Things You Can Definitely Buy From the Dollar Store: A Guide to Being Poor
• Band-aids- You can probably get a box of 100 or so for a buck
• Light Pads- Not tampons, because you really shouldn’t skimp on tampon quality, and if you have a seriously heavy flow, I would consider a sturdier brand, but for just some just-in-case panty liners or your last couple days, a 20 pack of liners for $1 is pretty sweet
• Pain Relievers- it depends on how many are in the bottle and what your local prices are, so check what it costs for a big bottle at Walmart with 100 in it, vs the 25 in the dollar store bottle. It takes a little math, but sometimes it can save a lot of money to by 4 (25ct) bottles for $4 instead of 1 (100 ct) bottle for $7
• Nail Polish & Makeup- If you aren’t picky about brands, Dollar stores have some good ones sometimes. LA Colors is a makeup brand that Dollar Tree sells, among other stores, and most of its makeup is pretty good. ELF is something common at dollar stores, as well, and is pretty darn good for $1-3. I would stay away from Dollar Store foundation and concealers if you haven’t tried it out before or seen good reviews though
• Dishes- A dish is a dish is a dish, man. Don’t waste $50 on your first dish set after moving out of your parent’s house. It really isn’t worth it—moving for college, a new apartment every year your lease is up, roommates, parties, exploding in microwaves, soon-to-be-ex throwing them at your head and whatnot: they’re going to get trashed. When you have a steady job, your own house and want to entertain, then go to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and buy the nicest set of dishes you can find. Until then, Goodwill and Dollar Store dishes are for you. In my opinion, it’s actually more fun to have miss-matched dishes, but if it’s not for you, you can totally buy matches from Dollar Tree. I’ve actually seen some pretty nice ones.
• Books- Find something interesting? Go for it. Book is a Book is a Book. Sometimes they even have pretty good ones, it’s worth checking next time you’re in the store
• Pregnancy/Ovulation Tests- It’s been proven that the cheapos are just as accurate as the $10 apiece ones. If you have a late period or are feeling paranoid, don’t waste huge money on name brands.
• Food- Dollar stores have really evolved when it comes to food. Some even have frozen sections! Be careful, as sometimes the almost empty boxes are actually MORE MONEY per oz. but all in all, you can get some good deals if you look for them. Keep an eye on expiration dates though—there is a reason it’s in the dollar store. Do NOT buy spices from discount stores! If it’s a name brand, that’s fine, but the cheapo brands make spice “mixes” and “Blends” that are usually full of salt to make them cheaper to produce—this is unhealthy for you because if you are seasoning something and want more flavor, you use more spice mix, but you’re adding more salt. Total high sodium risk
• Cleaning Supplies: It all depends on what you can find, of course. But dryer sheets, sponges, toilet bowl cleaner, etc. are all pretty standard and aren’t going to be very different if you spend $1 on it or $10. If you buy one and it doesn’t work for you, or feels ineffective then spring for a more expensive version, but the cheap is always worth a try.
• Candles + Incense: some of them actually smell pretty good and you can find a good deal every once in a while. They have pretty nice candle holders sometimes, as well
Things you SHOULDN’T buy from the dollar store
• Spices: As noted earlier, Spice “mixes” usually contain a lot of salt and other filler, so when you go to add more seasoning for more flavor, you just end up with more salt. It’s really unhealthy, over all, and being a low-income or likely in college person can already put you at risk for unhealthy eating. Spring for the real stuff, I promise it’s worth it
• Office/School Supplies: Okay, this may just be personal experience, but I have to be honest, I have not had any kind of luck with pens, pencils, or even the paper. A lot of the notebooks are actually cheaper at a regular store, especially in the fall, and it’s better to stock up on $.20 each then than pay $1 per notebook later. Your individual stores may have better options, but I’ve never found discounted office things (especially pens, ugh!) to be worth the slightly lower price once you factor in the ease with which they break, how quickly they run out of ink and whatnot.
• Razors: No. Just, just don’t do it—your skin will thank me later
• Candy: most small snack and candy items are old, from bad batches, or are mostly empty boxes—as well as usually being overpriced. If you need your chocolate to indulge, do it right and spend the same, if not less, amount of money on better candy.
• Anything you find questionable: use your gut. It something seems too good to be true, or doesn’t feel right, don’t bother with it. Use your judgement!