The 7 Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store

Dollar stores can be great places to pick up inexpensive items, but sometimes you get what you pay for.

Rather than ending up with a bargain, you could end up with junk or, even worse, something dangerous. Here are seven things we think you should avoid at the dollar store:

1. Electrical cords and other electrical devices

CHAILUK CHALATHAI / Shutterstock.com
CHAILUK CHALATHAI / Shutterstock.com

If you would rather not reduce your home to embers, we suggest you steer clear of cords and electrical devices from dollar stores.

That may sound overly dramatic, but dollar stores don’t have a great track record of quality control when it comes to cords and electronics. As far back as 1999, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warned about faulty power strips, extension cords and surge protectors being sold at discount stores. More recent warnings have highlighted faulty extension cords, holiday mini-lights and portable heaters.

2. Toys

schankz / Shutterstock.com
schankz / Shutterstock.com

The problem, to be blunt, is that dollar store toys are junk.

Safety is an issue as a result. Dollar store toys are often subject to recalls because they contain lead or have parts that can break off and present a chocking hazard. You can search for all the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls here.

Beyond that, we suggest that you’re better off paying a little more and steering clear of the tears and frustration.

We’re talking about stuff that breaks if you look at it wrong. The wheels will fall off, the batteries won’t work, or your 3-year-old will snap it in two before you’ve even hit the parking lot. Then, you’ll be left a buck (or two) poorer with a broken toy and an upset child.

3. Shampoo and beauty products

Iakov Filiminov / Shutterstock.com
Iakov Filiminov / Shutterstock.com

Opinions seem to be mixed on dollar store shampoo and beauty products, but they get a thumbs down from us. Not because of any safety concern, but because they often don’t provide great value.

Dollar stores may sell brand-name products, though some skeptical shoppers do not believe these products to be the same as the full-priced versions sold elsewhere.

Leaving that aside, we find that many dollar stores stock itty-bitty bottles compared with what you get in other stores. So you may not be paying a lot, but you’re not getting a lot either. A better value might be to combine coupons and deals at drugstores for shampoo, conditioner and other beauty products.

4. Kitchen knives

Borjaika / Shutterstock.com
Borjaika / Shutterstock.com

Quality concerns also get kitchen knives placed on the do-not-buy list.

Dollar store knives can be flimsy and dull. Both are bad when you’re trying to cut your food and not your finger.

5. Bathroom tissue

Gavran333 / Shutterstock.com
Gavran333 / Shutterstock.com

You’re welcome to try dollar store toilet paper, but we don’t recommend it. Often having fewer fibers than other brands, using no-name paper can make for a less than ideal outcome. We won’t elaborate.

As for the brand-name toilet paper, tissues and paper towels at dollar stores, you may find the same problem we discovered with shampoo. Small sizes and fewer sheets mean the dollar store price isn’t much of a bargain. Try checking your warehouse club or otherwise buying in bulk to get the best quality for the lowest per-unit price.

6. Canned and boxed foods

HeinzTeh / Shutterstock.com
HeinzTeh / Shutterstock.com

Most dollar stores carry a selection of canned, boxed and bagged foods that may include many brand names. Some stores may even have a full grocery section complete with meat and produce.

While the dollar pricing may seem like a bargain, you could also find many of these items on sale at your grocery store for less. In particular, grocery supercenters such as Walmart seem to win on the price war for canned and boxed foods.

7. Batteries

Jose Angel Astor Rocha / Shutterstock.com
Jose Angel Astor Rocha / Shutterstock.com

Finally, we come to batteries. In a pinch, dollar store batteries will work just fine, but don’t expect them to run like the brand names.

Rhett Allain, an associate professor of physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, put Dollar General batteries to the test against Duracell and Energizer. He discovered the dollar store batteries contain significantly less energy and their voltage drops off quickly. Apparently, a major difference between the brands is that Dollar General batteries are not alkaline and likely zinc chloride instead.

If you want to read all the science behind Allain’s experiments, you can head to Wired for his article.

Of course, dollar stores vary widely, but we think your best bet is to stay away from these seven product categories. Do you agree? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

How to find cheaper car insurance in minutes

Getting a better deal on car insurance doesn't have to be hard. You can have The Zebra, an insurance comparison site compare quotes in just a few minutes and find you the best rates. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, so if you're ready to secure your new rate, get started now.

Read Next
12 Ways Retirees Can Earn Passive Income
12 Ways Retirees Can Earn Passive Income

These simple ways of earning income without a lot of active, ongoing effort can stretch your retirement dollars.

Never Put These 8 Things in a Microwave Oven
Never Put These 8 Things in a Microwave Oven

A microwave can be a busy cook’s best friend. But heating certain things in a microwave can cause disaster.

The 13 Worst Types of Tickets for Your Car Insurance Rate
The 13 Worst Types of Tickets for Your Car Insurance Rate

Some types of traffic violations can drive your car insurance rate dramatically higher.

6 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare
6 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare

These services could save you money and help prevent costly health problems.

How Baby Boomers Are Earning an Extra $573 a Month
How Baby Boomers Are Earning an Extra $573 a Month

In the gig economy, baby boomers are out-hustling their younger competition. You can cash in, too.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?

Two factors determine how much money is coming to you.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You probably don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus
5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus

You likely already have some of these products at home.

16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

22 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
22 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

The dollar store has great bargains on these purchases.

6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman
6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman

Beware: The self-proclaimed personal finance expert has a track record that suggests more sizzle than steak.

America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise
America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise

Have you heard of this appliance manufacturer?

The Top 11 Jobs That Employers Want Retirees to Do
The Top 11 Jobs That Employers Want Retirees to Do

Tired of age discrimination? Businesses are clamoring for older workers to fill certain roles.

This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked
This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked

The Social Security Administration is not helping certain people get money to which they are entitled, a report says.

9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline
9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline

Forget expensive specialty products. Good ol’ petroleum jelly can address many common annoyances.

Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia
Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia

These vaccines may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 40%.

19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret
19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret

Think twice before buying these things.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store
8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store

Not everything sold at dollar stores is a great bargain or a safe purchase. Here’s our list of products to avoid.

41 Things You Should Never Buy
41 Things You Should Never Buy

Some purchases are just plain dumb. Give yourself — and your budget — a break. Don’t spend money on this stuff.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

7 Ways to Shop at Costco Without a Membership
7 Ways to Shop at Costco Without a Membership

You don’t necessarily need to join to get in on the warehouse store’s savings.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.