I often get asked, “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?” My friend posted this post about what to buy from the dollar store way back when, and it had some helpful info in it.

 

Today I made a quick stop at the Dollar Tree, one of my favorite go-to's for…well…lots of things. Having 3 young kids, I don't get to go shopping as much as I used to, (downer for me, better for my wallet…)
 so it's been a while since I've been to my favorite store-o-cheapness. As I was walking around I kept saying
 (yes, aloud. I'm totally turning into THAT person…) “Wow, this is great!”…”and this!”… “oh, this is a great deal…”… and it got me thinking…I might as well SHARE these great finds with all of you!
First off…

WHERE do dollar stores get their merchandise?
  • Their 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/over-stock 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 their surplus items they buy are surplus because it was last season's color, or an old style of something.
  • 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 any more, such as Bon-Ami Cleanser (as explained HERE)
  • Sometimes their products are name-brands 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, vs 20.
  • Dollar Stores can sell the SAME items as groceries stores for cheaper, because they have C or B-class locations, so they pay much lower rent than class-A locations.
  • They also have a small, low-wage staff, usually only about 10 jobs per store (as read HERE)
So, all of that being said, Here are some of the best things to buy from the Dollar Store (in my opinion):
1. Bins, Baskets,  and Organization:
Look at all those luscious organizing tools! The possibilities are endless with these babies.
Remember my tub-toy laundry basket trick? These dollar store laundry baskets (top left in pic) come in handy! Sure, they aren't sturdy enough to hold a heavy load of jeans day after day, but for toys, kids clothes, dog toys, shoes, sports equipment, etc. It could even be your closet catch-all basket.
Their other tubs and bins are amazing also. Perfect for office supplies, toys, your lost-sock basket, gift baskets/bins, closet organizing, etc. You can never have too many bins in my book!
I have been organizing Hutch's closet, 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??

2. Pool Toys.

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, mis-shapen, 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 with in the pool and I don't care if they trash them” toys, the dollar store is your place.
And look, they even have Disney goggles!
I'm guessing the quality of these goggles isn't great, but for $1, can you really complain? P.S…online I found the Cars 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 serves it's purpose just fine.
3. Kitchen and Baking Tools:
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 mentioned when making this lasagna completely out of leftovers, if you are going to take the time to cook, then double whatever you're making, throw 1/2 in a dollar store 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 or 3 or 4 of these babies (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…)
They also have other great things such as popsicle molds,
Disney sandwich cases,
Cute plates, cups, serving dishes, and bake wear  (ceramic, metal, and plastic)
And 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, etc. I will also include in this category some cleaning supplies – gloves, sponges, rags. Not mops or big things though, those you need to be pretty sturdy and $1 won't cut it. But buckets, squeegees, and even some cleaning supplies (I love the dollar store “windex”) are a good deal. (Just learn your prices!)
4. Brushes, Hair Accessories, Mirrors, and Combs:
In High School, one day I dropped yet ANOTHER hand mirror (for the 3rd time in 2 days, it felt like…), and 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…
Same with their brushes and combs. I was SHOCKED when I ran to Walmart for a brush (because the handle broke on mine), and I looked at the price tags. They are robbing you if you pay that much! I'm sure some hair stylists will disagree. I believe in good shampoo/conditioner, but when it comes to combs, mirrors, and brushes, the dollar store is MORE than ok for my needs.
My daughter LOVES accessories. LAST NIGHT I was at Walmart and paid $3.50 for a small pack of cheap headbands. Today I went to the dollar store…and saw a nearly identical pack…yes, 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.
5. Makeup
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, lipliner, 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…
Moving on…
As you can see in the above picture, nail items are also great! The gold-ish nail polish duo you're seeing? It's Maybeline. 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.
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.
6. Art and Craft Supplies:
I could go on and on about the great finds at the dollar store in terms of art and crafting. They have great wreath forms (used many times like HERE and HERE), poster board for a good deal, and as shown above, they have pony beads (great deal), and paints for the kids for a fair deal.
They 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 (as shown here).
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 (great for road trips). They even have Disney ones, and I love their double-sided jumbo crayons like these for my 2yo:
These gem rocks are the cheapest I've seen anywhere else. They are fun for projects with the kids, to put in center pieces and candle vase thingies (technical term, yes), and even a project like THIS wreath.

7. Office and Classroom Supplies:

I think one of the most overlooked isle is the CLASSROOM isle! Many dollar stores have an area dedicated to charts, bulletin board borders and signs, calendars (as shown above), charts (as shown below), and other helpful tools to use…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 play room, or working on behavior.
Their dry erase boards and markers are a GREAT deal at just $1. I picked myself up one of these cute calendar dry-erase boards. It even has magnets on the back, perfect for meal planning and grocery shopping.
Now, with the office supplies, you just have to know your prices. A small box of pencils are 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.

8. Some toys.

When I say “toys”, I'm not talking 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 knockoff 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 re-stock my son's green army guy supply, Priya's play kitchen with small dollar store packs of plastic kitchen food, and even some small doll house furniture. No, they aren't going to be toys to pass down to your grand kids, 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. My 100lb dog would eat them in 2.3 seconds, but for the little guys, great bargain.
9. 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 wedding and baby stuff!
As I mentioned in the toy section, this is my go-to place for party favors, like for my son's birthday party:
Or even this party favor that I made for my friends' bridal shower:


So there you have it! Those are only SOME of the things that I regularly buy from the dollar store. Now, the big question…

Things to AVOID buying at the dollar store:
  1. Most food. Mainly the canned food, but you have to be careful with bagged food, baking goods, seasonings, frozen. Much of it is higher price than 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 every-day groceries, I say avoid the dollar store!
  2. 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.
  3. Electronics of any kind. Do I really need to explain why a $1 electronic is not a good investment?

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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