As inflation continues to gouge prices around the country, people are feeling the pinch in their budgets and strategizing which places to shop for the best deals.
For certain items, from household goods to art supplies and even food, The Dollar Store and Family Dollar have long been affordable sources of necessities. But what’s the difference between these stores? Can you actually get a better deal at one over the other? With the help of several experts, we took a look at four main categories: Price, selection, coupons and location.
What many people don’t know is that Dollar Tree actually acquired Family Dollar stores in 2015, so, “with both stores functioning under the same family, there aren’t any shocking pricing discrepancies between the two,” said Nick Drewe, CEO of Wethrift, an eCommerce platform devoted to consumer savings online.
However, there are still some differences. The most notable is that Dollar Tree’s standard rate for everything is no longer one dollar — it’s $1.25. They’ve also added some “Dollar Tree Plus” products in the $3-5 range over the last year.
“Family Dollar has a leg up on Dollar Tree, where generic brands are the norm,” Drewe said. He also notes that Dollar Tree has historically kept their prices low by offering certain products in smaller sizes, such as a single roll of toilet paper or smaller bottles of detergent. “So, for those looking to buy in regular quantities, Family Dollar offers more efficiency in that regard and can end up being less expensive than having to buy multiple smaller versions,” he says.
The blogger, The Penny Hoarder, did a price comparison in 2021 among Dollar Tree, Dollar General and Family Dollar, and found that Family Dollar came out on top for slightly lower prices for such categories as toilet paper, body wash, canned vegetables, pasta, laundry detergent, coffee and cereal. Brand-name items were slightly cheaper at Family Dollar as well. This was the same conclusion reached by ABC affiliate WCPO in a comparison of three dollar store chains, including Dollar General.
When it comes to what is better for your wallet, the answer may not be not so clear-cut, according to Jane Kallinger of SewingFromHome.com. The blogger and crafter shops for many of her materials at these stores on a regular basis.
In her experience, “Dollar Tree offers a wider variety of products for a single dollar, while Family Dollar has a more limited selection but often offers sales and discounts.”
In the end, if you’re looking for more generic items, Dollar Tree is a better bet but if you want name brands, Family Dollar is the way to go.
“Ultimately,” Kallinger said, “which store is better for your wallet depends on what you are looking for and how much you are willing to spend.”
For Kallinger’s purposes, both Dollar Tree and Family Dollar offer significant savings opportunities on craft items.
“However, Family Dollar offers a wider variety of items, including higher-end crafts that can be used for more sophisticated projects,” she said. “Additionally, Family Dollar often has sales on craft items, while Dollar Tree does not. Therefore, for those looking for the best deals on craft supplies, Family Dollar is the better option.”
Kallinger pointed out that Family Dollar also has a loyalty program that can give customers extra savings. Family Dollar also often accepts manufacturer coupons, digital coupons, and occasionally offers their own store coupons. They may also provide weekly ad deals and special promotions, allowing customers to save on various products. By leveraging these opportunities, shoppers can potentially maximize their savings at Family Dollar.
On the other hand, Dollar Tree generally does not accept manufacturer coupons, as their products are already priced at one dollar. However, they may occasionally offer their own store-specific coupons or participate in limited-time promotions. It’s important to note that these discounts are typically not coupon-based but rather based on specific sales events, so keep your eyes peeled.
While a couple of Dollar Tree locations may not represent the whole, Business Insider toured Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores to compare selection and layout and location details.
The Dollar Tree stores were often messy, with sloppy displays and crowded with unpacked boxes in the aisles that made it hard to walk by. Family Dollar was similarly messy, though less so than the Dollar Tree, and they found more items priced over $1 (this was 2019 before Dollar Tree began raising prices).
Kallinger said the kinds of available items can vary by location. And now, trying out a new strategy, the parent company has opened over 400 combo Family Dollar/Dollar Tree locations in case you want to comparison shop at the same location. (Just for comparison, as of December 2022, the United States had approximately 8,300 Family Dollar stores, whereas Dollar Tree had slightly over 7,800 locations.)
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Laura Beck contributed to the reporting for this article.