11 Mistakes You're Making at the Dollar Store

Dollar Tree


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Pink piggybank stuffed with dollar bills

Don't Make These Mistakes at the Dollar Store

You may think shopping at a dollar store is already a smart thing to do, budget-wise — but some mistakes could make your attempt to save a little extra go astray. Don't make these mistakes next time you hit up Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, or any of the other chains across the country.

expiry date on a bread packet
towfiqu ahamed/istockphoto

You're Forgetting to Check the Expiration Date

If you're picking up grocery items (or even sunscreen or make-up products), check the expiration date. It might be sooner than it is on similar products at other stores, and it's not a cost-saving deal if you know you won't use the product before it goes bad. 

Dollar General app
Dollar General/Cheapism

You're Not Using Dollar Store Apps

Yes, there's pretty much an app for everything these days. Many of the major dollar-store chains have apps that can save customers even more money. Dollar General's app, for example, features digital coupons, weekly specials, and an extra section called DG Go! that alerts you to the week's best deals.

Woman shopping with coupons

You're Not Using Coupons

If you're a coupon clipper, don't save your bounty for your next grocery run. Dollar stores take coupons, too, and you might be able to stack savings with any special coupons offered in the paper for the dollar store you're headed toward.

Grocery Coupons
AMR Image/istockphoto

You're Not Having the Coupon Policy on Hand

Find out if your nearest dollar store accepts coupons — and if they do, be sure to print out that policy once you've found it online. Dollar Tree, for example, takes coupons — but that doesn't mean everyone (including employees) knows it. If you're hoping to use some, make sure it's not a surprise (or worse, the basis of an argument at checkout).

Celebrating birthday with confetti

You're Not Buying Party and Craft Supplies

Some of the best deals you'll find at dollar stores will be on party supplies and crafting products — i.e. items that are disposable. Party decorations and art materials are usually far cheaper at dollar stores and if the quality is less than you'd like, it doesn't matter that much (you aren't keeping those unicorn paper plates forever, are you?). 

Large assortment of canned foods

You're Snapping Up Only Brand-Name Items

It might seem like a thrill to pay less for a brand you're used to seeing at the grocery store or even Target, but look closely. Chances are it's a smaller version of what you usually get, so you're paying more per-ounce or count. 

Online shopping

You're Not Shopping Dollar Stores Online

While it may not occur to you to head to the internet for cheap deals, popular chain stores like Dollar Tree and Dollar General have man products online — and if you use a cash-back app like TopCashBack, you can save even more. One major chain even recently announced it was partnering with Ibotta's Cash Back Rewards.

Low Food Prices

You're Skipping Aisles While Shopping

Dollar stores have a reputation for being chaotic, so don't expect the product you're looking for to be where you expect. Check out lower shelves, too, because items may not be grouped together, and a good deal could be unintentionally hidden away.

Shot of a female store worker helping a customer in a supermarket

You're Not Asking About Shipping Schedules

Wondering when your nearby store is getting in Halloween decorations? Want first dibs on the specials this week? Ask an employee when shipments of your favorites come in. The early bird does catch the worm, after all.

Woman cleaning with a spray detergent

You're Not Stocking Up on Cheap Cleaning Supplies

While you may want to think twice about certain dollar store buys, which might include generic cleaning products that could have harmful chemicals, you can't go wrong with supplies like rubber gloves, sponges, buckets, or dish rags. For any of these, quality isn't worth the upcharge. 

Grocery shopping
Nodar Chernishev/istockphoto

You're Assuming All Chains & Locations Have the Same Stuff

Even though Dollar Tree and Dollar General are chains, that doesn't mean every store has the same stock. If there's something specific you're looking for, call the store you want to visit (or even shop online) to make sure it's there.