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The Do’s and Don’ts of Dollar Store Shopping

Dollar Stores exploded in popularity during the Great Recession and their growth shows no signs of slowing down. Two of the nation’s largest dollar store chains – Family Dollar and Dollar General – opened more than 1,000 stores across the U.S. last year.                                                                                                                                                                           Dollar_Store_Shopping

There’s no question that dollar stores are a great way to stretch your budget for grocery and household essentials, not to mention the fun of throwing a few extra finds in your cart when your budget allows. But because something is just a buck doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good deal. Read on to learn which items to go for at the dollar store and which ones to leave on the shelf.

DO’S

Seasonal and Party Goods

You can’t beat the dollar store for great deals on seasonal and holiday decorations, party accessories, greeting cards and gift wrap supplies. Some stores even offer helium-filled Mylar balloons.

Cleaning Products

Bleach is bleach and toilet bowl cleaner is toilet bowl cleaner. The makers of brand-name cleaning products would like you to believe otherwise, but it’s simply not true. The product’s active ingredients are going to be similar regardless of the name on the bottle or the scent of rain-kissed wildflowers.

Spices

While you probably won’t find pricey, exotic spices, the dollar store is the perfect place to stock up on pantry basics like cinnamon, black pepper, onion powder and chili powder. Just remember to check the expiration dates to ensure maximum flavor.

Grooming Essentials

You’ll find all your grooming basics at the dollar store including deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shaving cream, bar soap and body wash. And don’t be surprised if you see recognizable brand names. Dollar stores often buy excess inventory of limited edition or seasonal scents and packaging.

Other dollar store do’s:  Picture frames, plastic storage containers, boxed movie theater candy and hair accessories like ponytail holders and barrettes.

DON’TS

Toys

Most dollar store toys aren’t even worth a dollar. They simply don’t last long enough to be worth it. Plus, the parts and paint used to make them may not conform to U.S. regulatory standards. You’re better off spending a few extra dollars on a safe toy that lasts.

Batteries

A buck a pack might seem like a bargain. Until you realize you have to buy five packs to get the battery life of one pack of name brand batteries. Dollar store batteries lose power quickly and, like toys, may contain unregulated, unsafe components.

Vitamins and Over-the-Counter Medication

Saving a few dollars isn’t worth your family’s health. Dollar store vitamins and medications may not be subject to the same regulations and testing as drugstore brands. And a Consumer Reports investigation found that some dollar store vitamins contained less of the active ingredient than the labels stated.

Power Cords, Strips & USB Cables

Don’t sacrifice your expensive electronics buy connecting them with dollar store cables and cords. Subpar manufacturing standards can damage your items or worse, start a fire. Stick with cords from the electronics or big box stores instead.

Other dollar store don’ts: Pet food, bottled beverages, knives, scissors and cotton swabs.