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Budgeting

16 Dollar Store Buys Worth Your Dollar

You guys, you know how much I love a good sale. And as a spender, it’s pretty dang tempting when I walk into a store and everything seems to be on sale. You know what store I’m talking about? The dollar store. It’s like a bargain hunter’s paradise. Everything is only $1 . . . well, $1.25 (thanks, inflation!).

At first glance, you might think the only things a dollar store has to offer are cheap toys for your next road trip or candy to sneak into the movie theater. But there’s so much more than that—you just have to know where to look.

You’ll be surprised at the amazing deals you can find . . . and even the things you should buy elsewhere.

16 Things You Should Buy at the Dollar Store

All right, guys, if you’re looking for the best dollar store buys, you’ve come to the right place. But before I jump in, I have to say it: Shopping at the dollar store can save you tons of money. But just because everything is $1.25 doesn’t mean you should buy it. Keep your eyes on the things you need and stick to your budget!

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I’ve put together the top 16 things you should buy at the dollar store to save you money. Let’s jump in.

1. Greeting Cards

One of the best deals at the dollar store by far are the greeting cards. Surprised? I was too. But instead of spending a fortune on a mushy Valentine’s Day card for your husband at other stores, you can find the perfect mushy (not to mention name-brand) card at your local dollar store!

And while you’re there, go ahead and grab your sister’s birthday card and a couple thank-you cards . . . all for less than one fancy card at the card store.

2. Stickers and Activity/Coloring Books

This one is for all you parents out there . . . the dollar store is the perfect place to stock up on kids’ activities and toys for your next road trip. Not to mention those days you just need your kids to give you 15 minutes of quiet. The dollar store has plenty of activity books, sticker sheets and even those Pop It! toys the kids love so much.

3. Reading Glasses

At $1.25 a piece, there’s no excuse to keep misplacing your specs! And I’m not just talking about misplacing them on top of your head. Give yourself a break from combing the house top to bottom and purchase several pairs of reading glasses from the dollar store. Keep a pair at home, in your bag and at the office. Grab one in every color if you want!

4. Cleaning Supplies

Who said you have to bust the budget just to clean your house? Definitely not me. Those name-brand household cleaners aren’t just limited to mega-retailers like Target and Walmart. Scan your local dollar store’s shelves for trusted names or maybe give the generic brand a try (it doesn’t hurt!).

And while you’re disinfecting, stock up on dish towels, distilled vinegar, spray bottles and new scrub brushes for your dishes, toilets and tubs. See? Now that you’ve got the supplies, all you need is a little bit of elbow grease!

5. Travel-Sized Items

I love traveling. It’s so much fun—especially stocking up on those travel-sized toiletries. The dollar store is the perfect place to shop for mini toothpaste tubes, shampoo and conditioner.

But here’s my little travel hack: I love buying the empty travel-sized bottles at the dollar store and filling them up with my own products from home. The best part? They’re reusable (which means you’re saving even more money on future trips)!

6. Table Centerpieces

Okay, all my engaged couples out there . . . listen up! The dollar store is the perfect place to shop for your reception decorations. Instead of spending one-third of your budget on centerpieces, why not get a little creative (on a budget)?

You can score a ton of vases, candles and even faux flowers that would be just as beautiful. And the best part? Your guests will never know. Plus, you can host a little centerpiece decoration night. Invite your friends over to help you put them together to make the process even more fun.

7. Party Supplies

If you’re shopping for your kid’s next birthday party, the dollar store is the way to go. In addition to scoring great discounts on superhero balloons, party planners (aka mom and dad) can find everything from cups to crepe paper at a fraction of the price you’d find them elsewhere.

And don’t forget to stock up on gift wrap, tissue paper and ribbons for all those presents. Get this: Instead of paying an arm and a leg on a fancy balloon arch kit, get it from the dollar store! You can make a balloon arch with two bags of balloons and one arch kit—all for under $4!

8. Storage and Organization Containers

A plastic bin is a plastic bin. Why spend nearly $10 on one to hold your bulky winter sweaters when you could get the same thing for cheaper? And don’t forget about all the toys lining the floor of your playroom! (They never seem to go away!)

You can stock up on containers for things like toys, crafts and shoes to make your space look extra organized and put together. That is, until your well-meaning toddler comes back around to play. It’s an endless process, you guys!

9. Picture Frames

I’ve always wondered why picture frames are so expensive. But they’re something we all use to showcase our favorite memories with our favorite people. Next time you’re in the market for a few picture frames, give Anthropologie the cold shoulder and head to the dollar store. You can save yourself and your budget by shopping for frames at a discount. You may not find the same kinds of frames you would at those boutique stores, but your wallet will thank you.

10. Crafts

I have three little kids, and they love anything with stickers, markers and paper. And if you’re living in that world, you know stocking up on all that can get expensive. Instead of buying the stuff that costs an arm and a leg, get your craft supplies at the dollar store.  

11. Books

Browse the book section, and you might be pleasantly surprised! There are plenty of children’s books to pick from, plus notable hardcover best sellers that are sure to impress any bookworm. And for $1.25? You just can’t beat that—especially when books are running anywhere from $15–$25 these days. Plus, if you don’t want to read them, they make really cute décor!

12. Bathroom Items

No, I’m not talking about toilet paper—although you should probably avoid dollar store toilet paper at all costs! But there are plenty of other bathroom necessities you need to check out. Don’t pay full price for shower liners or curtains, bath mats, trash cans, shower accessories, toothbrush holders or soap dispensers. You can pick up those things at the dollar store and get a major discount!

13. Seasonal Décor

We’re not just talking about Christmas—don’t forget Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s Day, Independence Day and St. Patrick’s Day. But if you’re not careful, all these decorations can put a major dent in your wallet. Instead of shelling out cash to trim the tree or usher in spring, swing by the dollar store for some fun and festivity on a budget!

14. Glassware and Drinkware

So, you didn’t get the crystal stemware you registered for when you got married—though I don’t think anyone drinks out of crystal these days anyways. Even so, if you had your newlywed heart set on that fine china, it might sting all these years later. But guess what? You can get beautiful glasses (not to mention bowls, plates and mugs) for less than $2 a piece. You can’t beat that deal! Here’s the best part: You won’t cry a bucket of tears when a dish does break. (Because they always do.)

15. Cosmetic Tools

This one is for all you ladies out there. If you’re sick of paying ridiculous prices for a makeup brush, the dollar store will be your new best friend. I’m not kidding—these brushes do a great job at a fraction of the price! You can create your entire brush set for under $10. It’s a steal!

16. Name-Brand Items

Let’s say you find name-brand items you know cost more than a dollar at competing grocery stores. Scoop them up! You can find things like dish soap, cake mix, sports drinks, baby wipes and numerous brands of candy for less. It all depends on your local dollar store and what they carry.

6 Things You Should Not Buy at the Dollar Store

So, now that we’ve covered your best dollar store buys, it’s time to cover the things you should steer clear of—at all costs! Okay, that may have been slightly dramatic, but just because something is the right price doesn’t mean it’s a good product. Here are six things you should definitely not buy at the dollar store.

1. Vitamins and Medication

If it’s name-brand Tylenol (that isn’t past the expiration date), then you’ve found yourself a deal. But if it’s a knockoff, don’t bother. Do yourself a favor and buy the generic brand at a pharmacy. The bottles at the dollar store are so small for the price. You can find a larger store-brand bottle at a better deal at your favorite grocery store.

2. Toilet Paper

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re looking to cut costs in your budget, toilet paper shouldn’t be first on your list. There’s a major difference between good toilet paper and . . . well, bad toilet paper.

3. Power Strips

When it comes to things like surge protectors and extension cables, invest a couple more bucks and get something from a reputable brand or company. Believe me, it’s not worth risking the fire hazard to save a few dollars.

4. Tech Items

You may think buying all those expensive tech items at the dollar store might be the best way to save some money. But it turns out, you get what you pay for. Things like phone chargers and charging ports just don’t last like their higher quality counterparts from big-box stores. So, the next time you need a new phone charger, save yourself the hassle and buy the more expensive one. Just make sure you budget for it!

5. Most Toys

Okay, mom and dad—let me get real with you. If you just need a handful of toys to encourage some good behavior (or peace and quiet) from your kid (toilet training, sleeping in their own bed, etc.), then dollar store toys are your best friend. But if you want a toy to actually last, oh say, more than 36 hours—buy it somewhere else. Look for deals on the clearance shelf or at discount stores like Ross, T.J. Maxx and even Aldi.

6. Cosmetics

If it’s a name-brand item, go for it! But if it’s generic lipstick or foundation, it’s better to pass. People with allergies and sensitive skin can have harsh reactions to cheap filler ingredients. There are plenty of ways to save on your makeup purchases (shopping on Black Friday or using coupons), and buying them at the dollar store doesn’t have to be one of them.

7. Canned Goods

Spending $1.25 seems like a bargain across the board, but is it really? Not when it comes to canned goods. In fact, $1.25 per can is actually kind of pricey when you think about it. You’d be better off going to your grocery store for 77 cents a can or a two-for-a-dollar deal.

One Last Tip on Dollar Store Buys

Keep in mind: The point of shopping at the dollar store is to save money. But it’s just as easy to blow your budget on little things as it is on a few big-ticket items. I’m all about spending wisely, but it can be so easy to nickel and dime your money away with impulse purchases. And of course, it’s never a good idea to buy things you don’t actually need. So, before you check out, ask yourself: Am I really getting a good deal on things I actually need, or am I just overspending with smaller bills?

No matter what you buy (or where you buy it), the key is making sure it’s in the budget! (Even if it only costs $1.25!) When you make a budget—and stick to it—you’ll feel the freedom to spend guilt-free! Check out EveryDollar. It’s my favorite budgeting tool . . . and it’s free. Create your first budget today and see how much you can save at the dollar store . . . and in life.

Rachel Cruze

About the author

Rachel Cruze

Rachel Cruze is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, financial expert, and host of The Rachel Cruze Show. Rachel writes and speaks on personal finances, budgeting, investing and money trends. As a co-host of The Ramsey Show, America’s second-largest talk radio show, Rachel reaches 18 million weekly listeners with her personal finance advice. She has appeared on Good Morning America and Fox News and has been featured in publications such as Time, Real Simple and Women’s Health magazines. Through her shows, books, syndicated columns and speaking events, Rachel shares fun, practical ways to take control of your money and create a life you love. Learn More.

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