The Best Things to Buy at the Dollar Store (and Not Buy)

shopping at dollar store

In checking out the latest issue of Kiplinger, I found a fun quiz they published online about dollar store deals: Is it a deal or not a deal? The quiz lists several items and asks the reader if they think it is a good idea to purchase this item at the dollar store or not.

I have to admit, I'm not a frequent visitor of dollar stores. But judging from the masses that go in and out of the dollar store next door to the gym (I sometimes frequent), I have to believe they are doing quite well.

Thought it would be fun to divulge their findings about what are good things to buy at the dollar store and some that are not. Feel free to share what you like to purchase there as well!

Party supplies

If we do go to the dollar store, it seems like someone is having a birthday party or celebration. We often get helium balloons for cheap(er) and other partying supplies. Great place to get items for celebrations that are quick throw-a-ways.

Cleaning supplies

Since the Mrs has started to make her own cleaning supplies (mostly from vinegar / water) – we don't really buy any cleaning supplies at the stores. If we do, we get cloths, pads or sponges where you can find some decent savings.

Greeting cards

I used to make greeting cards and send them on to loved ones – but since working full-time and having other side projects, I don't as much. The dollar store remains a great place to find greetings cards on the cheap. And, with the price of greeting cards going up (seems like $5 is the norm) – its great to find a place to find 'em for less.

Seasonal items / decorations

Along with party supplies, a great place to get the seasonal items is at the dollar store. According to Kiplinger, “Basics such as Easter-basket “grass” or holiday-tree tinsel are particularly great bargains at dollar stores compared with the big-box retailers.”

Cooking and dining accessories

Kiplinger found a lot of common kitchen utensils at the dollar store for 50-90% less than what they'd find at Target or Walmart. This is another one that I would use caution though – as there could be some issues related to how it was manufactured and the quality.

Office supplies

This is a category that I didn't think of getting at a dollar store: office supplies. And since most office supplies are those use it once then throw-a-away, quality isn't of the essence.

I did my own unscientific study on whether or not buying from the dollar store was cheaper than other stores.

And a few don't buy at the dollar store items (cuz they aren't a great deal):

School supplies

With the back-to-school season upon us – you might find better school shopping at the bigger retailers like Walmart and even Staples.


While you might be able to find cheaper toys here – I think for safety reasons – it is best to avoid the dollar stores for children toys. Plus, they may end up in the garbage after the first week of use. 


Along the similar lines of toys here – I would take my food shopping elsewhere. Plus, the prices may not be as great. Kiplinger stated they found a can of kidney beans for $1 at a nearby dollar store, while at a grocer, the same can was selling for 80 cents.


“Deals sites and consumer advocates have long warned people off of buying batteries at dollar stores, especially batteries that contain carbon zinc,” stated Kiplinger.

How about you? Any items you like to buy at the dollar store OR avoid?

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  1. Agree with you on the toys. May look harmless but they may not be of good quality and may have high lead content.

  2. Regarding cleaning supplies, you can buy vinegar by the gallon at the dollar store.

    • Good suggestion Rosa!

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