I’m a huge supporter of Dollar Tree. You simply can’t beat the prices. When you look at what the store has in stock, the same or similar items seem to be marked up 400 percent in other stores. There’s no reason to purchase some of these items elsewhere.
While Dollar Tree is the only “pure” dollar store I know of, every item at Family Dollar and Dollar General is under $10, and most cost $1. Dollar General says that 25 percent of their products are $1 or less. Plus they sell major brands, which you may not be able to find at Dollar Tree.
Still, I prefer Dollar Tree because I know that everything there will be a dollar or less. While they have their staple items, their inventory is always changing, which turns every trip into a fun scavenger hunt. You often find things that you didn’t even know you needed!
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I’ve made my share of both good and bad purchases at a Dollar Tree. In the process, I learned about what to buy at the dollar store — and what not to buy.
What to Buy at the Dollar Store
1. Kid’s Toys
Kids are notorious for using a toy for two days and then conveniently forgetting about it. Given that, I love buying toys at the dollar store because they have a wide variety of inexpensive options. You can find bubbles, balls, toy cars, and more — not to mention activity books, beach toys, and even dolls. Sure, they won’t be name brands or the latest video game, but many of the toys are just as good.
2. Greeting Cards
We should all be outraged by the price of greeting cards at major stores. I’ve seen cards that sell for $7 or more — and they aren’t even that exciting.
Buy greeting cards at the dollar store and you can get two for a buck.
The stores often have cards just as bland, interesting, or unique as those that you can find at the major chains, but for much cheaper. I also like to buy the packs of blank cards. These packs also only cost a dollar, while they might easily cost $10 at another store.
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3. School Supplies
It’s inevitable. Every year, your child needs new pencils, paper, binders, crayons, tissues, a pencil box, scissors, and more. It’s likely that a majority of those items are available at the dollar store. No need to shell out $100 each year for school supplies anymore. Now you can spend maybe $20 — if that.
4. Party Supplies
You’ll want to get paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils at the dollar store. They even have balloons, which are usually much more expensive at other stores. By saving on decorations, you can purchase a nice cake elsewhere!
Have you ever noticed how expensive spices are at the grocery store? Here’s a tip: Get them at the dollar store and pay next to nothing for the same stuff. The selection might be limited, but dollar stores have many of the basics.
What Not to Buy at the Dollar Store
If you’re a college student or a family on a tight budget, it may seem tempting — and even sometimes necessary — to buy food at the dollar store. However, there are some items that you're better off buying at an actual grocery store. Flour is a great example. You can get much more for your dollar at Walmart.
Some food at the dollar store just isn’t worth it. Unlike Dollar General or Family Dollar — both of which make an effort to have a well-stocked grocery area — I’m a little suspect of food at Dollar Tree. I just don’t know how long their food's been sitting there.
Grocery stores tend to have major sales, accept coupons, and sometimes even offer rewards points. For example, my Kroger gives fuel points based on how much I spend in store. This gives me a discount on their gas, which can even come out cheaper than Costco at times!
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2. Aluminum Foil
I never thought about how dollar-store aluminum foil may differ from other brands, but I learned that the foil is often pretty poor quality. When I bought dollar-store aluminum foil, it was flimsy. This was the one time I felt that I got what I paid for at the dollar store. Save yourself the headache and buy quality stuff at the grocery store instead.
3. Tools and Auto-Care Items
It may not be a good idea to buy engine oil at the dollar store. It’s best to get that at a specific auto specialty store, since you have no idea what’s in it. I’d be worried that dollar-store engine oil would damage my car. We also once bought a wire stripper at the Dollar Tree, and it was useless. You're better off purchasing tools at Ace or Home Depot.