Are you looking for a surefire way to amp up your budgeting prowess and trim away expenses so you can save more money and maybe get out of debt even faster?
If so, the dollar store (like Dollar Tree, Big Lots, Dollar General, Family Dollar, etc.) is a seriously great resource to help in that area, particularly when looking for substitutions on potentially costlier staple items we cover below.
Now admittedly, if you're new to this you may have to “hold your nose” on a few things, particularly if you’re substituting away from the really “glamorous” options offered in places like Target or even Walmart.
But, if you’re going to win with this money/budgeting thing, you’ve got to find places to trim the fat and sacrifice some of that “sexiness” for the discipline of staying well inside your budget.
You'll thank yourself later, trust me it's worth it.
Absolutely put a clamp on it. Eliminate and substitute as much as possible.
As you move along through this process of becoming a budgeting and debt elimination ninja, you’ll start to value each dollar that comes into your life a little bit more and substitution will actually become both a fun game and a habitual way of shopping.
In fact, one of the reasons my wife and I are able to save so much money (our savings rate was 73% last year and 68% so far this year), is that we’re constantly looking for areas where we can either reduce or totally eliminate unnecessary costs.
Retailers like Dollar Tree and Big Lots a huge asset to us in that regard.
To win with budgeting, saving money, and just winning with money in general, you have to either eliminate or dramatically minimize anything that causes “leakage” in your budget.
And the volume of leakage can be pennies to thousands of dollars depending on where the leak is.
Even if it’s just a fraction of a dollar, a whole dollar or “just a few” dollars, these things can greatly add up in very short order, especially when you’re tracking them with precision budgeting (like we recommend you do).
By the way, if you’re looking for some resources to get started with budgeting, you can download our Free Budgeting Forms here.
You want to cut all the corners you possibly can, wherever you can and utilize those salvaged dollars on things (like eliminating debt and later for investing) that make better use of your money.
As a part of our “leakage reduction” strategy we use retailers like Dollar Tree and Big Lots to try and buy staples that will help us to reduce expenditures for items that can sometimes cost twice as much (or more) at places like Walmart and Target, for example.
Plug up all the leaks you can. Make your budget as watertight as possible.
That said, we still have to be diligent that we don’t walk into the dollar store, make some big wins with certain items, only to be tempted to buy a bunch of junk we don’t need and defeat our whole purpose.
There’s always temptation to buy that “shiny piece of junk” that looks fun in the moment but incrementally sabotages your purpose for going to the dollar store in the first place.
It’s also important to point out that, even though there are some great things to save money on in the dollar store, there are also items that you absolutely should not purchase in these places. The reasons for that will be outlined in the list.
All that said, let’s jump into the lists.
1. Cleaning Supplies:
Dish soap, bleach, disinfectants and disinfectant wipes, hand soaps, scrubbers, sponges, towels, brooms, mops, buckets and more! There are normally a lot of well-known brands as well. How about that!? Huge savings over the grocery store as well as places like Target and Wal Mart even.
2. Laundry Supplies:
It may not be the rosiest smelling stuff, but it gets the job done and we have a dozen decently large sized containers of laundry detergent for the cost of what one would cost at Wal Mart or Target. I’m calling that a win!
3. Dental Care Supplies:
Toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash. It’s the same stuff that costs at least twice as much next door at Wal Mart. Check for yourself!
4. Greeting Cards/Birthday Cards:
Greeting cards are expensive, right? I’ve seen some for over $5-$6 or more at other retailers like Wal Mart and Target. Why??!! Some of the best most hilarious birthday cards I’ve ever bought have been at Dollar Tree and many of them cost only $.50 per card. It’s great because I can get all my birthday cards for all the important peeps in my life and not break the bank.
5. Dishes and Glasses:
Admittedly, we’re pretty minimalist in this sense, as there are just two of us. But, the four plates, four glasses and four coffee mugs we own came from the dollar store. We just can’t see paying multiple tens of dollars for place settings when you can go to Dollar Tree and spend a buck a piece and STILL be somewhat stylish.
6. Travel-Sized Toiletries:
Another potential big spend at the big box retailers is travel sized toiletry items like: toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, shampoo, lotion, etc. If your super frugal like we are, you can just reuse the containers for the next trip!
7. Name Brand Snacks:
While we’re no longer on the “snack train” because of our ketogenic diet, when we were on it, we purchased a lot of our snacks at Dollar Tree because they now even have the Non-GMO and “healthier” snacks for a buck or less!
8. Party Decorations:
This is probably going to sound sacrilegious to our American audience, but my wife and I actually bought all the decorations for our wedding at Dollar Tree. Scandalous I know!.
Our wedding was about 7 years ago, so I don’t remember precisely what we spent (although I recall it being less than $2k for EVERYTHING including her dress). But it was a pittance compared to the money I’ve seen spent in the average wedding.
We were able to get our… plasticware, cups, plates, napkins, table coverings, decorative bows, streamers, plastic runners we used for the wedding aisle.
We just had fun and got creative with our limited resources. We actually received a lot of compliments on the appearance of everything and shocked looks when we disclosed our Dollar Tree conspiracy!
9. Storage Containers:
Why go to the Container Store and shell out a bunch of cash for some “sexy” storage stuff? My answer is there is no “why” good enough for me to spend a bunch of my hard earned cash on a piece of plastic that holds stuff that I’m probably not going to have in a visible place anyway. Dollar store storage containers are good AND cheap.
10. Bathroom Supplies:
Except for toilet paper. The TP in the dollar store is typically not great and actually not all that economical. But we find that things like baby wipes, shower curtains, tiny trash cans, toilette brushes and plungers, toothbrush racks and hand soap.
11. Car Supplies:
We’ve found that, especially car cleaning supplies (bucket, sponges, towels, tire cleaners, air fresheners, etc.) are soo much cheaper at the dollar store. I personally hate washing my car, but I always feel good that I didn’t spend a truck load of money on the supplies I’m doing it with.
12. Books (Especially Coloring Books For Kids):
There are surprisingly some good finds in the dollar store. This is especially true if you’re looking for children's coloring books, activity or sticker books in particular. There are some great deals to be had. So check the dollar store first!
In general, unless it’s a well known brand AND in a quantity and at a price that’s a bargain, we steer clear of buying any food items in the dollar store. In a place like Big Lots, it’s a little different story as they typically have well known brands at fantastic prices.
But places Dollar Tree is kind of a no-go zone for us when it comes to food. Part of that reason is that we follow what’s called the ketogenic diet and a lot of the “food-items” in the dollar store are very questionably “food” in the first place.
2. Canned Goods:
While this could be classified under the food category, I thought it appropriate to put it in one of it’s own. Many of the reasons are the same as above.
The other reason I separated it out, is that spending a dollar on a can of green beans or corn, is often significantly more expensive than buying the same item in your grocery store.
In my opinion, these types of products fall under the “suspect” category when it comes to the dollar store. Just be sure to check ingredients and maybe do some research.
If it’s a name brand you know and trust, fin. Otherwise, skip it.
Same level of “suspicion” here. So many people have allergies these days that this may be another category you eliminate from the dollar store purchase.
Like the previous category, if it’s a brand you know and trust, great. If not, make sure to get better quality somewhere else.
5. Food Containers:
I’m personally very suspicious of the types of plastics and chemicals used to produce the food containers I see in the dollar store.
I’d rather spend a little extra to make sure my food storage didn’t have some questionable contents.
Actually, we try to steer clear of plastic altogether and instead use a lot of glass containers for food storage.
So there you have it! 12 things you should buy and 5 you shouldn’t buy from the dollar store.
What are you planning to do with this information? What did we leave out? Tell us in the comments below.
So again, if you’re looking to adhere to your budget, the dollar store is potentially such a great resource for you to be able to cut corners and spend fewer dollars.
One caution I will offer generally is, "caveat emptor" or buyer beware. You have to use common sense and discernment and do comparisons as to both quality and overall price. You can’t just assume that the dollar store is automatically the best value for every single item.
So, continue to work hard saving that money and let us know how it’s going in the comments below.
0. Stop All Retirement Investing (Until Step 4)2. Starter Emergency Fund of $10003. Eliminate Debts Smallest To Largest (a.k.a The Debt Snowball)4. Full Emergency Fund of 3-6+ Months’ Expenses5. Invest A Minimum of 15% Income Into Retirement Accounts (and increase savings rate to 50%+ if possible)6. College Funding (if applicable)7. Pay Off The Home Mortgage8. Build Wealth, Serve, Be Ridiculously Generous And Go FI (Financial Independence)!