Once upon a time I would never have set foot in a dollar store. I thought, “Why would I waste my money on their cheap, shoddy merchandise when I can buy a better quality brand name?”

Then about ten years ago dollar store giant Dollarama came to my Calgary neighbourhood. I don’t know what impulse made me go into that store, but once I did, I was hooked. Now, if I want to buy something I don’t particularly want to spend much money on, that’s the first place I will check.

I’m always surprised at the products they have every time I go.

With revenue reaching $1.5 billion annually for Dollarama, it’s not surprising that the selection of merchandise is growing too.

Saving money at the dollar store

What to buy at the dollar store

A dollar store is the best place to buy greeting cards, gift bags, wrapping paper and tissue, which normally get tossed as soon as they are received by the giftee.

Related: Will the gifts you give end up at the thrift store?

I’ve bought miscellaneous household and kitchen supplies such as sponges, spray bottles, microfiber cloths, a 1.9L bottle of liquid soap that I use at my kitchen sink, and a huge non-stick spatula that’s perfect for flipping pancakes. My husband picks up sponge paintbrushes, masking tape and twine.

Here are some other things you’ve probably been paying too much for:

  • Kid’s birthday party decorations and supplies.
  • Kid’s books and colouring books, craft materials and hair accessories.
  • Seasonal and holiday decorations.
  • Storage containers.
  • HDMI cables, adapters, phone and tech accessories
  • Household accessories – candles, picture frames, albums and vases.
  • Cleaning supplies may be a bit diluted, but they still work just fine.
  • Clothing – socks, hats, T-shirts and baby clothes. (I once saw a customer at the checkout with a couple of men’s button down shirts.)

A dollar store is a great place to buy decent quality cooking and dining accessories such as glassware, dinnerware and flatware, especially for students or someone just starting out in a place of their own.

The reason Dollarama can offer quality products at competitive prices is that it deals directly with brand name manufacturers rather than through a distributer. The money saved trickles down to the consumer.

Alas, dollar stores don’t live up to their name any more. Dollarama items are priced up to $3 and some other stores can have products as high as $10 – $20.

Cheap doesn’t always mean best

I’m still a bit iffy on dollar store food, especially generic imported items, but I do see other shoppers buying packaged and canned goods, spices, and candy. Be sure to check expiration dates on food items.

Avoid buying:

  • Toys with small parts, or kid’s jewelry.
  • Batteries.
  • Tools can be flimsy and break on first use.
  • Decorative food storage containers may contain lead.

The trick to saving money sometimes is not to spend money. Be sure to make a list before you go. Just because an item costs a dollar doesn’t mean it’s a bargain if you didn’t need it in the first place.

Related: Are store brands as good as name brands?

I’ve seen shoppers with carts piled high with what has to be impulse buys. It’s easy to buy extra things when everything seems like a good deal.

Final thoughts

The next time you go shopping, don’t underestimate the dollar store. It can be a great way to save some money.

With all that extra dough you’re not spending, consider putting those dollars you’ve saved to work. You might even want to invest in a publicly traded dollar store. Dollarama (DOL) shares have risen nearly 30% in the past twelve months.

What’s your take on dollar store shopping?

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