17 Worst Things to Buy at Dollar Stores (Dollar Tree Included)

These discount retailers stock plenty of bargains, but not all of the merchandise is worth the buck, especially since Dollar Tree’s price increase.

Dollar Tree store exterior and sign.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A dollar is a dollar – until it’s $1.25. Dollar Tree’s recent price increase – most items formerly $1 are now $1.25 - means it’s time to take a look at the value you’re getting at dollar stores.

If you find yourself filling your basket with dollar-store buys that you never use because the quality is poor or the brand is unfamiliar, then you’re simply wasting money.

We recently revisited Dollar Tree stores, where everything sells for around $1.25 or less, in central Virginia (Dollar Tree operates more than 15,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada operating under the Dollar Tree and Family Dollar names). We wanted another look at what was on the shelves. We were careful to compare prices and packaging of those items with prices and packaging at other retailers, a key step to successful dollar-store shopping. We also talked to shopping experts for their guidance.

One tip right off the bat: Pay attention to sizes and quantities. Manufacturers will often offer special versions of their products as they work to make a profit at the dollar stores’ fixed price point. For the consumer, this isn’t necessarily a show stopper, but it does make comparisons to offerings at other retailers difficult. You need to keep a close eye on unit cost and even what those units are – items? Ounces? Pounds?

Take a look at 17 of the worst things to buy at dollar stores, either because the price is high or the quality is low – or, in some cases, both.

Bob Niedt
Online Editor, Kiplinger.com

Bob is a Senior Online Editor at Kiplinger.com. He has more than 40 years of experience in online, print and visual journalism. Bob has worked as an award-winning writer and editor in the Washington, D.C., market as well as at news organizations in New York, Michigan and California. Bob joined Kiplinger in 2016, bringing a wealth of expertise covering retail, entertainment, and money-saving trends and topics. He was one of the first journalists at a daily news organization to aggressively cover retail as a specialty, and has been lauded in the retail industry for his expertise. Bob has also been an adjunct and associate professor of print, online and visual journalism at Syracuse University and Ithaca College. He has a master’s degree from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a bachelor’s degree in communications and theater from Hope College.