Dollar stores are great places to find bargains on dozens of household needs but sometimes you're being duped into less of a bargain than you're expecting! Comparison shopping is always a good idea, no matter where you shop so, notepad in hand, WalletPop's dollar store diva, Marlene Alexander, set out to compare the prices of ten items from the dollar store with prices at other discount stores.
Prices and quantities may vary at stores in your town but, going by Alexander's shopping list, here are a few things you might want to buy elsewhere.
Dollar Store Diva Says: At my dollar store, a package of brown sugar (also known as golden yellow sugar in Canada) is $1 for less than a pound (.992 lbs.) I'd be much smarter to go for the 4 lb. bag at Costco, which costs $3.40, or 85-cents a pound, and I'd save 15-cents a pound. And having less than a pound of sugar, especially one used for baking, just isn't that economical. Buy in bulk and store the sugar in a tight container and it will last for a long time. You'll be saving money for months.
Dollar Store Diva Says: The jumbo economy size of ground black pepper is $4.69 for a 12.28 ounce bottle at Costco. That's about 38-cents per ounce. The black pepper at the dollar store comes in 1.94 ounce bottles for a buck and that means your paying 51-cents per ounce. It's easy to see the better deal, but also, since most people use refillable shakers, why pay extra for packaging when you can save the environment at the same time?
Dollar Store Diva Says: A 2.2 lb. box of brand name salt is only $1 at the dollar store. Good deal, right? At Costco you get three 2.2 lb. boxes for $2.49. That's just 83-cents a box, or 37-cents a pound, as opposed to 45-cents a pound at the dollar store. And just think, if you use as little salt as we do at my house, you'll have salt to last you a lifetime.
Dollar Store Diva Says: Baking soda is one of those kitchen staples that makes itself useful, not only for baking but for cleaning, as well. A box of brand name baking soda costs $1 at the dollar store. By buying a bundle of six boxes at Costco for $5.07, you're only paying 85-cents a box. And who can't use an extra box? They don't spoil.
Dollar Store Diva Says: Occasionally, I can find brand name foil wrap at my dollar store for only a buck, but the off-brand works well too. So I'm often tempted to pick up a few rolls to have on hand. Still, buying in bulk is the better way to go. Costco sells three-100-foot rolls of foil wrap for $10.14, $3.38 for each roll. Dollar store foil wrap only comes in 25 foot-rolls, which would mean you'd have to buy four rolls to equal a single Costco roll, at a cost of $4. So you're getting a lesser quality and a lesser quantity for a great price -- less of a bad thing for more money! That's the worst kind of bad deal.
Dollar Store Diva Says: When I can get it, I buy the brand name plastic wrap, which comes in 50' rolls for $1.25 at my dollar store. But after checking prices, the better buy is the Kirkland brand at Costco. It's sold in packages of two 750 sq. foot rolls for $10.15 or about $5.08 for each roll. That works out to about .007 cents per foot as compared to .025 cents a foot for the dollar store wrap. When you're talking about as many feet as we are with plastic wrap, that's a lot of savings.
Dollar Store Diva Says: Yes, I know paper cups aren't environmentally friendly, but people still must be buying them. You get six 12-ounce cups with lids for a buck or 16 cents per cup at the dollar store. If you're supplying a large office, you'd be better off going to Costco for coffee room supplies. There you get 200-12 ounce Dixie hot cups for $13.59. The lids are sold separately in a package of 500 for $24.39. Adding the Costco cups and lids together, you're still only paying 12-cents per cup, a savings of about 4-cents over the dollar store.
Dollar Store Diva Says: In recent years, powdered cleansers have fallen out of favor with consumers but, in my humble opinion, nothing beats Comet or Ajax or Old Dutch for cleaning a stainless steel sink -- and it's dirt cheap. A 14 oz. can of Comet is $1.00 at the dollar store, obviously. Wal-mart, however, has larger cans containing 21.16 ounces for only $1.23, a much better deal when you consider that that works out to about 5-cents an ounce, rather than 7-cents an ounce at the dollar store.
Dollar Store Diva Says: Two for a buck seems a good price for 5.5 oz. tins of cat food at the dollar store until you consider that the same size cans are sold in cases of 12 for $5.17. That works out to be 43-cents per can, which saves you 14-cents over the dollar store. Shopping at Wal-Mart allows you more flavor choices for Fluffy, as well. And shopping for name-brand pet food at a national chain will allow you to trust some safety procedures that will make sure you're not getting knock-off pet food from China or tins that were previously recalled but never made it out of the supply chain. The scariest pet food recall was in 2007, when melamine-tainted proteins were found in the pet food supply chain.
Dollar Store Diva Says: Wal-Mart has this favorite of TV's Maggie for 86-cents per 3.53 ounce package. That saves you 14-cents over the dollar store price of $1 per package and, again, you'll be able to offer your little dog a much greater variety than the one or two flavors the dollar store offers. As with cat food brands at the dollar store, previous recalls loom large -- especially concerning food products from China -- so you have to be careful to read labels and make sure you're getting a name-brand item and not a knock-off and also that you have the latest products safety information.
Some analysts are predicting a double-digit savings rate next year as this recession scares consumers into a “back to basics” mentality not seen in our country for a long time. Personal finance experts Ken and Daria Dolan of Dolans.com, applaud the efforts, but have been a little surprised at just how far people are willing to go in their efforts to save. Check out these 17 examples.