Dollar Stores: Frugal Paradise or Money Trap?

A Reddit user highlighted a story about how he was concerned about an article on WSJ about how one-percenters kept shopping at the Dollar Store. The user pointed out that although he found some things cheaper at the store than other places, he felt they were overrated.

He notes that his family’s credit card number was stolen twice in one of the dollar stores in the country. He wanted to know whether people still shopped at dollar stores, what they shopped, and whether they saved money.

Other members of the Reddit community chipped into this conversation, and here are some of the best takeaways;

Greeting Cards

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Several users pointed out that greeting cards were popular products at the store because they helped save money. One said, “The absolute BEST deal at Dollar Tree is the greeting cards. If you need a Birthday card, Valentine’s Day card, etc. THAT day, you’ll save several dollars over the ungodly expensive cards at other retailers.”

It depends on which dollar store you go to. A user explained that there is a difference between these dollar stores and one can save or lose money depending on where they go to shop, “Dollar Tree, yes. Dollar General or Family Dollar, absolutely not. My neighbor insisted on going there, and I went with her one night. She was picking up some contact paper, and I kept explaining to her that Walmart was cheaper. So I pulled it up on my Walmart app to show her.

Product Dimensions Can Be Confusing at Dollar Stores

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A user offered a good example of the confusion in product dimensions that made one store seem much cheaper than others, “The same product pattern of contact paper was the roll she picked up at Dollar General was $5, and it was a roll that was 9 in x 5 ft I think. However, at Walmart, it was $5.88 for 18 in wide and 20 ft. All she kept looking at was what was after the decimal point; she couldn’t understand that the Walmart one was cheaper because of the amount of product on the roll. Which is why she had to pick up more than one roll at Dollar General.”

Cleaning Products Are Cheap at Dollar Stores

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Many people agreed that dollar stores offered great discounts on cleaning products and supplies. One noted, “Bleach, dishwasher powder, cleaning sprays and sponges/scrub pads, brooms/dustpans, greeting/holiday cards, mailing envelopes, and certain candies were all bought at dollar tree,” he added, “Also, If I’m going on a multi-day road trip I’ll hit up the dollar tree for a few energy drinks and electrolyte drinks, and then prep snack food containers on my own and it saves me money and time-wise compared to buying them randomly at gas stations along the way.”

American Apparel

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Another user noted that these stores can help save money on good American tees, “My dollar tree gets some good discontinued stuff. American Apparel and soffee tees and name brand hair and skin care-picked up hair food and derma geek items last weekend.”

One person gets almost everything from the store.

One user cannot seem to get enough of the store. They get everything there, including candies and alcohol, “The dollar tree store brand magic erasers come two in a pack and work just as well, if not better, than the Magic Erasers that are like $4.29 for two. It’s a great place to get greeting cards bc they are usually 50 cents a card. You can get great deals on candy too. This past Christmas, I got my husband some Jack Daniel’s whiskey coffee there, and the same stuff went for like $15 on Amazon. I can’t say enough good things about the dollar tree.”

There Is a Mix of Good and Bad Deals

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A user points out that dollar stores have both good and bad deals. You need to find what you are looking for, and you are good to go, “I think, like pretty much all stores, there is a mix of good deals and not good deals. The danger is assuming everything in a dollar store is a deal. Personally, I like dollar stores. I have one right on the corner, which is very convenient when I want a snack/treat or cards. I regularly pick up cleaners there too, which are usually decent for price/quantity.”

Cookery and Utensils

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Cooking and utensils are also quite affordable at the dollar store when buying bulk; one user says, “Wife and I spent 100$ buying 100 champagne glasses for our wedding and let the guests take them home. Few other friends love buying bulk things for large events. I notice that 20$ goes a long way for decorations, cups, pots, and party things for the house.

Yes, the price per unit MIGHT be better elsewhere, but sometimes I only need a dollar’s worth of X, and the only option is 5-9$ somewhere else for more. It’s the difference between spending 25×1 vs. 25×5 and getting a lot of stuff I don’t need or have room to store.”

Dollar Stores Sell Small Items Cheap

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A user notes that some small items are much cheaper at dollar stores than at other big retailers, “For some things, it absolutely makes sense. The cotton pads I use to take my makeup off cost $6.99 per pack at the drug store but only cost $1.99 at the dollar store next door, so the same number of pads in a pack. Nail polish remover is about $2.50 cheaper at the dollar store. Cleaning supplies are way cheaper than the drug store or grocery store. Ziplock bags are way cheaper. Aluminum foil is WAY cheaper – yes, it’s a bit thinner and worse quality, but it does the job just fine for my purposes.”

Gardening Supplies

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You can also get great discounts when buying gardening supplies at a dollar store, said another user, “I LOVE the Dollar Tree for cleaning supplies, crafting, and some one-off items. I really love their gardening section in the summer, especially for packs of seeds at 1.25 for 4 packs.”

Good Stuff for Camping Trip Supplies

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“Dollar stores are usually the best value if you need “travel size’ or “single person” amounts of items. I was able to find Tide, bleach, soap, and other products for camping/road trips at a good price without having to find suitable packaging. They are more expensive than the Costco bottles, but way less than paying $4.00 for one packet at a laundromat far from home, “ urges another person.

Gift Wrapping Supplies

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Dollar stores sell DIY stuff for household repairs and gift wrapping supplies cheaply; according to another user, “There are only a few things I think are worth it at Dollar Tree. Gift wrapping supplies are one. Also, anything that I want a smaller package of, for example, Goo Gone, glue for household repairs, and sometimes certain foods since I live alone–it’s often more expensive per ounce for this stuff but it’s still a better deal overall if I don’t need more and the extra would often go to waste.”

Another user added, “I’ve recently figured out their invaluable for cheap furnishing items like drain plugs, wall clips, cheap garbage cans, dividers, etc.”

They Have Poor Quality Products

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One user is not too keen on buying from dollar stores because they fear the products are not up to par. He says, “Stuff is very poor quality in my opinion; bought some kid shovels that broke immediately on the beach some random robot toys too… good spot to stock up on cards (though Trader Joe’s has cheap cards that are far more interesting).”

Dollar Store Are Not Cheap at Everything

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Another user debunks the myth that dollar stores are cheap by saying they are not cheap at everything, “Noting everything is an all-or-nothing situation. The way you’re making it sound is that Dollar Stores are the cheapest at everything, and that’s not true. They may have the most cheap stuff, but not all of their stuff is always cheap. Sometimes it’s cheaper at Costco when ya buy in bulk, or Amazon where it’s shipped from China.”

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This article was produced and syndicated by A Dime Saved.