Things to Avoid at the Dollar Store
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

18 Things to Avoid at the Dollar Store

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Things to Avoid at the Dollar Store
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

When a Dollar is No Deal

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. Read on to find out which things you should avoid at the dollar store. Want to know what you should buy there? Be sure to check out the 16 Best Things to Buy at the Dollar Store.

Toys
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Toys

The old adage "you get what you pay for" certainly applies to dollar-store toys. While a $1 price tag seems like a low-cost way to give your child a treat or add to the stash for a 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 — they may be safety hazards. Several toys from these chains have been recalled in the past: 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. In 2016, Dollar General recalled a toy truck deemed a fire hazard.

Related: 30 Dangerous Products That Were Popular When You Were a Kid

Anything with a Plug
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Anything With a Plug

While dollar-store extension cords or USB cables may seem like a deal, they 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.

Related: 30 Electronics and Accessories That Are a Complete Waste of Money

Batteries
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Batteries

If your kids play with lots of battery-operated toys (and inevitably leave them powered on), loading up on 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 name brands. They may be adequate for something like a flashlight that is used infrequently; for heavy use, it's dollar-wise over the long haul to save the hassle of replacing power cells constantly by spending more upfront on higher-quality batteries. Moreover, cheap batteries are known to leak, which can damage 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.

Vitamins and Herbal Supplements
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Vitamins and Herbal Supplements

For something as important as your health, best head to 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 U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that labels be accurate, supplements are not subjected to the same rigorous review and approval process as medications.

Knives
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Knives

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. More than 200,000 dollar store utility knives had to be recalled some years ago because the blade could slide out right past its support — so it's not just kitchen knives to beware at super low costs.

Related: The Best Knife Sets Under $100

Pet Items
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Pet Items

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. For Fido's sake, skip the pet food at the dollar store. Take a pass on the animal toys, too, which are cheaply made and may pose a choking hazard. 

Related: 19 Things You Never Need to Buy Your Pet

Beauty Products
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Beauty Products

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.

Related: 10 Beauty Products Hiding in Your Kitchen Cabinets

Snacks
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Snacks

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 bringing a snack home. For treats such as soda and gum, there's often a better deal on higher-quality products at the grocery store.

Related: The 20 Least Unhealthy Junk Foods

Tools
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Tools

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 $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.

Keep the Wedding Simple
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Wedding Decor

While weddings can be expensive, decor is probably not the best place to skimp. For example, it may be tempting to buy 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.

Related: Spending Diary: These Wedding Expenses Were a Waste of Money

Paper Products
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Paper Products

You get what you pay for. While four rolls of one-ply toilet paper will be low-cost, the quality is cheap — there's more sheer product for the lower price, but you'll end up using exponentially more toilet paper from a dollar store than by paying a little more for a better product from another store.

Plastic Food Containers
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Make Windshield Washer Fluid
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Windshield Washer Fluid

A gallon of off-brand windshield washer fluid can cost just $1, half that as for a name-brand fluid elsewhere. Read the label on washer fluid found at a Dollar Tree, though, and see if it says the solution is not effective in winter weather. The name brands often guarantee protection in weather as low as 28 degrees below zero.

Soda
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Soda

Watch the amount of soda you buy at the dollar store. Often a 1-liter of off-brand soda at the dollar store will cost the same as a 2-liter bottle of a name-brand soda at the grocery store. The same is true for most cans and smaller bottles of soda. Consumers claim the quality is subpar as well.

Related: 17 Fun and Little-Known Facts About Coca-Cola

Gum
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Gum

While the gum at a dollar store doesn't taste different, and you can often find name brands there, it isn't usually a good deal. The packages of gum are smaller: four-packs, each containing five sticks, for $1, compared with deals at bulk stores such as Sam's Club or Costco, where shoppers pay far less per stick — such as Costco charging around $14 for 18 packs of Orbit, each with 14 Sticks.

Related: The 14 Worst Halloween Candies for Your Teeth

Stuff for the Baby
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Stuff for the Baby

With this year seeing dollar store recalls of baby "gripe water" (an herbal supplement billed as having organic ginger and fennel extract) and cough syrup in February and March, it seems wiser than ever to remember that babies are too fragile to risk on inferior products. Though these recalls involved an undissolved ingredient and possible bacterial contamination that could cause illness, the principle is the same for anything you put on or near a baby: Why risk it?

Related: 15 Potentially Dangerous Baby Products to Watch Out For

Baking Soda
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Baking Soda

Baking soda is good for several kinds of cleaning around the house, whether it's for odors in the refrigerator or to make your town toothpaste. One thing it is not is expensive — and chances are that the baking soda you can buy outside the dollar store will be cheaper at any useful quantity than the baking soda you can buy in the dollar store. 

Related: 31 Ways to Spring Clean With Everyday Household Items

Chips and Cereals
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Chips and Cereals

Look closely as you walk the aisles of a dollar store and you'll see lots of products at odd sizes and weights — because instead of charging more, they can just sell less at a time. If you're not paying attention, though, it can be shocking to start snacking from an opaque bag of chips or pouring from a cardboard box of cereal and realize just how little product was inside. It might be better to get a reasonable number of servings out of a more expensive bag or box than try to enjoy how much air you're getting for your effort at the dollar store.

Related: 30 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Favorite Childhood Cereals