With inflation continuing to push us to our (bank) breaking point, we’re getting desperate to find ways to save on everyday products. And so we’re flocking to stores that promise hefty discounts including dollar stores, which have seen a spike in traffic in recent months. And more are on the way. Dollar General, for example, is, as a recent Forbes article put it “spreading like hot gossip” through small towns across the U.S.
With so many aisles to shop, and all of them brimming with cheap prices, one might be tempted to fill their cart with just about everything they need (or can find) at their local dollar store. Unfortunately, this seemingly harmless intention can cost you big in the end. There are a number of products sold at dollar stores that are best bought elsewhere.
“Yes, [meds are] cheap, but the value is going to be extremely poor compared to shopping elsewhere,” said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. “In addition, depending on the rate of turnover, the meds on the shelf may be close to expiration, or even past it. Because of that, even if they’re not necessarily dangerous to take, they may be less effective, which means it’s a waste of money at best.”
“This is one item you want to know the provenance of no matter where you purchase from, so opting for cheaper ones at dollar stores is definitely risky,” Ramhold said. “You may not be sure of what you’re taking exactly, or it could be that amounts aren’t consistent so you end up taking different amounts each time even if you follow dosage instructions. Even if you aren’t concerned about these things, you’re still not going to be getting a great price overall. You’re better off shopping at big-box stores or warehouse clubs for these items to get the best value and have confidence in the item.”
“It doesn’t matter where you buy them, cheap knives aren’t worth it in the long run,” Ramhold said. “They may dull more easily (if they’re even sharp, to begin with) which makes them more prone to causing injury. Cheap knives also aren’t going to last, so you’re just going to end up having to buy new ones before too long anyway. You’re better off investing in a decent set from a reputable brand rather than trying to just get by with the cheapest ones you can find.”
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“This is another product that you should always buy from reputable brands,” Ramhold said. “You need to know what’s in the sunscreen you’re buying and that it’s made of quality ingredients; and it needs to be new to ensure the efficacy is still strong. Cheaping out by buying sunscreen at dollar stores means risking buying some that’s been on the shelf long enough it won’t provide the same protection, and that’s a waste of money that can result in serious consequences.”
“There’s a reason that dollar store toys have a running joke about breaking five minutes after you buy them,” Ramhold said. “They might keep your kids entertained long enough to get out of the store, but beyond that, the toys are on borrowed time. When they break, they could have parts that pose a choking hazard. Even if you aren’t worried about them breaking, cheap toys are typically made with cheap materials, and that may mean exposing your kids to potentially dangerous elements.”
“This is another item you never want to cheap out on. Not only will they be a terrible value overall, but they likely won’t last very long either, which means you’re throwing money away and will need to replace them sooner,” Ramhold said. “In fact, depending on their age, you may even end up with batteries that are dead right out of the package. Skip the dollar store and purchase reputable brands from a big-box retailer like Target or Best Buy, or even in bulk from a warehouse club if you need a larger quantity.”
“Be sure to read the labels on shampoo, conditioner, and cosmetic products carefully,” said Meaghan Brophy, retail expert at Fit Small Business. “It is common for dollar store products to be filled with harsh chemicals that would not typically be found at other retailers. People with allergies or sensitive skin could have reactions to dollar store cosmetics.”
Certain Food Items
“Some items cost more at a dollar store than the grocery store. For example, the same can of black beans that you buy for $1 at the dollar store is usually around $0.79 at a grocery store,” Brophy said. “Plus, always read food labels carefully when shopping at the dollar store. Meats, in particular, can have lots of fillers added. As a general rule, stick to non-perishable items or frozen food if you purchase food from the dollar store.”
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