In most instances, true dollar stores (stores where everything really is a dollar) offer tremendous savings on products compared to buying the items at mass merchandisers. However, there are certain product categories that are better avoided at these stores, either because the products themselves are priced better elsewhere or because they offer less value for the buck.
Window Cleaner: No. Unless you are buying a brand you know by name as a quality product, avoid buying blue window or mirror cleaner at the dollar store. Just no. Ammonia is the active ingredient in quality window cleaners, but the dollar store brands seem to believe that Blue No. 4 is all you need for a squeaky clean surface. It is also best to avoid most generic brands of window cleaner and either buy the good stuff or a cheap bottle of ammonia cleaner and mix up your own spray bottle batch of window solution.
Paper Towels: Every time we went to the Dollar Tree we used to buy at least two, sometimes three, rolls of paper towels for the week at $1 per roll. One day, because of a combination of coupon savings and a sale, I bought a pack of Bounty towels at the grocery store and was shocked at how much better the Bounty towels were. I had forgotten how good a good paper towel was and that you can usually use far fewer of the name brand towels than generics to accomplish the same end goal. A bonus is that an 8 pack of Bounty Towels only costs $6 at the grocery store. In short: the name brand is cheaper, better (no pilling when wiping out the coffee maker), and lasts longer than the dollar store variety.
Toilet Paper: Brand name toilet paper is a better purchase for the same reasons as paper towels: the rolls last longer, are of better quality, and end up being a cheaper per day cost than the dollar store TP. This is a lesson you really don’t want to learn on your own.
Packs of Paper: Our Dollar Tree doesn’t sell full packs of notebook or copy paper. Instead, you can purchase a small bundle that is between 1/8th to 1/2 of the size of a traditional pack of paper and of a lesser actual paper weight. Stock up on notebook and copy paper during the back-to-school season and be sure to buy enough to make it through until you scan snap it up again next August. Other school supplies can fit into this same method of buying ahead to save later while maintaining quality, but none as conspicuously as copy and notebook paper.
Some Food Products: After doing some comparison tests on the caloric content of dollar store packages of certain foods compared to the same product in regular grocery store sizes, I noticed that many dollar store foods have more trans fats because it acts as a preservative and lets those foods stay on the shelf until they sell. I wouldn’t advise you to avoid dollar store foods and snacks entirely. Instead, I recommend that you familiarize yourself with the basic nutritional stats of your favorite foods and, when you see them on the shelf at the dollar store, compare the calories, fat, and other key nutritional data to make sure you aren’t sacrificing healthy eating for a small difference in price.