Why Shopping the Dollar Store is Keeping You Broke

Just a few shopping tips to help you get the most out of your dollar when shopping the dollar store.

I know shopping at the dollar store you can save money. But it can also lead to overspending, if you aren’t careful. I know when the dollar store first opened up in our town, I was so happy to have it. I could now get so many things for, you guessed it, just a dollar.

The “it’s only a dollar” appeal can be so powerful. But it’s that appeal that could keep you broke. Even though the items are just a dollar, it might not be the right place for you to shop, unless you follow these few rules or secrets to shopping the dollar stores.

Have the Right Attitude

I know when I first started shopping the dollar store it was so nice to be able to find so many things our family used for just a dollar. It was easy to shop and not worry about how many things I was placing in my cart. “Oh I’ll get that it’s only a dollar” attitude can make you go broke in the dollar store.

If the item you are purchasing at the dollar store, is an item you wouldn’t normally purchase, you need to stop and think. Do I really need this item? Is it something I’m going to use? Is this item a good deal? Or are you really buying because you think I’ll eventually use it and it’s only a dollar.

Make sure to really ponder your purchase before it ends up in your cart. A few items that you don’t really need, added to your cart because they are just a dollar, can end up breaking your budget. Before you know it, those just a dollar items, have turned into $20.

Be Able to Spot a Good Deal

Maybe you don’t have the “it’s just a dollar” attitude and you go to the dollar store with a plan and stick to it. You know what you want and you’re not enticed by the other dollar store items. You get what you need and go. That is great. I really am a believer in having a list and sticking to it to save.

Some items at the dollar store are a really good deal, other items not so much, just like at any other store. I’ve found at the dollar store, the packages they sell are much smaller than the traditional stores. You really need to watch the size of the item when you are shopping for at the dollar store. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to know my price per ounce.

If you know how much you normally pay per ounce, you can figure out if the item at the dollar store is a good deal or not. Figuring out the price per ounce isn’t too hard. It helps to have a calculator available. To figure out the price per ounce, take the price of the item and divide it by the ounces in the item. That will give you your price per ounce. Then you will know if it’s a good deal or not.

3 secrets to shopping the dollar store without going broke.

Quality of the Items

The last tip or rule to consider when shopping the dollar store is the quality of the item. For some items quality doesn’t really matter, like disposable items. But if you are purchasing items you will be using over and over again, quality is something to consider.

If you purchase a plastic food container and it warps the first time it goes through the dishwasher, was it a deal? If your kids get a toy and it only lasts one day, was that a good purchase? Is the quality of the item the same as a different brand? If you are purchasing a cleaner, is it less effective or do you need to use more? All of these can make a big difference if the quality isn’t as good.

If you save a dollar or two and the item doesn’t last, it really wasn’t a good deal. Especially if you had to purchase a replacement item for the one that didn’t last. You just end up spending more in the long run.

I know I’m one who will sacrifice quality for price on many things. But on some things, I will pay more because I know in the long run, it will be less expensive for me to pay more upfront to have the quality item.

All that being said, I do shop at the dollar store on occasion. Here’s some of the items I purchase when I shop.

Gift Bags
Wrapping Paper (this is usually thinner, but hey, they kids are just going to tear it off anyway)
Hand Sanitizer
Lunch Size Sacks
Lotion (I’m careful about what brands I purchase)
Small glass bowls
School Supplies (I avoid the pencils, I haven’t had good luck with them)
Hair brushes
Hair Clips, Head Bands
Craft Supplies for the Kids
Storage Containers
Hand Wipes

If you are careful when shopping at the dollar stores, you can find some good deals. Following these few rules can keep help you get the most out of your dollar at the dollar store.

It’s Your Turn

What items do you like to pick up at the dollar store and which ones do you avoid? I would love to have you share them in the comments below.



More Money Saving Posts You’ll Love,

Rock Bottom Price List, Free Printable
Tips for Being a Happy Non Consumer
10 Simple Ways to Save Everyday

42 thoughts on “Why Shopping the Dollar Store is Keeping You Broke”

  1. Love this post and it’s so true! My favorite dollar store obsession is the Betty Crocker Line of red kitchen gadgets for $1 each at Dollar Tree. They’re amazing! I’ve had mine for almost 5 years and use them all the time. They hold up so much better then the $7 versions of those items I bought from Walmart. They have potato mashers, spatulas, serving spoons, measuring spoons, measuring cups, graters, kitchen scissors, pretty much everything you could ever use.

  2. Great advice in this post! I agree that it is really easy to overspend in the Dollar store. It really does help to know your prices before shopping there. I have hit or miss luck with some items in there like the bread. Sometimes I can find the bread I like in there cheaper than the grocery store. The main thing I buy in there is body wash as they have a brand that doesn’t bother my skin and so I buy it in bulk. I’ve also found some interesting books to read in there. I usually give myself a certain amount I can spend before I enter the store and it is easy to stick to that since you know everything is a dollar 😉

  3. I agree! Disposable things are fine to buy there once in a while. As a general rule, we do not shop at the dollar store. Recently I saw an article that said their products were full of toxins. 🙁

  4. I usually buy greeting cards (a great deal!), wrapping paper, hair bands for my daughter and dish brushes for my kitchen. I’m afraid to try any food or hygiene products because of past reports that dollar store items had terrible additive in them.

    Sometimes I will buy craft items there, but only if I know that I couldn’t get them at the craft store for cheaper on sale or with a coupon.

  5. Yes. I agree. I do not purchase dish detergent because you end up using more to get the dishes done. No savings there.

    1. I certainly agree with you, Cindy on any cheap dish detergent. I guess when it comes to some items, you get what you pay for. I love Palmolive dish detergent. It works well and the fragrance is delightful. It makes me want to actually wash the dishes.

  6. Like you, I’m picky about the dollar store. I do buy sunglasses there, hair brushes and cards. Those are my main purchases. I used to purchase the 24 piece puzzles for my preschool classroom at the dollar store because if we lost a piece by the end of the year, I wasn’t out much!

  7. I love this because I think many people are going in with the attitude of “It’s only a buck!”. Yet this can really have our budgets out of whack! Just like you said all stores have their awesome deals and than the items that are not a deal they are hoping you grab because of convenience! Sharing on my Facebook page! 🙂

  8. Oh my, I have definitely had the whole, “how could I have spent that much here?” moment at the dollar store. Other times, I have been more disciplined and got great deals on stuff I was already going to purchase. Recently, I bought my son new earbuds, my husband the deoderant he already uses in the right size for him to keep one in his truck, an extra set of measuring spoons, hydrocotisone and antibiotic ointments, and AAA batteries for the tv/Roku remote.

    If you aren’t sure about quality, try one first rather than getting them in bulk. I tried a pair of socks a couple years ago, and was so pleased I went back and got 5 more of the same kind. They are still holding up a couple years later!

  9. Thanks for shedding more light on this topic. The dollar store used to be my absolute favorite!!! But I had a “revelation” of sorts just after the Holiday Season as I noticed the strategic product placement of “seasonal” items, and the dramatic markdowns from $1 each all the way to 10 for $1, and I wondered… if they can mark it down this much after two days, then how much is this stuff really worth?

    My new motto… Stay focused and only buy what I really want. Don’t let the colorful packaging and shiny wrappers distract me.

  10. I love the dollar store, but you can really get into trouble if you aren’t careful. Some of the things that I purchase are greeting cards, birthday supplies, plastic bins, coloring books, freezer pans, mason jars glasses and bakeware (loaf pans, muffins tins, etc.). I’ve found these items to be the best value. Also, did you know you can find real food at the dollar store? I made a list of what was available at my local store, but like you said you need to watch the size of the items to see if it’s really a good deal.

  11. I bought light bulbs for my entryway chandelier at the dollar store, and found that they burned out faster than more expensive bulbs. The really frustrating part of it, though, was that when I tried to replace the burned out bulbs, the bulbs broke off from their base, leaving the base stuck in the socket. It was a nightmare trying to get those bases out of the sockets, especially since I needed to stand on a ladder to reach the light fixture. I’m elderly, and my balance on ladders is not good, so I’ll gladly pay for quality light bulbs from now on!

    1. Gail, thanks so much for sharing your experience with their light bulbs. I know we have slowly been switching over to the LED lightbulbs. But I will be sure to avoid the light bulbs at the dollar store.

  12. I love their pens that have the fun designs on them and the correction pens. I don’t go often, but last time I went, I stocked up on the pens and bought a calendar that has a protective cover. I use it in the kitchen to post my meal plan for the kids and hubby so no one is asking me “what’s for dinner?” Lol

    1. The calendar with the protective cover sounds like a great find, Candy. Thanks for sharing about it. I’ll be on the lookout for one the next time I shop.

      1. It’s an academic planner (like to go in a 3 ring binder). I just hung it on our bulletin board in the kitchen that we use as the family command space. ?

  13. I always get a good deal on strofoam forms. Also, dog raw hides and some treats. Mostly buy name brand when they are in stock.

  14. Some other good dollar store finds are…
    *parchment paper
    *small aluminum baking pans
    *floss picks
    *gel pens
    *hand soap
    *cross word puzzle books

    1. Michele, I don’t know if I’ve every seen the parchment paper at my dollar store. I’ll have to look for it the next time I go. Thanks for sharing your dollar store finds.

  15. I go with a set idea in mind. I bought crystal-like bowls and glued them to their candleholders to make beautiful centerpieces for my daughter’s wedding. I buy vases when gifting a bouquet of flowers. I will also buy storage and garden items and spray paint them to fit the look I’m after. I also buy reader glasses.

  16. I need new curtains and shades or window blinds. Has anyone ever seen them at the Dollar Store? I don’t want to spend a fortune. Maybe the larger dollar stores might have them? I dread going to a big named store to purchase them.

  17. I love Dollar Tree!!

    Lysol toilet bowl – county fresh
    A&H baking soda carpet fresh
    Polmalive & Dawn dish detergent
    Spray bottle w/yellow degreaser! Stove tops to laundry!
    Downy 12 use – cheaper than larger elsewhere
    Small laundry detergents – Gain Tide etc
    Fabuloso Lavendar scent
    FeBreze knock off
    Wasp & flying insect sprays

    -NEVER Dawn Simple – it’s watery & not concentrated!!

    Make up:
    BB cream
    Eye shadow
    Mascara – works great & easy to replace every 3 months at $1
    Eye brow powder
    Eye makeup remover
    Make up brushes are great!! Elf brushes that are half of Target price!

    I have sensitive skin & none of these products have caused break outs & are so great I’ve shamefully slept in it without breakouts!!

    Hard cover book
    Sudoku puzzle books
    Office / school supplies

    Silver tone platters & silver look plastic ware, hold up great & wonderful for parties, crafts & gift giving.

    Potpourri oils, candles in real mason jars that are up cycled to stores spices & such.

    Stainless steel scrapes w/ruler on edge also use to cut cooked chicken (like Rachel Ray uses/sells).
    Fine mesh strainers
    Sieve colandar
    Betty Crocker items

    Storage bins to organize everything!!

    14 ct 24 hr allergy med. $1.50 cheaper to buy 2 than 1 30ct from Walmart.
    Basic 1st aid:
    Hydrocortisone cream, bandages, wraps, herbal, aspirin & cold meds to have on hand.

    Reading glasses
    Sunglass Reading glasses

    Various size glass bowls in 2-3-4ct pkg.
    Candle sticks
    Big mugs for soup, hot cocoa & tea
    Bar glasses

    Various glass storage jars:
    Previous apothecary/vintage med with tin lid, 8 oz with hinged, lid & sealer
    Coke green bottle & can glassware

    Gel pins

    Spices, kosher salt, gnocchi, 5pk cheese & breadstick snack pack – much cheaper than Walmart. Minced garlic in oil.

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