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What to buy at the dollar store

When a friend recently polled my Pilates classmates about how she could afford two graduation parties for her daughter, the answer was a unanimous “Online Dollar Store.” Selling everything from ketchup to charcoal grills, the ubiquitous dollar store attracts shoppers of all ages and income levels. 

Plastic products. Stock up on disposable plates, cups and utensils and other one-time-use items for a party or picnic. Alvarez likes hair clips and barrettes. Plastic containers for organizing or storing items are also a good buy. Just realize that a low price may mean thinner plastic, so it may not be as durable. If you’re storing paper clips or hardware, that may not matter to you.

Travel-size toiletries. Name-brand travel-size toiletries that you can bring in your carry-on luggage, such as toothpaste, deodorant, mouthwash, soap and shampoo, are typically a better deal than at major retailers and drugstores.

Eyeglasses. Every time my dad flies in from Houston, we have to head to a dollar store for a pair of sunglasses, as his are still sitting on his car’s dashboard at the airport parking lot. Just be sure any sunglasses you buy indicate they provide UV protection. You may not want to use them long-term, but in a pinch, they’re fine. And, for those of us who always misplace our reading glasses, it doesn’t hurt so much to lose a pair or two when they came from a dollar store.

Home goods. Look for picture frames, craft supplies and glassware. “I actually have a flower vase I bought 10 years ago at a dollar store and still use,” Brophy says.

Pregnancy tests. Surprise! According to McCrohan, home pregnancy tests are one of the top sellers at dollar stores. The Food and Drug Administration regulates home pregnancy tests, so if you buy one from a name-brand dollar store, you can feel confident it’s legit. More expensive ones may be easier to use or show results faster, but dollar store kits will do the same job.


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