The Truth About the Dollar Tree: Is It Really Frugal?

Dollar Tree may seem like a frugal paradise, but hidden costs could lurk beneath the $1.25 price tags. Are you actually saving money at a store where everything is priced at $1.25? The answer, like most things, is “it depends.”

Frugal Free-For-All

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Thrifty shopping isn’t just for those looking to make a dime squeak. It’s for anyone tired of paying commercialized prices for items that don’t need to be so expensive.

Special occasion cards, school supplies, and children’s toys are available in bargain stores like Dollar Tree, usually cheaper than bigger ‘box’ stores.

But does that mean those stores offer actual cost savings, or are they just trying to sell off the excess other stores can’t offload?

People have opinions about whether Dollar Tree is the frugal free-for-all it appears to be and where you can shop to get the best deal, no matter where you are.

1. Home Good Essentials

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While Dollar Tree might not be great for larger retail store items, finding a ‘gold mine’ of great goodies is still possible.

More than one savvy shopper noted that they pick up cleaning supplies, laundry essentials, kitchen utensils, and the occasional treat at Dollar Tree. Homegoods are an easy score for the frugal shopper at places like Dollar Tree.

2. Special Occasions

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Finding the perfect birthday or Christmas card can be challenging, especially as those special occasions get closer. The pinch people feel as Christmas draws closer and their shopping lists aren’t complete extends to holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving, and special birthdays.

Being able to snag great cards for those occasions well before they happen can be a bounty and help relieve some of that ‘pre-holiday’ stress that accompanies even our most beloved holidays.

Several Dollar Tree fans noted that the dollar store offers a great selection and is usually the cheapest place to find those unique occasion cards for the right season.

3. Splitting Hairs

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One savvy shopper noted that sometimes finding a great deal at Dollar Tree is all about what item you’re buying.

For instance, the Crest toothpaste at Dollar Tree offers a different deal than a big box store like Walmart. However, they also said no one has a better buying option than Dollar Tree regarding Crest’s sensitive toothpaste.

Shopping by item instead of category may take a little extra time, but it can also ensure the maximum savings per item.

4. Crafter’s Paradise

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One quickly talked up Dollar Tree’s craft section, noting that they often stock plenty of ‘must-haves’ to make any crafter’s heart content. From popsicle sticks and school glue to glitter and pompoms, Dollar Tree is a great ‘one-stop-shop’ for all crafting needs.

Another shopper commented that their holiday section is also a great place to find all the little ‘holiday’ touches that set a scene for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, or any of your other favorite ‘celebrations’ throughout the year.

5. Name Brand Makeup

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One happy saver was excited about finding name-brand, ‘expensive’ makeup at Dollar Tree. They now spend most of their makeup budget at the popular dollar store and likely walk away with more than other makeup retailers.

And when a tube of lipstick can cost $15, that’s saying something. Finding name-brand items at a dollar store isn’t uncommon, but it isn’t the norm. Knowing what you intend to buy can go a long way in ensuring you get the best bang for your buck no matter what you’re purchasing.

6. Frugal is As Frugal Does

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One person pointed out that frugality means different things to different people. For one, it might mean finding an expensive steak on sale.

For another, it might mean scraping pennies together to afford bathroom tissue at Dollar Tree. Neither one is wrong and only deals with the frugality you need to attain.

Being frugal is all about sticking to a budget that suits your circumstances. The tighter your wallet, the more economical you must be to ensure you’re living within your means. That doesn’t make it wrong to spend a bit, and it doesn’t shame the person who can afford lobster for dinner.

While there are several reasons shopping at Dollar Tree can be a diamond in the ruff for any budget-conscious person, there are also plenty of reasons why you should reconsider a Dollar Tree stop on your next shopping trip.

7. Cheaper Means Smaller

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A frugal advocate made a great point that sometimes the price reasonably matches the size of the item you’re buying. For instance, shopping at Dollar Tree might be cheaper regarding shampoo, but if the bottle is half the size for the same price or even a bit cheaper, are you getting a bargain?

Paying attention to the size-to-cost ratio is excellent advice when choosing a ‘dollar store’ option over a ‘big box’ retailer.

8. Bad Business Ethics

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Another thrifty shopper found an article about how dollar stores are notorious for putting items on their shelves that contain heavy metals and toxic wrappers. Slave labor is also a significant problem with dollar store product acquisition.

While big box stores aren’t off the hook for their questionable business ethics, dollar stores are rampant offenders in areas where change needs to happen. Heavy metal poisoning and slave labor are nothing to joke about, as they can wreak havoc on a person’s mental and physical well-being.

9. Inferior Products

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The name-brand versus off-brand debate will go on into eternity, and while there are occasions where the off-brand option might be better than a name-brand item, the instances are usually rare.

This ‘knock-off’ issue is mainly due to using inferior products or ‘less-than-ideal’ materials. For example, cereal companies will often sell their ‘name-brand’ product under their primary logo (i.e., General Mills) and then package anything that doesn’t mean that quality standard under a different name as an ‘off-brand’ option.

They keep all the profit, and the consumer might not even know that the so-called name-brand manufacturer owns both brands.

10. Genetically Modified Organisms

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While many people like Dollar Tree for purchasing snack items, one astute shopper noted that many of the snack options from this ‘bargain store’ contained genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs.

Purchasing snacks from Dollar Tree would be an absolute mess for anyone looking to keep GMOs out of their daily food intake. So it pays to read the label before buying anything in the snack department for these items.

There’s no shame in finding great buys at Dollar Tree or other ‘dollar’ stores and knowing where you spend your money and for what is always a good idea, especially if you have ethical reasons for not shopping at a given retailer.

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What do you think? Are you an avid Dollar Tree shopper? This thread inspired this article.