Dollar Store Buys: What’s a good deal and what’s a waste.

When I was a kid, dollar stores were retailers full of miscellaneous junk. Often stuffy and full of no-named items, we rarely hit “those stores” but in 2010, they are much different. Dollar Stores offer value and deals and many major retailers are adding dollar sections to their aisles so that everybody can get products on the cheap. These stores and aisles offer some great deals and some real duds. Here are is a list of the best deals you can find and the ones you might opt to avoid:

Real Deals

1.  Cards, Gift Bags, Wrapping Paper and Party Supplies: Great savings here! If you’re planning a birthday party, be sure to check out this aisle, where you will find some character licensed goods, like Elmo, Dora or Barbie as well as some pretty alternatives. I found some brown craft paper with pink and dark brown polka dots which was hit for my 5 year old. There are also colorful paper plates, napkins and tons of party favors for those bags that often times end up costing a fortune!
2. Kitchen Utensils: Great place to find things like stainless steel potato peelers, kitchen gloves and measuring cups.
3. Glasses and Bowls: I’ve found cute margarita and martini glasses on the cheap, as well as ice cream and popcorn bowl for the kids.
4. Household Cleaners: Most of the basic ingredients in unbranded cleaners are the same. So, go ahead and grab that bottle of generic window cleaner (just in time for Spring cleaning) and rest assured it’s going to work as well as your pricey name brand. Same goes for toilet cleaners, air fresheners and stain removers.
5. Kid’s outdoor toys: Bubbles, balls, sidewalk chalk, journals, insect magnifiers, paddle ball sets, swim goggles, sand toys and much more can be found at these stores at deep discounts.

Not So Much

1. Batteries: Most batteries here are the carbon-zinc variety which drain really quickly and are more sensitive to heat and cold than the traditional alkaline.
2. Vitamins: Since vitamins are dietary supplements, they aren’t scrutinized as highly by the Food and Drug Administration.  In a recent study, consumer reports had found that half the dollar store brands contained less vitamins than the labels indicated and often did not digest properly. When it comes to your health, why take the chance?
3. Food: I’m always leery of the food in these stores, simply because I wonder how long they have stayed on the shelves. Just be sure to check expiration dates, ingredients and skip dented boxes and cans.
4. Electrical Products: Since the quality may not be the greatest, the risk is that certain products may not be wired to handle the electrical current they receive.
5. Jewelry: These stores are full of jewelry, which may contain lead so avoid it at all costs.

About the author: Jessica Lane is a penny pinching mama of two living on the Seacoast.  She runs a blog, where she discusses the trials of motherhood.

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