For control purposes, I compared dollar store items to similar products at Walmart. (For those who are interested, this blog also did a more comprehensive study comparing dollar stores to Walmart, Rite Aid, and a local grocery store.)
The bottom line is: Your shopping habits will probably change after this. Take a look at my list – and then tell me in the comments section what you like to buy at dollar stores for big savings.
Birthday, anniversary and other special occasion cards cost a fortune, with run-of-the-mill greetings typically clocking in between $6 and $10; and premium cards command upwards of $14 and higher. That’s a lot of money for something usually ends up in the recycling bin. At the dollar store, those cards top out at $1.25.
I have a hard time reconciling the cost of anything disposable. I try to avoid supplies like plates, cups, and plastic wear in favor of their reusable counterparts, but that’s not always ideal. So instead of spending between $4 and $7 for a pack of less than 30 paper or plastic plates elsewhere, I head to the dollar store where just-as-sturdy supplies are only a couple of bucks for two dozen.
Candy and Snacks
If you’re buying snacks at the movies, you’re doing your wallet a disservice. I’m all for supporting the arts, of course, but $8 boxes of Reese’s Pieces is insane, not to mention the amount of calories one consumes if the entire sack is eaten in one sitting. You can pick up theater-style boxes of candy which contain a reasonable amount of sugar and happiness for about a buck.
Single stemless wine glasses are a buck apiece at Dollar Tree. Walmart only sells them by the set, the cheapest of which works out to about $2 a glass. I’ve always bought my stemless wine glasses as singles because when you buy a set and you break one, you have to replace it with another set if you want them to match. That’s more trouble and money than it’s worth. Regarding the Dollar Tree versions, one of my friends called them “big, heavy and indestructible.” If I weren’t sold already, I would be now.
Go anyplace else besides the dollar store for your mylar celebration balloons and you’ll fork over $4 to $5 each. You can cut costs drastically by buying the balloons and having them filled with helium for five quarters.
Light-Use Kitchen Tools
Basic kitchen utensils and tools aren’t expensive at Walmart, but they’re even cheaper at Dollar Tree. I decide where to buy these items based on how much I’ll use them. I buy the better, pricier pieces that will get daily use at my primary residence at store with a higher-quality selection, but for wares I’ll only use occasionally, like at my beach house, the Dollar Tree offerings are more than acceptable.
Plastic storage bags
You’ll pay $3.93 for a 100-count box of Ziploc sandwich bags in-store at Walmart, but only $1.25 for 252-count zipper sandwich bags at Family Dollar. All things being equal, that’s almost $7 in savings, with 50 more bags to boot.
I haven’t had any personal experience with pregnancy tests (thank ya, Jesus!), but a few of my female friends have told me that a dollar store is the go-to establishment for these little bearers of good — or bad — news; they say the cheaper versions are just as accurate as the national brands. Dollar Tree sells their pregnancy tests for $1.25 each, while Walmart’s Equate brand offers two for $5.94 or roughly $3 each.
Keep your breath minty fresh with 16.9 ounces of mouthwash from Dollar Tree for a buck and two bits; that’s a 21-cent savings versus Walmart’s Equate mouthwash in the same quantity.
I recently had to buy aluminum foil, and I was legit shocked at how expensive it is – and that was the store brand, which, frankly, was a steal compared to the outrageously-priced Reynolds Wrap. In fact, 50-square-feet of the latter goes for $4.98 at Walmart – but at Dollar tree, it’s just $3.75 for 45-square-feet of Reynolds, or $2.50 for 50-square-feet of unbranded foil.
Travel-size toiletries are a racket at major retailers. You’re being robbed blind when you compare travel-size per-unit pricing to traditionally-sized versions, which is why you should always go to the dollar store for these items. Or, ya know, just get them for free when you arrive at the hotel like I do.
Photo Credit: Steve Snodgrass