10 Things to Skip at the Dollar Store


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We all try to save money where we can, and shopping at dollar-store chains seems like an appealing way to achieve that goal. Sadly, some of the products on their shelves are a waste of money -- regardless how cheap. Things that fall apart or don't do their jobs clearly belong on a list of dollar-store no-no's.


The old adage "you get what you pay for" certainly applies to dollar-store toys. While the $1 price tag seems like a low-cost way to give your child a special treat or add to the stash you're assembling for your nephew's birthday, don't bother. Katie Curtis of Logan, Ohio, posted a picture on Facebook of her 3-year-old holding a dollar-store imitation Barbie that was dismembered in less than 10 minutes.

Dollar-store toys are not only poorly made but also may be safety hazards. Several toys from these chains have been recalled in the past few years: a toy gun that posed a choking hazard, a remote control tank that could overheat, and a dart gun that caused the deaths of two children. Earlier this month Family Dollar recalled a toy car set deemed a laceration risk.


While a dollar-store extension cord or USB cable may seem like a deal, you could be putting your electronics, as well as your home, at risk. Cords, plugs, and power strips sold at dollar stores are often flimsy and can fall apart easily. All it takes is one loose connection to spark a fire. Dollar stores have recalled extension cords and decorative lights for potential fire hazards, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.


If your kids play with lots of battery-operated planes, trains, and other assorted vehicles (and inevitably leave the toys powered on), loading up on 4-packs of generic batteries at the dollar store may seem like a swell idea. The problem, as Wired showed through a series of experiments, is that the batteries are packed with less energy than the name brands. They may be adequate for something like a flashlight that is used infrequently. For heavy use, however, you'll be dollar-wise over the long haul and save yourself the hassle of constantly replacing the power cells if you spend more upfront on higher quality batteries. Moreover, cheap batteries are known to leak, which can damage your electronics.

Another way to tell if dollar-store batteries are a good buy: Check the label. If the batteries contain carbon zinc, be sure to pass. This component is inferior to the lithium used by name brands.


For something as important as your health, splurge at the pharmacy. Consumer Reports has tested dollar-store multivitamins and found that some were substandard, lacking the full amount of nutrients listed on the labels. Although the Food and Drug Administration requires that the labels be accurate, supplements are not subjected to the same rigorous review and approval process as medications.


For anything with a sharp blade, going cheap is just asking for trouble. Knives are dangerous by definition, so you want one that is sturdy and well-made to minimize any chance of an accident. This dollar-store utility knife recall is just one example of the hazards that cheaply manufactured knives can pose. Never mind that these knives, with their dull, thin blades, won't do much for your culinary aspirations.


Canned cat and dog food costs about $1 a can at the grocery store, and sometimes less if you find a good sale. The off-brands at the dollar store may be even cheaper, but they don't use the quality ingredients found in the more popular brands. So for Fido's sake, skip the pet food at the dollar store. Take a pass on the animal toys, too, as they are cheaply made and may pose a serious choking hazard.


Some personal care items are a steal at the dollar store, but others, such as makeup and hair color, are not worth even the cheap price. Every once in a while you may be able to find name brand makeup on the shelves for $1, but more often than not the makeup at the dollar store is an unfamiliar brand. When it comes to products used on your face, it isn't worth the risk of an allergic reaction or rash caused by cheap ingredients. As for hair color, you risk long term damage to your locks with an unknown brand, especially at just $1 a box.


As if snacks weren't already unhealthy enough, manufacturers of dollar store munchies skimp on the quality of ingredients to keep costs down. Items such as chips, cookies, and crackers can contain ingredients you've never even heard of, so be sure to check the label before you bring a snack home. For treats such as soda and gum, you can often find a better deal on higher quality products at the grocery store.


Tools are meant to be durable. For $1, you aren't getting the highest quality materials, which means the tools won't last as long. A hammer for $1 will likely give you $1 worth of durability. If you have to replace your tools frequently, you aren't saving anything at all. Splurge on a good hammer from the hardware store and never have to worry about replacing it again.


While weddings can be expensive, decor is probably not the best place to skimp. For example, it may be tempting to purchase 300 fabric rose petals for $1, but they probably won't give you the look you want. The same goes for the 48-pack of plastic "silverware" -- it's flimsy and will likely cause more trouble than it's worth. Sometimes it's better to skip something altogether rather than spend even a dollar.