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When a dollar-store bargain is no bargain

Shopping for bargains at dollar stores can be

Shopping for bargains at dollar stores can be hit or miss. Credit: Getty Images/EricFerguson

It’s hard not to love the dollar store. No doubt there are bargains, but with some of the merchandise, you’re better off paying full price elsewhere.

Here’s how to shop the dollar store.

What to buy

Nataly Blumberg of Great Neck goes to Dollar Tree several times a month. “Hallmark cards are two for $1, or the premium collection is $1 apiece," she says. "I love the pretty gift bags and boxes that make presents look so special and fun.”

Other dollar store fans praise these shops for products like napkins, plates and cups, and toiletries like hand soap. “I get shampoo there, too,” says Alicia Rose Hudnett, a certified financial planner with the Business of Your Life financial planning and education service, based in Alexandria, Virginia.

What to skip

“It’s fine to buy snacks, but get fresh foods from a grocery store. I don't mind buying a lip gloss, but if it's something you're going to put on your face, pay full price at a makeup counter,” says Hudnett.

As for what else is best bought elsewhere, Melissa Cid, manager of MySavings.com, is adamant, “Toys.  Most often they are low quality and may be a health and safety hazard to young children.”

She also cautions, “Toilet paper and paper towels may seem like a good deal, but you’re getting much less per roll. You will often find better prices for paper products on sale at your local grocery store and pharmacy.”

Cid points out that food sold in smaller quantities in the dollar store actually can cost you more than purchasing the same items on sale at your supermarket or grocery store. She says, “Canned foods, dried pastas, soda and juice at dollar stores are often the biggest offenders of this.”

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