Top 25 Bargains at Dollar Stores

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Dollar stores have become the go-to destination for everyday bargains, for good reason. By offering savings up to 90 percent on all kinds of household goods and accepting coupons and food stamps, the stores attract all income levels.

Chains like Dollar Tree (DLTR), Dollar General (DG) and Family Dollar (FDO) cover the continental U.S. All three are online, too. Dollar General has a featured blog with useful hints, as does Family Dollar. Each dollar store chain has its own personality. Dollar General offers items in bulk. Family Dollar and Dollar General carry more name brands. Dollar Tree has everything priced at one dollar and offers in-store pickup if you order online.

Caveats: Not everything is cheaper than at grocery, drug and specialty stores. An item you saw last week might not be there the next. To comparison-shop, you may need to figure the cost per unit or price per pound.

The top 25 bargains are (in no particular order):
  1. Batteries. AAA, AA, C and D batteries go for a dollar at Dollar Tree. Compare a pack of 8 AAs for a dollar to upwards of $9 at drug and grocery stores.
  2. Light bulbs. Not the expensive compact fluorescents but standard light bulbs that are becoming harder to find.
  3. Flood lights. These are usually more than $5 at hardware stores.
  4. Brand -name cosmetics. They won't be the newest colors, but name brands are significantly cheaper at dollar stores than at beauty supply stores or drugstores.
  5. Beauty supplies. Hairbrushes, accessories, grooming instruments are all much more affordable.
  6. Over-the-counter medicine cabinet staples. Pain relievers, tummy meds and allergy pills are considerably cheaper than at drug or grocery stores. If you need something in a limited quantity immediately, the dollar store is the place to go.
  7. Canned and jarred goods. Some, but definitely not all, are savvy buys. Pickles, olives and salsa are usually cheaper. The trick is to know what the item costs per ounce at your regular grocery to know if you have a deal.
  8. Movie candy. Soooo much cheaper. Just know cinemas don't look kindly on sneaking it in. But for an at-home film fest, it can't be beat.
  9. Clothing. Some dollar stores -- like Dollar General and Family Dollar -- offer sweats, socks, underwear, T-shirts and children's apparel. Dresses come in limited varieties.
  10. Holiday decorations. Standard stuff for holidays at home and for teachers who like to decorate a classroom. Committed bargain finders should buy these in the days following the holiday.
  11. Greeting cards. When you need a little heartfelt sentiment on paper, go for the dollar cards. Few recipients will notice.
  12. Cleaning supplies. Not as cheap as baking soda and vinegar, but bleach, cleansing powder, dish detergent, spray cleaner and laundry detergent go for less than store brands and much less than name-brand products. Name-brand products are occasionally available. If you're a couponer, stock up on these rare events.
  13. Baby needs. Dollar General has its own store-brand diapers and wipes and offers baby bottles in bulk. Other household necessities are available in bulk discount. Watch out, Costco.
  14. Crafting and scrapbooking supplies. Not everything the die-hard crafter needs is available, but glue sticks, artificial flowers and other doodads are there.
  15. Spices and seasonings. Basic spices are much, much less expensive than at grocery stores. Gourmets may sniff, but no one's ever complained at dinner.
  16. Pet supplies. Cat-box filler and pet toys are usually cheaper. Pet food, on the other hand, may cost the same as at a regular grocery store.
  17. Auto care. Windshield washer fluid is a strong buy at a buck. Car washing accessories are cheap, too.
  18. Men's grooming. Stock up on plastic disposable razors and shaving cream.
  19. Party supplies. Items for goody bags, decorations and tableware are available for birthday, holiday parties and even weddings.
  20. Frozen food. These are usually generic versions of popular brands.
  21. Dental care. Noticed the prices of toothpaste and toothbrushes lately? You can buy name brands -- plus floss and mouthwash -- for less.
  22. Cooking tools. Dollar Tree carries the Betty Crocker line of basic cooking items, like graters and sieves.
  23. Toys. These aren't the hot items that kids whine for but are good as stocking stuffers or keeping the kids occupied on a car ride.
  24. Books. Not new bestsellers but worth it as a beach read or something to carry on a plane.
  25. DVDs. Available on a limited basis.

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