What to Buy at the Dollar Store -- and What to Skip

By Raechel Conover Cheapism.com

To make your dollar store shopping even easier, we've compiled a list of best dollar store buys. Never been? You're missing out. The dollar store aisles are teeming with treasures just waiting to save you money. Here's what you can get:

Party Supplies. Dollar stores are awash in party supplies like balloons filled with helium, which go for $1 each compared with $3 to $8 elsewhere. Unfilled balloons come in packs of 25 for $1. You can also load up on party decorations, gift bag fillers, and invitations (eight for $1) at the dollar store. And for those all-important presents, you'll find wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper (25 sheets for $1), and tape (two rolls for $1).

Related: Best Cheap Moisturizers

Stationery/Office Supplies
. While school supplies are best bought in August during back-to-school sales, the dollar store is a good place to stock up year-round. Check your local dollar store for pens, pencils, markers, and crayons -- which come in packs of two to eight for $1 -- as well as paper and Post-it notes. For school projects, you can get presentation boards or two pieces of poster board for $1. Money Crashers points out that the dollar store is a good place to get mailing supplies for cheap -- for instance, two bubble envelopes for $2. You can also pick up two greeting cards for $1.

Kitchen Gear. Every time we visit the dollar store we're surprised to find decent glass dishes and heavy-duty plasticware for a dollar per piece. What's more, you can set your whole table with $1 items. At many dollar stores you're bound to find tablecloths, placemats, table runners, cloth napkins, candle holders, serving pieces, flatware, wine glasses, coffee mugs, and more in matching sets for $1 per item. You'll also find casserole dishes, baking tins, cookie sheets, and the like for $1 to $4. Oh, yes, salt and pepper shakers and food storage containers are available too, in sets of two to four for $1, depending on size. Stock up on paper plates and plastic utensils; $1 buys 30 foam plates and 48 pieces of plasticware.

Related: Best Cheap Cookware

Home Goods
. Cleaning products can get pricey, especially if you buy name brands. Opt for off-brands from the dollar store instead. The solutions might be a bit diluted but will still get the job done. You may also luck out and find brand-name cleaning supplies at your local dollar store. We've seen 16-ounce containers of Palmolive dish soap and Lysol toilet bowl cleaner for $1. Also available: three quarts of Clorox bleach for $2.25, 35 Clorox disinfectant wipes for $2, and 25 ounces of Dawn dish soap for $2.

In addition to cleaning supplies, you can get organization and storage containers at the dollar store. Look for things like shoe racks ($9 for one that holds 18 pairs of shoes), hangers (six for $1), and storage bins ($7.50 for a 35-quart bin). All cost less than they would at a big box store.

Holiday Decor. The dollar store is a jackpot around holidays. For example, at Christmas you'll likely find everything you need to decorate a tree -- ornaments, lights, tinsel, and garland. At Easter you'll find baskets galore for a dollar each, and plastic eggs to go in them. We recently saw 18 for $1 at our local dollar store. For smaller holidays, like Valentine's Day, you'll find plenty of cute candy holders, wreaths, and other decorations for the home.

Related: Cheap Tablets

Electronic Accessories
. We're not about to suggest you buy a knock-off iPod at the dollar store (see below), but we will tell you to look for cheap headphones to go with your real iPod. Moneyville highlights several other such items worth buying at the dollar store. Look for an iPod stand or case, portable device covers and skins, and reading lights for $1 each, or a flashlight for around $4.

Don't Bother Items

One final note: Some things aren't worth even what little you'd pay for them at the dollar store. Here are a few products you're likely better off buying elsewhere.

Vitamins and medicine. The drug aisle of our local dollar store houses everything from a Menopause Support Formula for $5.50 to a Super Fat Burner for $2.50. Experts warn that you just don't know exactly what's in such items. They also may be near or past their expiration date. (This is a concern with food items as well.)

Small appliances and electronics. These tend to be cheaply made and likely won't last. A wireless CD/MP3 adapter for a car stereo may cost $10, but you could probably spend a little more elsewhere and get one that is much more reliable.

Light bulbs. Experts advise that you'll end up spending more money in the long run, because dollar store light bulbs lack the lifespan of more expensive bulbs. While it's tempting to get the off-brand four-pack of 60-watt light bulbs for $1.25, try to resist.

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