Dollar Store Do’s and Dollar store Don’ts!

First of all, let’s get this out of the way. I love the Dollar Store, YOU love the Dollar Store, we are all obsessed with low quality and low price items and feel the rush of relief when the cashier says “That’ll be twelve dollars and twenty-two cents” after ringing up a conveyer belt chock FULL of stuff. It’s the world’s cheapest high.

However, though all items at the Dollar Store COST a dollar, they are not all created equal. Here are some things you definitely SHOULD be buying at the dollar store, and what you could probably afford to just leave on the shelf.

(And there are several stores with “dollar” in the name, claiming to be the lowest, but this list is mainly dedicated to the particular establishment where everything in the “Tree” is literally one dollar….)

1. Gift Bags and tissue paper

You can go ahead and stop reading after this one if you want–this is the BEST value for one dollar that has ever existed on the planet, or ever hopes to. They are the same quality as what you buy at the drugstore for (no exaggeration) 7 or 8 times more, but they are affordable enough to buy in advance and keep in your car for when you’re running late or have to pick up a gift on the way to the party. (Ahem) Not that I do that…

2.  Pregnancy tests

Ok, I’m not talking about if you’re 3 weeks late and starting to feel nauseated in the morning, call the OB/GYN and mazel tov, you’re having a baby. This is for those who are trying, charting, and obsessing daily. And, believe it or not, these tests are more sensitive than the fancy expensive digital ones, so they can give you an accurate answer much sooner. (Please note, these are kept behind the counter at some locations!)

3. Sunglasses

Not the ones you received as a gift and treasure close to your heart, these are the ones you grab if you’re going to the beach, have on hand to lend to a passenger in your car, or just as a backup. They actually have some cute styles, and you won’t cry if they get ripped off your face by a wave or sat on.

4. Hair Accessories/Bobby pins

You know how bobby pins are like bad friends, right? Everywhere except when you need them? I remedy that by picking up a sleeve of bobby pins EVERY TIME I step foot in the dollar store. (Sarcasm alert:) My husband LOVES it.

5. Coffee mugs

Especially to keep at work or to give the kids to drink hot cocoa out of around the fire pit, because it’s not a big deal if they get broken or chipped. Although I have to say, they are usually sturdy and dishwasher AND microwave safe, and they have some pretty cute and versatile styles. So you may get more attached than you anticipated if you break or lose one!

6. Craft Supplies

Before you go to (Name redacted)’s or even (Two words…name redacted) craft stores, swing by the good ol’ dollar store. The stock is not consistent or reliable, so if you bought really pretty grosgrain ribbon and silk flowers there 3 months ago, they may not still be there. BUT… you never know, OR you may find something special that you didn’t know you needed. I found some glitter glue sticks right before Christmas knowing that a project would present itself to me- and it did.

7. Holiday décor

I ordinarily pick up a few things here and there for work or some cute decorations for the kids to put out, constantly play with, and subsequently destroy, but I’ve been surprised more than once at the versatility and durability of some holiday adornments, and some pieces have lasted us years!

8. Seeds

Yeah, I know you didn’t know about this one. We picked up a few packets of wildflower seeds, on a whim- and lo and behold what they produced! Seeds can be purchased online pretty inexpensively, but when they’re right in front of you, why not?

9. Books

I take a look at the book section every time I go. If you are a fan of “actual” tangible books, you won’t find them cheaper anywhere. Also, even if you don’t buy anything, it’s funny to see what sold so poorly in regular book stores that it’s now $1 a year later…

10. Gag or “compilation” gifts

Don’t be “that guy” who brings a single dollar store item wrapped as a gift. BUT, if you are looking to make a gift basket or a gag gift, this is the best place to start. Candy, the aforementioned coffee mugs and hair accessories, plus nail polish/cotton balls, etc. You can make a killer gift basket from dollar store items.


1.  Wrapping PAPER

I know, I know. I JUST extolled the virtues of the dollar store gift bag- but its cousin the dollar store roll of wrapping paper could not be more different. It sits on a throne of gift wrapping LIES. The paper is very poor quality (you know that satisfying shhhhhhhhhhhzip you get when your scissors glide along the paper? Not happening with this garbage) and there is barely enough on a roll for a few gifts. You really do better to invest a dollar or two more and have enough for all your gifts. (Plus, they’ll match. If you’re type A, you’ll love that)

2.   Soaps

Check these first, but sometimes the dollar store sells a single liquid soap or a bar when you could get a multipack of the same item that would equal less individually.

3.   Kitchen towels*

Or, check them carefully. A good majority of them are 100% polyester, which just doesn’t absorb water- it’s plastic. Plus, even the few cotton ones are so low quality that they shrink and get messed up in the wash.

4.  Balloons

I am guilty of this one, and I will be again, but it’s a pain in the rear when I’ve got my pile of cheap goods all ready and waiting to check out and the cashier has to stop because the person in front of me is requesting to have a bunch of balloons filled with helium. So, to clarify, I won’t come right out and say that the dollar store is the BEST place to get great balloons, because I may have to wait in line a little longer. So.

5.  SOME school/office supplies.

This follows the same rule as the soap above. Sure, that pen may cost a dollar, but you may be able to get a whole pack of higher quality pens for a dollar or two more, and they’ll last you longer.

Bonus tip:

You may not have known this, but if you see an item on the shelf that you need in bulk, but they only have a few, try going online (to that store with the green logo I mentioned earlier, you know the one…) to see if they have more! You can have it delivered to your favorite store with no additional shipping costs. However, the online stock shifts as much as the in-store stock, so act fast!

However you decide to acquire your inexpensive but essential goods, take care. When the price tag is so low, you can be tempted to get things you don’t need, which just end up becoming trash (ask me how I know) so be careful, and happy bargain shopping!

Jeanne Rougelot
Jeanne is a proud Westbanker and wife, full time working parent, and middle child. She and her insanely handsome husband of 20 years have 2 daughters, aged 15 and 7. Her hobbies include cake decorating, reading, devouring movies, and slowly turning into her mother. When they are not patronizing local restaurants, she and her family enjoy driving around to take in the surroundings of their home, from Lafitte to Folsom, and all points in between. She is a passionate advocate for Ovarian Cancer Awareness.


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