Dollar Stores are intriguing. If you shop in them, then you know. Or actually, you never know what you’ll find. The shelves are lined with name brand loss leaders, and brands you’ve never heard of. And in some stores, not every item costs only a dollar! But are these types of stores worth your time and money? We sent a team of assistants around the region to check and here is the compilation of what they found. Some items are true bargains. But grab them while you see them because if you do not, someone else will! Other items should be avoided at all costs. The prices are tempting but their quality is sub-par. Here is our advice for bargain hunters who do not want to get burned:

Dollar Store Best Buys

  1. Home and Food Storage Containers/Vases
    No point in buying those shrink-wrapped name brand (starts with a ‘G’) containers at the supermarket or big box stores. Dollar stores have the same quality often from the same brands alongside their loss leaders. How? Colors and styles are discontinued. They still hold the same amount of leftovers, socks, sweaters, etc. Also, save money on decor using cut flowers from your garden arranged in ceramic and glass vases from the dollar store. At these prices, you can donate rather than store out of season thereby saving cabinet space as well!
  2. Glasses and Dishes
    Open anyone’s kitchen cabinets and chances are you’ll find earthenware dishes. The dollar stores have them, usually for a couple of dollars at most for a dinner plate. A member of our team was astonished to find mugs with barnyard animals on them that were exact duplicates of her wedding china from a 5th Avenue label! It’s a fact: drinking glasses break. They also chip, become scratched, and foggy after many trips through the dishwasher. Drinking glasses are not forever. Why pay more for them?
  3. Reading Glasses
    With age comes farsightedness, and a need for reading glasses. Why spend hundreds to have lenses ground when these are essentially a generic product? Many dollar stores offer readers in fashion frames in a wide range of corrective optics from 1.0+ up to 5.0+. Stock up and have a pair stashed in every room in your home as well as in your desk drawer!
  4. Greeting Cards, Party Supplies, Seasonal Decor
    Every time you open an invitation to a wedding, party, birth announcement, you probably wonder where you have that leftover ribbon, tape, and wrapping paper stashed. No one likes to buy these items and keeping them on hand is a nuisance. Jackpot! Make the dollar store your destination for these items. You’ll find appropriate cards for almost any occasion, great gift wrap, ribbons, labels, tape and more. Festive party themes and all the fixin’s, but the draw here is helium-filled mylar balloons that will stay aloft for weeks, even months! Seasonal decor such as wreaths, table toppers, and you name it, the dollar store is where you’ll likely find it- for way less!
  5. Coffee Filters
    In our office as well as our homes, coffee is religion. The price of filters at the supermarket can raise eyebrows, but you cannot make your favorite brew without them! Just remember to double line your receptacle- at these prices, you can afford to!
  6. For Good Measure

  7. Hair Accessories
    Scrunchies, ponytail holders, barrettes. You can never have enough of them and they break as quickly as they go out of style. But there’s no need for hair supplies to become a line item on your monthly budget if you shop the dollar store for these items. You’ll also find that combs and hairbrushes are value-priced as well.

Dollar Store No-Nos

  1. Medications/Personal Care Products/Makeup
    While is it a temptation to buy small packs of pain relievers to keep in the glove compartment or your desk, many of these name brands are near their due dates. Personal care products, such as deodorants, may be names that you recognize as well but contain little of the actual product. Be sure to check the number of ounces- sometimes what looks like a value, is just packaged in a smaller size that will be used up quickly. Other issues include products that have been reformulated due to complaints about allergic reactions. Don’t become a test case or a lab rat!
  2. Canned Goods/Pet Foods/Candy/Vitamins
    If buying canned goods and candy at any store, but especially at dollar stores, check the expiration dates. Do not buy pet food at these outlets since most of it has been made for sale at stores offering lower price points. This means kibble will be high in fat and suspect ingredients. The foods will have been formulated in factories that rent their equipment to other firms for mass production so it could be contaminated with whatever preceded the packaging on the conveyors, etc.
  3. Batteries/Tools/Electrical Cord
    Even if you spot name brand batteries, do not buy them. These may have been unloaded from first-run stores rather than for them to take a hit for old, unsold merchandise, or products that have not been stored correctly. The result is batteries that do not hold a charge. Cheap tools will not last. Period. If you need a set of screwdrivers for a one-off simple project, fine, but toss them out afterward. Never buy any electrical cords from the dollar store. These are likely not regulation compliant. Do not make your home or office a safety hazard.
  4. Toys
    Most toys available at the dollar stores have been made in foreign countries and do not meet the most basic U.S. safety standards. Many are made from toxic materials- if ingested can cause serious health issues. Also small parts pose a choking hazard. Buy your kids a balloon instead!
  5. Technology: Headphones, Earbuds, USB Chargers/HDMI Cables
    No, you cannot get away with cheaping-out on your children by buying headphones at the
    dollar store. Spring for their Beats at the big-box electronics stores or online. Remember, these are the folks that will someday be selecting your assisted living facility. Treat them right! Ditto all technology. The reason is simple, cut-rate pricing means sub-par quality. Do not buy tech components at the dollar store. No Bueno.
  6. Extra:

  7. Office Supplies
    You know how you feel when you open a new pen or highlighter? Or write a note on an
    adhesive pad? Start penning entries in a new notebook? Or grab a fresh pair of scissors?
    That good feeling will be quickly gone when your pen runs out of ink the first week, your notes will not stick to any surface, your lined pad’s pages are translucent, and the scissor blades dull. These office products may look the same as the name brands but the quality is not optimal. Spring for the good stuff.

At the dollar store, it is not always true that you get what you pay for. Some great buys are to be had. Again, the caution, if it looks too good to be true, just walk away! There will be another potential bargain waiting for you in the next aisle!