Dollar stores have become an accepted way for local shoppers to find items they use every day at reduced prices. However, the question of whether dollar stores actually save you money is about quality as much as price. Although you pay less, the items you buy may need to be replaced faster or may not work as well as those you pay more for in a traditional store.
Low-risk items are the best purchases to make at a dollar store if you want to ensure savings. For example, paper plates and napkins may be products where the cost savings more than makes up for any minor difference between brands. Office supplies, cooking utensils and holiday decorations are all basic and functional, and often found in dollar stores. Established brands are another category of items that can help save money and offer a reasonable likelihood of quality. Sticking to brands and products with a good reputation, or ones that you have used in the past is a great way to get what you need for less. (Reference 1, 2)
Some so-called dollar stores carry a full line of products that range past the dollar mark in price. If you stray into the higher-cost merchandise, it defeats the purpose of shopping at the store in the first place. By sticking to the true dollar items, you maximize savings and avoid overpaying for inferior goods that are better found elsewhere. Well-known mega retailers are often able to deliver prices on higher cost merchandise thanks to their buying power and consumer reach and should be the first place you look if you want to save on more expensive items. (Reference 1, 3)
When you purchase items that are meant for long-term use from a dollar store, the results may not be as positive. Low cost can sometimes translate to low quality and a quicker need for replacement. For example, a power converter purchased at the dollar store for 99 cents may not work as it should. In addition to burning out, it may damage the electronics being used and/or the wiring in your home. In this case, saving a few dollars by purchasing low-cost goods will cost you more in the long run. (Reference 1, 3)
Renovations and Branding
Dollar store chains are often better marketed and more attractive than generic neighborhood outlets. They bring in the customers and often have a more complete line of familiar brands. While there are deals to be had amongst these chain retailers, there are also pitfalls to be avoided. For example, if a box of brand name cereal is $4 at your supermarket, you may find it for $2 at the dollar chain store. But be sure and check the size of the box before purchasing. It may contain less product than the box you find at the supermarket, negating any savings.
Robert Morello has an extensive travel, marketing and business background. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in 2002 and has worked in travel as a guide, corporate senior marketing and product manager and travel consultant/expert. Morello is a professional writer and adjunct professor of travel and tourism.