dollar store without any significant health risks (of which we know, anyway) and that aren’t so flimsy that they’ll break the first time you use them.

  • Balloons
  • Band-Aids
  • Bobby pins
  • Brooms and dustpans
  • Buckets
  • Coffee filters
  • Coloring books
  • Coloring pencils
  • Cotton swabs
  • Craft supplies
  • Crayons
  • Dishtowels
  • Envelopes
  • Fabric shopping bags
  • Feather dusters
  • Gift bags and tissue paper
  • Gift wrap
  • Greeting cards
  • Hair elastics
  • Index cards
  • Loofas
  • Name-brand food (check the expiration dates carefully)
  • Napkins
  • Notebooks
  • Paper cups
  • Paper plates
  • Party décor
  • Pens and pencils
  • Picture frames
  • Posterboard for those school projects and yard sale signs
  • Pregnancy tests
  • Puzzles
  • Reading glasses
  • School supplies
  • Seasonal decor
  • Socks
  • Sponges
  • Spray bottles for homemade cleaning supplies
  • Storage containers
  • Tape
  • Toothbrushes
  • Vases
  • Washcloths

What NOT to buy at the dollar store

At the same time, there are other things I would NOT buy at the dollar store. A lot of the items there are imported from countries with different safety standards than ours, so my rule of thumb is that I won’t buy things that come into contact with my food – or actual food – unless it is a name brand that I recognize and would buy at the grocery store.

For example, our local dollar store had some Betty Crocker brand whisks and cooking utensils and I was okay with that. I wouldn’t have bought no-name one there, however.

Part of this is my concern about lead, cadmium, and arsenic. If this is a worry for you, check out the YouTube channel Creative Green Living. These ladies run around stores with a handheld device, testing things for toxic metals until they get kicked out.

  • Anything you put on your skin unless it’s a brand you recognize
  • Baby bottles
  • Baby wipes
  • Batteries (they may leak)
  • Children’s dress-up cosmetics
  • Dishes
  • Electronics (total junk that will stop working fast)
  • Extension cords
  • Glassware
  • Jewelry (often contains lead)
  • Knives (dull knives are dangerous to use)
  • Make-up
  • Medications
  • Off-brand food
  • Pet food
  • Plastic cooking utensils
  • Tools (dangerously flimsy)
  • Toys
  • Vitamins

Of course, there are never hard and fast rules. If it is a product you normally use, do your due diligence. If it smells okay, looks okay, and is well-within the best-by or expiration date, you may have found yourself a great bargain!

What about you?

What are your favorite dollar store scores and what do you avoid? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

(Check out tips like this in my book, The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living)

What to Buy at the Dollar Store (And What You Should Splurge On)
Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is an author and blogger. She's the single mom of two daughters and credits extreme frugality and a good sense of humor for her debt-free lifestyle. She is the author of numerous books, the editor of TheOrganicPrepper.com, and is the founder of a small digital publishing company in the emergency preparedness niche.

14 thoughts on “What to Buy at the Dollar Store (And What You Should Splurge On)”

  1. I found some garden stuff super cheap this year. Some 3 foot stakes that were rebar sealed with plastic and mosquito netting. Dollarrama here has the hookup on Clorox wipes.

  2. I bought some of the medications to have for a summer trip. When I opened the bin I had put the meds in, it smells horrid! I won’t be using these items due to the chemical smell. It isn’t worth it. But the Double Bubble gum balls are great! Haha

    1. I shop at the dollar store once in a while for cards, Name brand tooth brushes, some hair stuff, holiday stuff And some emergency candles. Just got a 2021 desk calendar and a 2 year planner for my purse. Also got color books And silly putty for stocking stuffers.

  3. I’ve been satisfied with my dollar tree finds. Some of the stuff is trash, but for the most part the quality is good. I’ve gotten some very good “off brand” food there that has become a regular part of my pantry. For low income people, this store is a life saver.

  4. Garbage bags the thick ones, colouring books, Christmas stocking stuffers, and yes agree garden stuff . Really missing the dollar store.

  5. I always buy generic Tylenol, Benadryl and Ibuprofen at Dollar Tree. These items work well and I’ve never had any problems. Name brand food such as chips, candy, and microwave “meals” have been fine for me. I have also used their makeup whenever I can find the kind I want and love it!

  6. My biggest disappointment at Dollar Tree was their glass bowls. They looked good, said they were microwave safe on the bottom, didn’t have bubbles or cracks. Well, they weren’t microwave safe, or tempered, and shattered into a million pieces without hard usage. Now I do have some actual drinking glasses from there which are still fine but those bowls were terrible. I also have some stoneware plates that have lasted for years – so go figure. I’ve bought plenty of rice and beans from there without a problem but their cheese dip is awful, LOL

  7. Always buy my Sudoku, Crossword and WordFind books there. 2/$1 Hallmark cards can’t be beat. Garden seeds for $1 – not huge amount of seeds but more than adequate for my needs. Pocket calendars, notebooks both regular size and small, Bic 10pk pens are good buys when not during WM’s school supply sales. Hubby regularly buys his diet Dr. Pepper (yes it’s bad for him) and black licorice (don’t remember the brand) but price is half of what it sells for in the grocery.

    Dollar Tree has it’s own brand of body products but still, I stick to name brands. Have found Revlon nail polish which was good and LA Colors nail polish was clumpy so returned it with no problem.

  8. I buy trash bags and cleaners at the dollar store. It was also the only place that I could find hand sanitizer for a good while. When my son got his own place I went to the dollar store and made up two large baskets full of household necessities to get him started on the basics.

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