Dollar Tree is a great place to stock up for cheap on some of the essentials in your life. It's also a place that you can easily waste your money. Learn what to buy at the dollar store to get the most bang for your buck, plus what you should steer clear of!
Occasionally, when I'm in need of supplies, I'll make a quick stop at Dollar Tree. It's one of my favorite go-to's for, well, lots of things. Having 8 kids, 10 and under, I don't get to go shopping as much as I used to. (Downer for me, better for my wallet…)
Sadly, it's been a while since I've been to my favorite store-o-cheapness. As I was walking around, I kept saying “Wow, this is great!”…”and this!”…”oh, this is a great deal…” (yes, aloud. I'm totally turning into THAT person…) Embarrassing? Maybe. True? Totally!
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I get asked these questions a lot:
- “What should I buy from the dollar store?”
- “What are the best deals at the dollar store?”
- “Is everything there junk?”
- “Is everything there a good deal?”
Since I feel like I'm somewhat of a pro on what to buy at the dollar store, it got me thinking… I might as well SHARE these great finds with all of you!
WHERE DO DOLLAR STORES GET THEIR MERCHANDISE?
First off, let's go over where they actually get their cheap products from and why they're so cheap.
- Dollar store products are many times the same products you will find in other stores.
- Sometimes, products hit the dollar stores because of damage or lack of freshness.
- BUT, they are often just offered cheaper because they operate on slimmer margins than grocery stores.
- Many items were surplus or overstock items from a company. That company might even sell their items at a loss to the dollar store, but it's cheaper than paying taxes, paying for warehousing to hold the items, and frees up their warehouse space for items that will make them profit.
- Many times, the surplus items they buy are surplus because it was last season's color or an old style.
- Dollar stores will often buy and sell anything that's cheap. They will buy entire containers of goods at auction from China, without knowing what's in them, and will sell whatever ends up in that container. Surprise!
- Sometimes their products are name-brand products that don't advertise anymore, such as Bon-Ami Cleanser.
- Sometimes dollar store products are name-brand products, only smaller. Irish Spring soap, for example, is the exact same bar you'd find in the grocery store, only smaller. Same with their ziplock bags. The box will only cost you $1 (rather than $2 or $3), but you might only have 7 or 10 bags, versus 20.
- Dollar stores can sell the SAME items as grocery stores for cheaper because they have class-B or C locations, so they pay much lower rent than class-A locations.
- They also have a small, low-wage staff, that's usually only about 10 employees per store.
So, all of that being said, we move on to what to buy from the dollar store, particularly Dollar Tree, in my opinion!
WHAT KITCHEN AND BAKING TOOLS TO BUY FROM THE DOLLAR TREE
Hands-down, if the only thing you walk away with learning from this mile-long post, it's BUY YOUR DISPOSABLE BAKING PANS AT THE DOLLAR STORE! For the love of pizza, people, you're crazy if you don't! They are sturdy, durable, practical, and oh yeah… A DOLLAR!
As I mention in pretty much any food post, if you are going to take the time to cook, then double whatever you're making, throw half in a dollar store aluminum baking pan, and freeze it! It takes you no extra time and you'll have a stock of quick meals in your freezer for those days that you're tempted to order takeout because you just don't have time to cook. Every time you go, grab 2, 3, or 4 of these babies in various sizes.
Having a stock on-hand will help you when taking treats/meals to friends, and will save you a butt-load in cooking. (Yes, I just said butt-load. Yes, I might just be 12 years old…)
OTHER KITCHEN SUPPLIES TO BUY
They also have kitchen tools that work fine, such as whisks, oven mitts, ice cream scoops, measuring cups, table runners, strainers, can openers, wooden spoons, and more. These all make great gift ideas that are super cheap!
BINS, BASKETS, AND ORGANIZATION
For the love of all the luscious organizing tools! The possibilities are endless with these babies. Remember my tub-toy laundry basket trick? Dollar store laundry baskets come in handy! Sure, they aren't sturdy enough to hold a heavy load of jeans day after day, but they are for toys, kids' clothes, dog toys, shoes, sports equipment, etc.
It could even be your closet catch-all basket or what you use to tidy up your house in 5 minutes. Their other tubs and bins are amazing also. Perfect for office supplies, toys, your lost-sock basket, gift baskets/bins, closet organizing, and so on. You can never have too many bins, in my book!
They have some great bins to organize closets, too! I have been organizing kids' closets, and was going to run to Target to get some square bins. Wouldn't you know that the dollar store had them in TONS of different shapes and sizes… and they are CUTE! For $1, their bins and baskets are a KILLER deal. Nearly identical ones are at Target. Seriously, why pay more?
WHAT CLEANING SUPPLIES TO BUY AT THE DOLLAR STORE
I also buy some cleaning supplies from the dollar store. I don't buy mops or big things though, because you need those to be pretty sturdy and $1 won't cut it.
Here a few of my favorite cleaning supplies to buy:
- Cleaning supplies
Only some cleaning supplies are a good deal (I love the dollar store “windex”). Keep a price notebook so you can learn your prices and know where you'll get the best bang for your buck. Usually, I stock up on most of the cleaning supplies that I use at Costco.
BUY POOL TOYS FROM THE DOLLAR STORE
Now, it's no surprise to anyone that dollar store quality isn't the best money can buy. So I will say, that is the case with pool toys. “So then, Jordan, why the heck do you recommend we buy them?” Great question! Let me enlighten you with my crazy logic. Think about it…whether you pay a lot or a little for your pool toys, they tend to get TRASHED by the end of the season.
Trust me, I've tried deflating or drying them, putting them in a bin in the garage, and holding onto them year after year. It just doesn't work (for me, anyway)! When I go to blow them up the next year, they are wilted, misshapen, stinky, and don't ever seem to hold their air well any more.
Now, here's my disclaimer… for FLOTATION devices in the pool, you really get what you pay for and I totally recommend getting the nicer stuff. But when it comes to having cheap, simple, “give my kids something to play within the pool and I don't care if they trash them” toys, the dollar store is your place.
They even have Disney goggles! I'm guessing the quality of the goggles isn't great, but for $1, can you really complain? P.S…online I found most of the same goggles for $15!!! WHAAAT?!
And of course, you can't go wrong with the $1 pool noodles. Once again, not the biggest or best around, but for the use that my kids put them to (hitting each other with them in the pool), they serve their purpose at 100%. Plus… Rather than taking up valuable room in your garage holding on to those pesky buggers for an entire year, cut them up and use them in your boots like I do!
And heck, I even found baby girl swimsuits there. Once again, it's no Nike suit, but for a baby girl who hardly moves when in the water and will outgrow it in 5.3 seconds anyway, $1 is a KILLER deal and it will serve its purpose just fine.
ALL THINGS HAIR AND MIRRORS
One day in high school, I dropped yet ANOTHER hand mirror (for the 3rd time in 2 days, it felt like…). I got SO MAD when I ran to the store and paid over $5 for another crappy mirror, that I was bound to break – yet again – in a matter of time.
I wised up and started buying my mirrors from the dollar store, and I've never looked back since! It's a mirror for dang sake! If you can look in it and see yourself, it works. Whether it's $1 or $5, it won't change how your face looks. Darn it all… 😉
I used to be okay with their brushes and combs, BUT I'm now a HUGE fan of Bathpack! They're only $5, but they brush through tangled hair so well. No more tears for my girls! Use code JORDAN for 10% off.
My daughter LOVES accessories. The last time I was at Walmart, I paid $3.50 for a small pack of cheap headbands. Then I went to the dollar store, and saw a nearly identical pack, for $1. Doh! You better believe Walmart will be getting a pack of cheap headbands returned to them in the next few days! The dollar store's hair accessories, clips, claws, and headbands work perfectly fine, especially for young girls.
WHAT BEAUTY PRODUCTS TO BUY AT THE DOLLAR STORE
This one may shock many of you, but I LOVE dollar store makeup! Not all of it, of course, but many of it works great. If you watched how I do my makeup, you'll see that I'm an advocate for buying a good primer, then using cheap eyeshadow. The primer makes it so that even the cheapest of cheap-o eyeshadow stays on all day and looks vibrant.
As I explained above, many times their products are surplus, or out-of-date colors. I have bought many a lip gloss, lipstick, eyeliner, lip liner, makeup pencil sharpeners, and eyeshadow from the dollar store. And guess what? I get complimented on my makeup all the time. Same goes with cotton face pads, swabs, sponge applicators, and cotton balls. They seem to work just fine. However, I am picky about my Q-tips and hate flimsy Q-tips, so I don't buy any Q-tips from there.
Nail items are also great! I've gotten Maybelline nail polish from there before. It's probably an old or overstock product, or is an outdated color. But for $1? Not bad! Nail polish remover is also great here. I haven't tried their tweezers, so I'll have to try them sometime…
My advice? Try it! If you don't like it, you're only out $1. If you do like it, you've saved yourself many dollars. *Just remember that you can't return or exchange things to dollar stores, so don't go too crazy.
ONE OTHER RANDOM BUT IMPORTANT THING…
Oh, and I'm not sure what category to put this in, but, PREGNANCY TESTS! They are a great deal here, and yes, they work. Don't trust it? Buy two, take two tests, and you'll STILL save yourself tons.
ARTS AND CRAFTS SUPPLIES
I could go on and on about what to buy at the dollar store in terms of art and crafting. They have great wreath forms, poster board, pony beads, and paints for the kids for a fair deal. They also have stickers and foam stickers, popsicle sticks, and wiggly eyes – all great for crafts with the kids, all for a good deal – especially the wiggly eyes!
Many dollar store items – anything from plastic shot glasses to puff balls, coloring books, beads, and charms – SAVE ME on long road trips. While you can get big boxes of crayons for a better deal at stores like Walmart, I have to say that I love their simple, small packs, which are great for road trips. They even have Disney ones, and I love their double-sided jumbo crayons.
Gem rocks are the cheapest I've seen anywhere else. They are fun for projects with the kids, to put in centerpieces and candle vase thingies (technical term, yes), and even a project like THIS wreath.
WHAT OFFICE AND CLASSROOM SUPPLIES TO BUY AT THE DOLLAR STORE
I think one of the most overlooked aisles is the CLASSROOM aisle! Many dollar stores have an area dedicated to charts, bulletin board borders and signs, calendars, charts, and other helpful tools to use. They're great whether you are a teacher or NOT! I use these types of calendars and charts all the time for when organizing, teaching my kids, decorating their playroom, or working on behavior.
Now, with the office supplies, you just have to know your prices. A small box of pencils at the dollar store, while only $1 obviously, might not be the best deal around because it probably has LESS pencils than a box of pencils on sale at Walmart near back-to-school time. BUT – in general, many of their office items are a good deal. What caught my eye here were the calculators and sticky notes. $1 for a pack of 6 mini sticky pads is a great deal. And really, who doesn't need more sticky notes??
I will advise you to avoid their spiral notebooks and packets of loose-leaf paper. You can get much BIGGER packets/notebooks for $1 or less at your local store, especially during back-to-school time. Just watch the sales.
GRAB ALL THE HOLIDAY AND PARTY SUPPLIES
Mylar balloons, streamers (2 for $1!), vinyl table cloths, gift bags, tissue paper, bows, greeting cards, basket fillers, party signs (especially around holidays), favor bags/boxes, party favors, and decorations. You name it, they've got it – all for a great price. They even have wedding and baby stuff! This is my go-to place for party favors, like for my son's birthday party and my friends' bridal shower.
WHAT TOYS TO BUY AT THE DOLLAR STORE
When I say “toys,” I'm not talking about a “here's your one and only, super amazing birthday present this year, Johnny! I hope you treasure and use it for always!” toy. I'm talking about your SMALL toy; the one that's perfect for stocking stuffers, road trips, behavior rewards, goodie bags for birthday parties, festivals, etc.
For $1, you can make a kid's whole universe by introducing them to random knock-off barbie, poorly-painted pony, or the baby bottle with the disappearing milk (my daughter STILL gets a kick out of that thing months later). I have been able to stock and restock my son's green army guy supply, Priya's play kitchen with small dollar store packs of plastic kitchen food, and even some small dollhouse furniture. No, they aren't going to be toys to pass down to your grandkids, but yes, they will do the trick in entertaining your kids for a while.
I love stocking up on travel games and anything magnetic for road trips and keeping them quiet in church.
Oh, and I will say that if you have a small dog, the pet toys are a good deal too. A 100lb dog would eat them in 2.3 seconds, but for the little guys, great bargain.
So there you have it! Those are only SOME of the things that I regularly buy from the dollar store. Now on to…
WHAT NOT TO BUY AT THE DOLLAR STORE
Here is the big question… What should you avoid at the dollar store?
Mainly the canned food, but you have to be careful with bagged food, baking goods, seasonings, and frozen food. Much of it ends up being a higher price per ounce than it would be at the grocery store. So just grocery shop like I do and you'll get things MUCH cheaper… and probably better quality.
However, I will say the dollar stores often times carry brands or items that grocery stores no longer carry, which is helpful. But in terms of everyday groceries, I say avoid the dollar store!
VITAMINS AND MEDICATION
I'm sorry, I just don't trust them. But ultimately, the price-per-pill isn't that great. Buy that kind of stuff at Costco and you'll get a better value.
Do I really need to explain why a $1 electronic is not a good investment? Just stay away from any of their electronics because you're basically throwing your money down the toilet!
WHEEW! So next time you go to one of my favorite hangouts (aka the dollar store), be aware of what you're tossing into that little green cart so you don't walk away carelessly spending your hard earned dollars. What do YOU love buying from the dollar store? Leave a comment and share!
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Want some more great ideas?
- Learn about one of my most vital budgeting principles that I teach – the 70% rule.
- Keep track of your food by inventorying your pantry, fridge and freezer using our free printable!
- Tired of searching for “fun things to do near me” and coming up short? Use these tips and hacks to get the best results!
Happy bargain shopping!