5 Surprising Facts You Didn't Know About the Dollar Store

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5 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About the Dollar Store
Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Meg Favreau

The dollar store is a great place to shop for deals ... right? Well, sometimes. You might be surprised to learn that it's not always the cheapest place to shop. Read on to learn more about unexpected dollar store facts.

1. A dollar store shopping spree can satisfy your shopping craving.

Thanks to the way our brains work, a dollar store shopping spree can satisfy our shopping craving even better than shopping at a more expensive store. "Dollar stores are a great option for shopping sprees because of the way the mind translates purchases into pleasures," says Jeremy Shapiro, an adjunct professor at Case Western Reserve University's Department of Psychological Sciences. "We get a little kick from each purchase we make, and the size of the purchase makes less difference than the number of buys."

As he explains, we get more enjoyment from a bunch of small purchases than from one big buy. So the next time you want to splurge, try doing it by heading to the dollar store.

2. Not everything at the dollar store is cheaper.

Earlier this year, a Fox reporter in Idaho found that out of 10 items she bought at the Dollar Tree (DLTR), eight of them were actually cheaper at the local grocery store. One way to avoid this is to keep a running list of stores in your area that have the best prices for products you use regularly. That way, if you see a product you use for sale, you can quickly and easily know whether or not what you see is actually a good deal.

Another trick is to pay attention to sizes and the price per ounce -- not the price overall.
Often, dollar stores will sell smaller sizes of products, so the cost appears to be less, but if you look at the price per ounce, you might discover that it's actually less expensive to buy a bigger size at another store.

3. You can get brand names at dollar stores.

If you haven't been in a dollar store recently, you might be surprised -- the shelves aren't just stocked with off-brand Irish summer soap. Rather, many dollar stores have started carrying name-brand items. But be wary -- these name-brand products are often the products that you can find cheaper at other stores.

4. Off-brand products could be just as good as the name brand.

Think that you're above advertising and product packaging? Well, you probably aren't. Shapiro says that even wine experts -- people who make their living tasting differences between wines -- are influenced by how products are presented. "Blind taste tests have found that both ordinary people and wine experts like what they drink much more when they see it poured from an impressive bottle than a cheap-looking container," he says, "and something similar probably happens with the items we buy from different types of stores."

If you're shopping for food, cleaning supplies or health and beauty items, a quick way to see if you're influenced by your perception of products is to compare the ingredients between a name-brand and generic product. If a name-brand and a generic glass cleaner have the same ingredients, for example, you should be good buying the cheaper generic.

5. A new dollar store opens every six hours.

Many people thought that after the Great Recession started to taper off, the popularity of dollar stores would taper as well. But they're still going strong. In fact, according to the brokerage firm Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc., so many new dollar stores opened as of July, that it equaled a new store every six hours.

Meg Favreau is the senior editor for the personal finance blog Wise Bread, which features other money-saving articles.


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109 Comments

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romamia70

Thanks for all the info...I BUY all my cards at The Dollar store, best deal in town.

January 10 2014 at 3:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
MIKE

A good deal of the number of items sold by a dollar store are soon-to-expire items; items with minor packaging defects; items returned by other stores for lack of sale; etc. I would not buy anything electronic from a dollar store. I'm a teacher and a couple of my students bought calculators from the buck-store only to get some wrong answers thanks to the calculator..I even checked this out personally when called over by more than one student. Also, batteries are often inferior and do not last vey long.
CAVEAT EMPTOR!

January 01 2014 at 12:34 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
MiMcGovr

While we poor self centered Americans are busy satisfying our craving to shop at dollar & 99 cent stores, shopping there will be among the top reasons why this country goes bankrupt sooner than later. How cheap is cheap when the owners of these stores must mark up the wholesale cheapness of China imports. China is not in debt, (WE ARE) while most who live in China do so in the barest of minimal space and cramped tiny compartments. Workers are paid little to make, and the cost to ship merchandise to the U.S.A to meet our increasing demand for more more more. It's no wonder U.S. Dollar store owners have to open 10 stores to make a wealthy man's wage to profit to stay in business? Everything comes from China and outsourcing inventory needs will eventually lead to our demise. Walgreen's sells many o the same items found cheaper at the Dollar Stores. Imagine they too buy the cheap stuff and really mark it up. One day we are all going to cry.

December 17 2013 at 2:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bootsnchaps60

Like any store, its good to look at what you\'re buying. Dollar Tree can have good, usable cleaning products and some good prices on name brands. But there aer also import food items I avoid. Family Dollar and Super Dollar have more name brands and sometimes its easier to go there than stand in line at Walmart or Food Lion.

December 11 2013 at 9:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SPQR

Yes make sure you check the label and don't buy any food from China. Most of them are contaminated with feces. They are use to eating it but we can't tolerate it here

December 08 2013 at 10:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Luna

* I noticed some things I bought at the dollar store were not a good deal at all. Super glue that never dried. Tape is impossible to work with, rips as you try to use it and very thin. Pens that skip or don't work at all.. To me its a mix of good deals and items that are a waste of money. I still shop there and now have a good idea what is worth buying there and what is not.

December 08 2013 at 10:35 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
bryantsewanne

I love the dollar store bread, best, i hope they don\'t change it like all the other brand\"s, they taste like chaulk. And please don\'t raise the price.

December 08 2013 at 9:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
JOY

I love $Tree and some 99 cent stores. I have bought some very interesting and fun to read books for $1 each.

December 08 2013 at 9:11 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
kmullinsf

most of the items, that dollar stores sell are made from China. Even some brand names, So be careful.

December 08 2013 at 9:03 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to kmullinsf's comment
seichal

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38MfZ17nT50&list=PL3E897541BD17C695

August 12 2014 at 1:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to seichal's comment
seichal

everything is made in China check out the above video

August 12 2014 at 1:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
tootsiebella13

You get what you pay for.

December 08 2013 at 8:29 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply