You can find some great deals at the dollar store — that is, if you shop at a store where everything costs just $1. Despite their names, Dollar General and Family Dollar do not charge a dollar or less for everything. However, Dollar Tree and 99 Cents Only do.
Even if you’re paying a buck for some items at these stores, though, you’re paying too much. That’s because there are other stores where you can find them for less.
Click through to find out when the $1 price isn’t the best deal.
Toothpaste Costs More Per Ounce
There are plenty of best buys at Dollar Tree, but toothpaste is not among them. Although the $1 price tag might look like a deal, you’ll pay more per ounce than at Walmart.
For example, a 2.9-ounce tube of Crest regular paste costs $1 at Dollar Tree, which means you’re paying 34 cents per ounce. A pack of three 6.4-ounce tubes costs $5 at Walmart, but that’s just 26 cents per ounce.
Soap Isn’t a Steal
You’ll pay less per ounce for soap at Walmart than at Dollar Tree. For example, a pack of two 3.2-ounce Dial antibacterial soap bars costs 15.6 cents per ounce at Dollar Tree. But a six-pack of 4-ounce bars that costs $2.97 at Walmart works out to be just 12 cents per ounce.
If you want to stock up on soap, you’ll pay $1 less for a 20-pack of Irish Spring at Sam’s Club than you’d pay for 10 two-bar packs at Dollar Tree — $9.08 versus $10. Plus, the soap bars in the Sam’s Club 20-pack are 3.75 ounces each compared with 3.2-ounce bars at Dollar Tree.
Find Out: 15 Items to Avoid at Walmart
Pain Relievers Are Pricier
Ease your pain for less by stocking up on acetaminophen or ibuprofen at Target or Costco rather than Dollar Tree. A bottle with 40 caplets of 500 mg acetaminophen costs 2.5 cents per caplet at Dollar Tree. However, the $6.99 bottle of 500 caplets at Target is just 1.4 cents per caplet. And a bottle of 1,000 caplets that sells for $8.49 at Costco is less than 1 cent per caplet.
You’d have to buy 25 40-caplet bottles of ibuprofen for $25 at Dollar Tree to get as many caplets in Costco’s 1,000-caplet bottle that costs just $8.79.
You Won’t Save on Cereal
You’ll get a better deal on cereal at the supermarket and Walmart than at the dollar store. A 7-ounce box of raisin bran that sells for $1 at Dollar Tree is actually about 2 cents more per ounce than an 18.2-ounce box that sells for $2.29 at Kroger.
If your kids (or you) love Cap’n Crunch cereal, you’ll save 8 cents per ounce by buying a 40-ounce bag for $4 at Walmart instead of a 5.5-ounce box for $1 at Dollar Tree.
More Tips: 9 Secret Ways to Save Money at Kroger
Salt Costs Twice as Much
Jars of spices for $1 are a good deal at the dollar store, but you’re better off buying salt at the supermarket. A 26-ounce canister of iodized salt costs half as much at Kroger as it does at Dollar Tree — 49 cents versus $1.
Canned Vegetable Prices Can’t Compete
If you’re paying $1 for a can of vegetables at the dollar store, you’re overspending. For example, you can get a 15.25-ounce can of corn for 59 cents at Kroger and for just 50 cents at Walmart. You’ll pay less and get more buying elsewhere because the Dollar Tree can of corn is only 15 ounces.
Canned Tuna Is Cheaper Elsewhere
Canned tuna is an inexpensive food that’s good for you, but buying it at the dollar store will cost you more than at Walmart.
At Dollar Tree, you can get a 5-ounce can of Van Kamp’s by Chicken of the Sea for $1. But you’ll pay just 90.5 cents per 5-ounce can if you buy a four-pack Chicken of the Sea for $3.62 at Walmart.
Rice Isn’t Really a Deal
Long-grain white rice is a good pantry staple, but it’s not a best deal at the dollar store. You’ll pay 50 cents per pound for a 32-ounce bag of long-grain white rice at Dollar Tree. Kroger’s 5-pound bag that sells for $2.19 is just 44 cents per pound.
Brand-Name Cleaning Products Aren’t the Best Values
You’ll pay less per ounce for brand-name cleaning products at Walmart than at the dollar store. A 28-ounce container of Ajax costs 88 cents at Walmart versus $1 at Dollar Tree.
Lysol multi-surface cleaner costs 3 cents less per ounce at Walmart for a 48-ounce bottle that costs $2.97 than for a 10.75-ounce bottle at Dollar Tree for $1.
Brand-Name Laundry Detergent Isn’t a Bargain
Paying $1 for a bottle of laundry detergent might seem like a bargain, but you only get 10 ounces of Tide Clean and Fresh at Dollar Tree. That means you’re paying 10 cents per ounce.
You’ll pay just 6 cents per ounce for a 138-ounce bottle of Tide Clean and Fresh that costs $8.94 at Walmart. And a bottle that size will last a lot longer, saving you trips to the store to buy more.
Up Next: 21 Things You Can Still Buy With $1
All prices were sourced from the retailers’ websites.
About the Author
Cameron Huddleston is an award-winning journalist with more than 18 years of experience writing about personal finance. Her work has appeared in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune, Fortune, MSN, USA Today and many more print and online publications. She also is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances.
U.S. News & World Report named her one of the top personal finance experts to follow on Twitter, and AOL Daily Finance named her one of the top 20 personal finance influencers to follow on Twitter. She has appeared on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC and “Fox & Friends” and has been a guest on ABC News Radio, Wall Street Journal Radio, NPR, WTOP in Washington, D.C., KGO in San Francisco and other personal finance radio shows nationwide. She also has been interviewed and quoted as an expert in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch and more.
She has an MA in economic journalism from American University and BA in journalism and Russian studies from Washington & Lee University.