12 Things You’d Be Smart to Buy at the Dollar Store

Everyday Cheapskate

You wouldn’t believe how often someone will ask me what I miss most about California, and that’s certainly understandable. After all, we lived there for 47 years before pulling up roots and relocating to Colorado. My usual response is “Not much!” but truth be told, there are two things: good pizza and 99 Cents Only Stores.

12 Things You’d Be Smart to Buy at the Dollar Store

Admittedly, I have not tried every pizza restaurant, so hope springs eternal. But I cannot find evidence of plans to expand 99 Cents Only to Colorado, and that’s a cryin’ shame.
Gratefully, there are other brands of dollar stores — several of them nearby and conveniently located.

Here’s the reason I love dollars stores: I can easily match quality with need when I don’t need super quality. Here, let me show you what I mean with this quick list of things you’d be smart to buy at a dollar store:

Greeting cards. Don’t expect Hallmark’s complete line to show up at the dollar store. But you can expect first-quality greeting cards for just about every occasion. This is my go-to source for cards I know will be opened, enjoyed for the moment and tossed. Nothing wrong with that, but I sure don’t want to spend $3.99 or more when I can get it for a buck!
Gift bags, gift wrap. A dollar store is the best place to buy these things for a fraction of the cost of traditional stores. And why not? It’s all going to end up in the trash in no time flat. Dollar stores carry lots of selections, too.

Paper goods. Paper plates and cups, disposable tablecloths, plastic cutlery, balloons and even theater-size candy — if you need it for a party and don’t need it to last for more than a few hours, the dollar store is the place to find it. You’ll find party decorations galore as well.
Seasonal decor and favors. Want to decorate for Halloween, Thanksgiving or any number of holidays? You got it — the dollar store. You’ll find everything from packages of spider rings; glow sticks; streamers; wall and door decor; and on and on and on — all super cheap.

Pregnancy tests. Hold on; it’s true. Most dollar stores sell pregnancy tests that cost upwards of $15 or more in a drugstore, for just a buck. Are they reliable? As long as they do what they say they will do on the label, and they’re sealed and not beyond they’re expiration date. Why not? If you’re worried, buy a few so you can just make sure. You’ll still save a bundle.
Toiletries and personal care. Get ready to be blown away by all the choices of shampoo, deodorant, shaving cream, soap, body wash, razors, hair accessories, hair products, bandages and antiseptic products.

Get organized. Why pay $3.99 each for plastic shoe boxes with lids to organize the kids’ rooms when you can get them for a buck at the dollar store? Dollar stores are notorious for having all kinds of bins, boxes and organizational helps like that.

Reading glasses. They have those, too! Probably not a huge selection, but you’re sure to find at least a couple of options in the corrective strength you need. And when you do, grab a few pairs, because you know how easy it is to misplace them!

Cleaning supplies. Look down the cleaning aisle and expect to find off-brand bleach, cleansers, dish soap, laundry detergent, stain treatments and even glass and mirror cleaners. Look for microfiber cloths, sponges and scrub brushes. Tools. Not every tool in a home or garage needs to be a top name brand with a life expectancy of many decades. Take a tape measure, duct tape or even a set of screw drivers. You’ll find all those things at a dollar store, and picture hangers, too.
Food and produce. The main thing I miss about 99 Cents Only is the fresh produce. I would always make 99 Cents my first stop on the way to the supermarket. The array of canned goods and other nonperishables is impressive. Just make sure you know your prices elsewhere! You don’t want to pay 99 cents for a can of soup that is regularly priced 69 cents at the supermarket.

Mary invites questions, comments and tips at, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a personal finance member website and the author of “Debt-Proof Living,” released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at


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