When looking to save a buck, why not head to the almighty retailers named after that very thing? We’re talking about dollar stores.
Surging in popularity in recent years, these bargain destinations have new locations popping up in droves. Stores such as The Dollar Tree and Dollar General are able to tout rock-bottom prices by keeping staff at a minimum and buying overstock products.
But are all dollar stores created equal? And if they’re so great, what would bona fide shopping experts buy there? GOBankingRates interviewed retail analysts and other pros to get the lowdown on what they’d purchase from dollar stores (and which one) if they had just $20 to spend.
Shannon Vissers, Merchant Maverick
Vissers, a shopping analyst and reviewer with MerchantMaverick.com, would buy the following $20 worth of items from Dollar Tree, which she finds “tends to have a higher quality item selection.”
Here’s what she would purchase and why:
School/home office supplies. “Tape, notebooks, poster board, pencil cases — you’ll save on all of these and other home and school supplies if you stock up at the dollar store vs. any other store,” Vissers said. “This makes dollar stores the perfect place for back-to-school shopping.”
Holiday items. “A dollar store is the cheapest place to save on holiday items such as holiday decor, stocking stuffers or goodie bags with party favors for your kids to hand out at school on special days.”
Picture frames. “The dollar store is the cheapest place to buy picture frames, period.”
Personal toiletries. “Dollar stores usually sell some name-brand toiletries such as Colgate and Mr. Bubble,” Vissers said. “Sometimes the quantities are smaller than you’d get at a store like Target, but this makes those toiletries the perfect size for travel.”
Greeting cards. “Dollar stores often sell greeting cards (even Hallmark brand) for far less than you’d pay at a drugstore. And trust me, the recipients will never know the difference.”
Gift-wrapping supplies. “You can usually save on both wrapping paper rolls and gift bag multi-packs by purchasing these at the dollar store.”
$1 pregnancy test. “This one may sound odd, but there is no cheaper way to buy a stick-style pregnancy test (though when it comes to the strip kind of test, you may be able to buy them for less than a dollar each by buying in bulk on Amazon). Dollar store pregnancy tests may not be name-brand, but studies have been conducted on these tests, and have determined they are just as accurate as name-brand and store-brand pregnancy tests from other retailers.”
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Nick Drewe, Wethrift
Drewe, a shopping expert and the founder of Wethrift, would use his $20 on:
Greeting cards. “It’s always smart to stock up on cards at the dollar store, whether greeting, birthday, thank-you or anything in between,” Drewe said. “At basically every other store you’ll be shelling out a couple of bucks per card, minimum; but, at the dollar store, many cards go for $1.”
Gift-wrapping supplies. “There are occasions for gift-giving year round; so, to save some cash, go to the dollar store for bags, tissue paper, gift wrap and bows. At specialty or even big-box retailers, gift materials cost several times more than the average dollar store’s pricing. Dollar Tree offers an excellent selection and cheap prices that don’t mean you’re coming away with poor quality.”
Movie snacks. “If you’re someone who likes to snack while watching a movie, skip the overpriced concession stand food and stock up at your local Dollar Tree. Even if you’re staying in for movie night, the dollar store has excellent candy, chip and snack prices that beat the grocery store and definitely beat the marked-up movie theater prices.”
Trae Bodge, TrueTrae
Bodge, a personal finance expect and creator of the smart shopping website, TrueTrae, tends to shop dollar stores online because she can use coupons from CouponFollow.com. She finds great deals both at Dollar Tree and Dollar General.
Here’s what she would spend her $20 on:
Plant supplies. “For re-potting purposes, it’s always good to have a few clay pots in different sizes on hand,” Bodge said. “In general, plant supplies, like clay pots, glass marbles and dishes are a good dollar store purchase. I always inspect them closely for damages before heading to the register. “
Tape. “Packing tape, masking tape and scotch tape are usually a good deal, so I’d buy tape,” Bodge said. “Before purchase, however, I always check the footage of the rolls, as I’ve sometimes found that the rolls contain less tape than rolls at a big box store, office supply store or wholesale warehouse.”
Gift supplies (including balloons). “I like to keep gift supplies on hand, like decorative bags, tissue paper, ribbon and wrapping paper,” Bodge said. “They are usually a good deal at the dollar store; so, if my stash is running low, I’d re-stock. Mylar balloons are also a great deal at the dollar store; so, if it’s someone’s birthday, I’ll definitely head to the dollar store for some balloons.”
Project/school supplies. “If my daughter has a school project coming up, I’ll dash to the dollar store to pick up poster board or foam core,” Bodge said. “I always buy extra to keep on hand, too, in case we need signage for a yard sale or other event. Envelopes, note pads and paper clips are a good buy, too; however, I will not buy scissors or markers at the dollar store as they tend to be of poor quality.”
Cleaning products. “If I have a tough cleaning project, powder cleaning products and steel wool cleaning pads are a reliable purchase at the dollar store,” Bodge said. “I avoid liquid cleaners, though, as the efficacy tends to decrease over time.”
Julie Ramhold, Deal News
Choosing the Dollar Tree for its great selection and reliable $1.25 pricing, Ramhold, a consumer analyst and senior staff writer with DealNews.com, would purchase the following with her $20:
Glassware. “Dollar Tree has a great selection of drinkware for $1.25 each, which is a great deal to me. I live in a one-bedroom apartment with very limited storage space, so I don’t need to buy an entire set of glasses — in fact, most often I just need two so that my husband and I can each have one. I really love that I can buy different kinds like old-fashioneds, dessert shot glasses, Irish coffee mugs, daiquiri glasses, margarita glasses and more.”
Brand-name candy. “Dollar Tree even has things I can’t find elsewhere like small bags of Mr. Goodbar minis, Werther’s Original cocoa creme soft caramels, Butterfinger Bites, various kinds of Haribo candies other than standard gummies, other flavors of Sour Patch Kids and more Swedish Fish varieties than I knew existed.”
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: How Shopping Experts Would Spend $20 at the Dollar Store