Shopping at the Dollar Store – Are You Really Getting A Good Deal?

In the wake of the holidays, many people look for a way to cut back. You might be going out to eat less often, holding off some purchases, dialing down any shopping or cutting back on expenses.

Deep Discounts - Retail Concept

One easy way to save money is to shift where you shop at. Instead of shopping at Whole Foods, many of us are turning to Wal-Mart and instead of Target we check out our local Dollar Store.

When you are trying to save money, discount stores like the Dollar Store can be like a gift from the money gods. You can find everything from Tylenol to party decorations for only a buck! But are you really getting the deal you think you are at the Dollar Store?

In fact you can’t get a good deal on everything the Dollar Store has to offer. Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. Check out what I found to be bad deals when I stopped by the Dollar Store.

Vitamins

I don’t blame you for looking for a cheaper alternative for vitamins. At the grocery store vitamins will run you anywhere from $8.50 to $14.99. That’s insane! Although you can buy vitamins for cheaper at the Dollar Store, you’ll actually be short-changing yourself. A Consumer Reports study found dollar-store multi-vitamins are often missing nutrients that they label’s claim to contain. The study tested 18 brands of multi-vitamins and found that half of them didn’t contain the amount they claimed or were missing entirely from the vitamin. They also found that some of the brands didn’t dissolve fast enough to be absorbed by the body. This is one area not to cheapen out on. Keep your body safe by buying vitamins from stores you trust like your local pharmacy or grocery store.

OTC Medication

For much of the same reason it’s best to avoid picking up painkillers like Ibuprofen, Tylenol and Aspirin at the Dollar Store. Consumer Reports found bottles that were counterfeit, didn’t contain what the label claimed it did, and expired on the discount stores shelves. It can be hazardous to your health if you ingest substances that are way past their expiration date or toxic ingredients. Play it safe and buy you medication at reputable retailers like the CVS, Walgreens, Wal-Mart or the grocery store.

Toys

Continuing with the health concerns it’s not safe to buy toys at the Dollar Store. For the most part their toys are low quality and break easy. It’s also probable that the toys found at this retailer and other discount stores like it contain lead and phthalates. This is a real concern for parents with young kids because all kids love to stick toys in their mouths. You don’t want these chemicals ingested by your child in any fashion, this can be dangerous. These toys are simply not worth the risk. To find toys that are discounted or cheap browse the clearance aisles of stores you trust or look for parents selling their children’s old toys on Craigslist.

Canned Food Items

You probably think I am going to warn you away from the food at the Dollar Store for health reasons, but it’s actually because of price. In many instances the Dollar Store is not your cheapest option when it comes to canned or pre-mixed foods (think cake mix). A lot of times you can find them cheaper or get more for your money at Wal-Mart.

Electronics

Basically if it comes with a cord and a plug you want to avoid buying it from the Dollar Store. Consumer Reports warns that these kinds of electronics may have a counterfeit UL safety tag. Therefore they don’t meet the minimum safety requirements the U.S. demands and could be harmful. In this instance it’s better to spend a little more money and get an extension cord, night light, cable or other plug in device from a reputable dealer.

Soft Drinks

Along with canned food, soda is not necessarily a better bargain at the Dollar Store. For just a few cents more you’ll be able to get a brand-name soda in the same size container. This goes for all sizes; from cans to liters.

Tools

Sure you can get a hammer or screwdriver at the Dollar Store for less than you’ll pay at Home Depot but it won’t last you very long. Cheap tools are sold that way because they are cheaply made. In the long run you’ll end up costing yourself more money because you’ll be replacing your tools after only a few uses. It’s best to cough up the little bit of extra money and buy quality made tools from big box retailers.

Gum

There is nothing wrong with the gum that the Dollar Store sells, it’s just not a bargain. You can find a better deal when you buy a big packs of it at warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club.

Kitchen Knives

Buying this is a no-no for the same reason as buying tools at the Dollar Store –they are cheaply made and not worth it. You need a good quality knife when you’re working in the kitchen. Most of the knives you’ll find at the Dollar Store are flimsy and dull. If you spend a few extra bucks on this kitchen accessory it can last you your whole life, which sounds like the best bargain of all.

So if all of these things are bad deals found at the Dollar Store is there anything that is actually a good deal at the chain store? Why yes there is. In fact there are some great deals to be found. Check out what you should always buy at the Dollar Store.

Good Deals…

Home Pregnancy Tests

When you are walking on pins and needles wondering if you are pregnant usually the cost of the test is the last thing on your mind. But these little buggers are insanely expensive! Most often you’ll have to pay between $10-15 a package. Do you really need to pay top dollar to find out “if” you’re pregnant?

Combine this with the fact that women often test multiple times no matter the outcome they are hoping for and you can add some serious expenses to your budget. The effectiveness of home pregnancy tests bought at the Dollar Store has been studied several times and each time they are given a passing grade. No matter if you buy it for $1 or $15, both are 99% effective and test with similar sensitivity. So why not use the test that is $14 cheaper?

Batteries

Honestly not everyone will agree with me on this one, but I found them to be a good enough deal to indulge in. The batteries that you buy from the Dollar Store are the cheaper quality carbon-zinc kind, as opposed to the alkaline or lithium. But the price difference makes up what these batteries lack in quality. At any other store you’ll most likely pay somewhere around $5-6 a pack. And while Dollar Store batteries won’t last as long, they are 80% cheaper, making them a better deal.

Kitchen Accessories

Everything from spatulas to bake ware can be gotten for a steal at the Dollar Store! You’ll find a decent selection to choose from and you can rest assured they are perfectly safe to use. You may not get the coolest looking styles, but you’ll be able to stretch your dollars a lot further at this store. Kitchen accessories at the Dollar Store are perfect for someone moving into their first apartment or for someone looking to add a few key pieces to their cupboards.

Holiday Decorations

Decorating our homes is fun, but can really eat up a lot of our budget. No matter the holiday, decorations to celebrate it aren’t cheap. You’ll find a small selection each holiday of things to brighten your home. The only thing to avoid is any kind of plug in holiday device as these can be unsafe.

Party Supplies

This is the perfect place to pick up disposable supplies for your next party. Greeting cards, paper plates, balloons, plastic forks, wrapping paper…you name it they got it. This is the perfect area to cheap out on since all of this stuff will not be reused after the event. Save your money for the gift instead of the wrapping paper which will be ripped to shreds a few seconds after touching the birthday girl’s hands.

Cleaning Products

If the Good Housekeeping Institute says it’s ok, then that’s good enough for me. Cleaning products don’t have much difference in their mixtures anywhere. Bleach is bleach, no matter where you buy it. The only thing is that the Dollar Store cleaning products may be a little more diluted than the ones you buy elsewhere, but for every day cleaning they’ll work just fine. While you’re in the aisle pick up some sponges, rubber gloves, brushes and other cleaning accessories –they’re a good deal too.

Candy

If you buy that bag of Twizzler’s, or box of Juju-Bee’s at the movie theater you’ll pay 500% more than you would at the Dollar Store. There is no reason to pay those inflated prices. Check expiration dates before you make your final purchases, but for the most part you’ll do find buying this at the Dollar Store.

Kid’s Art Supplies

There is no reason you need to go broke over letting your child express themselves through crayons or paint. Oftentimes items like coloring books, colored pencils, markers, erasers, glue sticks, and such can be bought at a huge discount compared to other stores. Release your child’s inner Picasso, but not at the expense of your wallet.

Socks

We all lose these bad boys like crazy in the dryer. No one knows where they disappear to, but so many times we are left with dozens of loner socks that can’t be worn. No need to replace them with expensive, fancy ones that no one else will most likely ever see. Instead buy more from the Dollar Store. As you’ll find at more expensive retailers socks come in a variety of thicknesses and quality, make sure you pick the ones that will provide you appropriate cushion dryness throughout your day.

The next time you want to cut expenses, think about shifting where you buy things from instead of cutting out activities. Knowing what to buy where can save you a ton of cash that you can ultimately use to do the fun things that give you pleasure in life.

Keeping Money in Your Pocket,

Nancy Patterson


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