Dollar stores have become increasingly popular as the United States comes out of the worst recession our generation has seen. But, just because something is priced $1 doesn’t mean it is a good deal. It’s important to know what not to buy at the dollar store.
What Not to Buy at The Dollar Store
Most of the items on my what-not-to-buy list are things whose packaging is much smaller than an equivalent product at Walmart or Target, resulting in a much higher per unit or per ounce price at the dollar store.
In a recent trip I made to a local Dollar Tree store, I spotted a few things I would never buy, even for a buck (listed alphabetically, because I’m Type A that way).
Cake mix. Wow, you scored a Duncan Hines cake mix for $1 and think it’s a deal. Nope. It’s a 9 ounce box versus a standard 19.5 ounces. With a little patience you’ll see full sized cake mixes go on sale at the grocery store for $1. You’ll get more and have a wider selection of flavors.
Cereal. I don’t like to pay more than $1/box for cereal, but when I pay $1 I’m getting a container with 14+ ounces of name brand product. At the dollar store my $1 got me a 7-ounce package.
Hefty storage bags. Ziploc-type bags can be expensive and spotting a box for $1 at the dollar store may seem like a bargain. But, the cost per bag is less when you buy a larger box at Target or Walmart, even without a coupon, than the small 6-pack you get at the dollar store.
Frozen veggies. At the dollar store you’re buying 14 ounces versus the typical 16 ounces in most packages. Generic veggies routinely go on sale for $1 at the grocery stores and Aldi’s everyday price for certain varieties is under $1.
Nuts. I looked at almost all the packaged nuts, including these cashews, and when I converted them to a per pound price they were more than I’d pay buying them on sale elsewhere. I often wait for sales at my local Fleet Farm store or at the drugstores like CVS and Walgreens – when they run a buy one, get one free and I’ve got a coupon or two on top of it.
Shredded Cheese. A 3-ounce package of shredded cheese is $1. That’s like $5.33/lb. Aldi’s everyday price for shredded cheese is about $2.50/lb.
Single roll paper towel. Without much effort you can get an 8-pack of paper towels at a grocery store for $6 or less, which is less than $1 per roll. Often I am able to match a great paper towel sale with a coupon to pick up rolls, in a multi-pack, at $0.50/roll or less.
VO5 and White Rain Hair products. Compared to name brand products at Target or Walmart, $1 per bottle might seem like a steal. But, both these low-end brands routinely go on sale for much less than $1 at grocery stores and drugstores. Just this week V05 products are $0.59 at my local grocery store.
This list isn’t comprehensive, but a snapshot. It doesn’t include the plethora of lukewarm deals that fill the aisles. Items whose sale price at drugstores or grocery retailers is $1. But, if purchased elsewhere, you can use a coupon on top of the sale and actually pay less than you would at the dollar store. These lukewarm deals include boxes of name brand Kleenex, 25 sq ft of Reynold’s Wrap, Renuzit air freshners and Friskies canned cat food.
All this isn’t to say that everything is overpriced at your local dollar store. That simply isn’t true. Party decorations, helium balloons, two-for-$1 greeting cards, generic-brand medicines, pregnancy tests and hair clips and binders are great values.
Your turn: What items have you decided not to buy at a dollar store because you get a better value elsewhere?