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Confessions of a Dollar Store Diva - How to Save Money Using Dollar Store Finds

Updated on October 24, 2012
Dollar Tree has the best consistency and selection.
Dollar Tree has the best consistency and selection. | Source

There is something you need to know. I like the Dollar Store. Correction, I LOVE the dollar store. I sort of came upon my love for it when my family’s finances were hit hard by a medical emergency. My husband has fully recovered from the emergency but our finances have not. And it was rather a snowball effect, medical bills, lost wages, back to work but lesser position further away and in the middle of recession when my husband’s wages were determined by sales and commission. You see the snowball growing. I started buying more and more stuff at the dollar store a sort of trek down previously unexplored aisles. It is worth noting that not all dollar stores are created equal. My personal favorite is the Dollar Tree as they have a good amount of consistent stock and a nice selection of rotating seasonal stock.

You do have to pay attention though as not everything is a good bargain at a $1. Some things can cost less than this at your regular stores. As with everything, it pays to shop around and know what you are buying. Here is a quick and far from comprehensive list on “good buys” at the dollar store. Enjoy being a frugalista!

Generic Woolite, Oxyclean, Lysol, and Febreze - total cost for 1 of each $4, total cost if bought brand name at stores, approx $21!
Generic Woolite, Oxyclean, Lysol, and Febreze - total cost for 1 of each $4, total cost if bought brand name at stores, approx $21! | Source
Beautiful Cards for $1 each
Beautiful Cards for $1 each | Source
A wall of boutique look gift bags for every occasion!
A wall of boutique look gift bags for every occasion! | Source
Notice the butterfly trim embellishment on this bag - still $1!
Notice the butterfly trim embellishment on this bag - still $1! | Source

Cleaning Products

As green-mama I make or use common household items for my cleaning products. But what I can’t make myself, I tend to buy at the dollar store. Here’s what I might buy.

  • Dish Soap
  • Off-brand Oxyclean
  • Liquid Dishwasher Detergent
  • Bathroom Cleaner (used rarely)
  • Microfiber towels
  • Plastic Spray Bottles
  • Scrub Brush
  • Oil diffuser Air Freshners

Personal Care Products

Again, I do use a mix of natural products but as some of the ones I like can be pricey we have to supplement with budget items. Just read the labels if you care about stuff like that and if you do not care, choices are in abundance in this category!

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Toothpaste (we are a fluoride family)
  • Toothbrushes (fun kid brushes galore!)
  • Dental Floss
  • Bath Salts (not the crazy street-drug kind, the kind you put in your BATH)
  • Poufy Mesh Shower Sponges
  • Antiperspirant
  • Hair brushes / Combs
  • Hair Elastics
  • Hair Accessories
  • Hand Sanitizer, especially travel sizes

Giftwrap / Cards

The dollar store is my first stop for this kind of stuff. Then if I can’t find it I will try elsewhere. Why? Because they have awesome stuff and the mark-up between dollar store and regular retailers is insane especially when you consider its purpose and lifespan. Very often that gift wrap or card is soon to be tossed. How sad! I want value for my money but I still want my gifts to look nice!

  • Gift Bags (all sizes, events, including cute trims and boutique looks)
  • Gift Wrap (smaller selection, except during the holidays, price can’t be beat)
  • Gift Card Holders
  • Cute Decorative Boxes
  • Tissue (many colors and prints)
  • Colored Paper Shreds
  • Greeting Cards (I especially love the handmade cards they have at Dollar Tree for many holidays)
  • Baskets (from woven to metal to modern plastic styles)

Nearly every utensil you could need, all for $1.
Nearly every utensil you could need, all for $1. | Source
Shopping at the dollar store makes my piggy bank happy!
Shopping at the dollar store makes my piggy bank happy! | Source

Kitchen Supplies

Every think “oh great” as you are cooking and somehow manage to leave one of your most frequently used utensils too close to a burner and now it is either melted or burned. Of course it matches a set and you bought it ages ago. You go to find another and either you can’t or you find out that buying a single spoon is $20? What? For a silly kitchen spoon or spatula you think? If you are chef or enjoy cooking specialty dishes, it may be worth your while to invest the money in replacing your specialty utensil. However, for most families $20 a piece kitchen gadgets are better left to starry-eyed brides and their bridal registries, the rest of us planted firmly in reality, have better uses for our money. Enter the Dollar Store and the “wall of utensils” to save the day. They have everything from towels and washcloths to timers and shakers. They are not heirloom quality by any means but they are just a buck! If you break it or your kid does… come grab another.

  • Kitchen Towels
  • Kitchen Washcloths
  • Oven Mitts
  • Measuring Cups
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Large Ladles, Spoons, Etc
  • Spatulas and Turners
  • Tongs
  • Timers
  • Bag Clips
  • Mixing Bowls
  • Peelers

Seasonal Decor

I can’t afford to decorate my house for all the holidays like some of my neighbors. But with the dollar store and their seasonal items, I can allow my children to come with me and pick out some fun items to dress up the house, our windows, and sometimes our yard.

  • Silk Flowers (also great for crafts)
  • Seasonal Hanging Items
  • Seasonal Yard Stakes
  • Seasonal Window Clings
  • Seasonal Door Mats
  • Seasonal Flags

School Supplies / Kids Stuff

Back to school can be a budget killer. Before heading off to pick up your items at a big-box store, bring your list to the dollar store and see what you can get. Depending on sales, these may or may not be a good deal. I recommend checking circulars first.

  • Pencils
  • Pens
  • Crayons
  • Glue Sticks / White Glue
  • Binders
  • Loose Leaf Paper
  • Composition Books
  • Book Covers
  • Poster Board (this is almost always a good deal)
  • Tissues
  • Coloring Books
  • Flash Cards
  • Glow Sticks
  • Stocking Stuffers / Easter Basket / Busy Bag Toys

Food and Snacks

Probably the most surprising category of all! Yes, you can buy food at the dollar store. At least you can at mine. It isn’t expired. You should always check dates though to be sure. In all honesty, I have found more expired product on my regular grocery shelves or places like pharmacy where you pick up some essentials than I have at the dollar store. Odd! Quality tends to suffer when it is a dollar and not everything is a bargain!

  • Repackaged 100-calorie bagged snacks
  • Peanut Butter Crackers
  • Wheat Crackers
  • Off-brand Splenda (I know I shouldn’t buy synthetic sweeteners, but I do!)
  • Jelly
  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Frozen Veggies
  • Frozen Pierogies
  • Frozen Ravoli
  • Refrigerated Biscuits
  • Frozen Waffles /Pancakes

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    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very informative and interesting! These dollar stores are a boon in times when economizing and sometimes getting fabulous deals in the bargain.

      Voted up, useful & interesting