Dollar stores are awash in party supplies such as helium-filled balloons, which go for $1 each compared with $3 to $8 elsewhere. You can also load up on gift bag fillers, invitations, disposable tableware, and decorations specific to the occasion, be it a baby shower or birthday party. For those all-important presents, you'll also find wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper, and tape.
OFFICE AND SCHOOL SUPPLIES
While most school supplies are best bought in August during back-to-school sales, the dollar store is a good place to stock up year-round for many office and school needs — including dorm room essentials. Check the location nearest you for essentials like pens, pencils and Post-it notes, as well as computational or organizational tools like calculators, staplers, planners, and binders. The dollar store is also a good place to get mailing supplies, such as bubble envelopes, for cheap.
STATIONERY AND CARDS
In addition to notebooks and lined paper for office use, you can also pick up greeting cards, holiday cards, thank-you notes, and even blank cardstock for about $2 less than other retailers. Notepads and other stationery ranging from index cards to photo paper can also be bought at the dollar store for lower prices but comparable quality to other retailers — including Walmart.
As long as you don't walk in expecting to find the latest best-seller, you may be surprised at the selection of reading material available at most dollar stores. As well as religious texts and Sunday school-ready literature, the most reliable categories you'll find are children's books well-suited to occupy the little ones, whether they're intended for coloring, crosswords puzzles, or just plain reading.
TOYS AND ARTS & CRAFTS
The dollar store offers some relief for cash-strapped parents with their selection of kid-friendly craft supplies like ribbons, marbles, glues, generic Play-Doh-style putty, and sand-art or watercolor project kits to spark little imaginations. A case of 4-packs of "dough" will cost $24 for 96 containers, while buying enough starter 8-packs of Play-Doh from Target to get a comparable amount would cost $60. Other products that will help keep the kids entertained include stuffed animals, glow sticks, bubble wands, and plastic dress-up pieces.
For pets as well as kids, the dollar store is chock-full of useful finds whose prices would start to add up a lot quicker elsewhere. There are leashes, bones, and stuffing-free plushies for the dog that can't keep their toys intact; litter pans and odor removers for cat-owners; and grooming tools like shears and lint brushes to keep both you and the furry ones clean.
At any given dollar store, most notably Dollar Tree, you can usually find a good selection of decent glassware, as well as plastic children's plates for $1 apiece, and stainless-steel utensils at 2 for $1. What's more, you can set your entire table with dollar store purchases — decorative items like tablecloths, place mats, cloth napkins, candle holders, serving pieces, and more come in matching sets, while functional kitchen tools like barbecue tongs and baking sheets are also available at the stores' trademarked low price points.
Cleaning products can get pricey, especially if you buy name brands. You can save by opting for off-brands of all-purpose or specialized cleaners from the dollar store instead, which may be a bit diluted, but rest assured, they'll still get the job done. Alternatively, they also sell empty spray bottles that can be used and reused for your own homemade cleaners.
You'll find an array of organizational tools and storage containers at the dollar store. Whether moving, adding to your inventory or simply reorganizing — perhaps inspired by Marie Kondo's wildly popular approach — you'll find many uses for plastic shoe racks, hangers, tote bags, storage bins and bags ideal for space-saving purposes. Also keep an eye out for Tupperware-type containers and Ziplock-type bags for food storage, all for less than what they'd cost at the cheapest big-box store.
As with most celebratory events, the dollar store is a jackpot when it comes to holidays. In addition to a year-round online store, most locations have a dedicated section that restocks with affordable décor to suit each season — ornaments, lights, and tinsel for Christmastime; eggs, baskets, and basket-stuffers galore for Easter; teddy bears and roses for Valentine's Day; and even plastic shot glasses, beads, and feather boas for Mardi Gras.— for a much lower price tag).
It's worth a look for cheap headphones to go with your smartphone or tablet. In fact, there are many small electronic gadgets readily available at the dollar store for a fraction of the cost of the name-brands you'd buy elsewhere. Other items to look for include device stands and cases, USB charging cables, and flashlights.
PERSONAL CARE ITEMS
The dollar store should also be one of your first stops for personal care items ranging from haircare products like brushes, styling gels, and scalp treatments; bath products like shampoo, body wash, and deodorant; and oral hygiene products like toothbrushes, toothpaste, or even denture care for senior customers. While sometimes you'll find brand names, the generics they usually carry should perform equally well for a much lower price tag.
READING GLASSES AND EYE CARE
If you find yourself squinting to read more as you age, a pair of reading glasses from the dollar store may be the best and certainly most cost-effective solution when compared to those sold by other retailers or optometrists. Locations also sell eyeglass repair kits, cords, eye drops, and dollar sunglasses — another must-have if you're constantly breaking or losing more expensive pairs.
PICTURE FRAMES AND HOME DECOR
There's no better personalized décor than pictures of friends and loved ones, but you could spend a fortune elsewhere finding frames for all your favorites. The dollar store's selection includes displays easels, clothespin lines, and frames for the wall or desktop, as well as other home décor accents like candles, glass vases, welcome mats and garden lanterns.
FIRST AID ITEMS
Home pregnancy tests and ovulation predictors are the same price as everything else at the dollar store and noted for being just as reliable in their results as the pricier name-brand options from big-box stores and pharmacies. The same goes for their other health products essential to like bandages, itch creams, digital thermometers, and over-the-counter medicines for pain, allergy relief, and more.
HARDWARE AND AUTOCARE
If you're looking to spruce up your home, yard, or vehicle, you could save a good deal by looking for supplies at the dollar store before Home Depot or Pep Boys. Some of their most reliable finds in these categories include two-packs of fasteners and carabiner clips, cable ties and cotton twine, wire brushes and rubber mallets, crowbars and screwdriver sets, brake fluid and motor oil, air fresheners and microfiber cleaning cloths.
WHAT TO AVOID
One final note: Some things aren't worth buying at the dollar store. Batteries, over-the-counter medications, and even toys merit paying a little more.