I recently visited the Family Dollar store on Prospect Avenue in the Bronx and, admittedly, had a hard time controlling the impulse to spend. Dollar outlets, which also include the ubiquitous Jack’s 99 Cent stores and Lot Less, offer incredible bargains throughout the city. While these popular chains offer some hard-to-pass-up deals, not everything is really worth the price.
Batteries: Many batteries at these chains are generic brands made with carbon zinc, not the higher-quality lithium found in more costly brand-name batteries. Tests have shown that batteries made with carbon zinc don’t last as long and are prone to leaking.
Electrical products: Consumer Reports found that extension cords, lamps and other items may have fake, or missing, UL labels — which indicate that they’ve been certified by Underwriters Laboratories, an independent product safety group — and should generally be avoided.
Vitamins and over-the-counter drugs: Labels aren’t always correct on vitamin and aspirin bottles found at some dollar stores. Consumer Reports have found that 50% of dollar-store vitamin brands had fewer nutrients than claimed. Also, check the expiration dates to make sure they’re still good.
Paper/plastic products: Stock up on paper plates, cups, napkins, towels, utensils, gift-wrap, gift bags, tissue paper, birthday cards, school/office supplies … you name it. These items are priced significantly less than your average big box retailer, drug store or office supply store.
Non-perishable groceries: From cereals to crackers, cookies, candy and nuts, you often can find common grocery and pantry items for half the price of other stores. (Note: The quality, and hence the flavors, sometimes can be slightly off. Again, check expiration dates.)
Cleaning products: According to the Good Housekeeping Institute, the cleaners you buy at the dollar store work just as well as the name brand selections in supermarkets – and they sell for as much as 20% less.
Kitchen/bathroom items: Area rugs, shower curtains/liners, cooking gear, towels, mops … are often good deals.
Some clothes: Children’s items like mittens, earmuffs, bibs, socks, gloves and hats are worth purchasing at the dollar store since your kids, and many adults, likely will end up losing these things. Multiples will come in handy.
Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance expert, TV personality and best-selling author of “Psych Yourself Rich.” Follow her at www.farnoosh. tv and at Twitter/Farnoosh.