Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dollar Store Shopping Tips

English: A Dollar Tree true dollar store and a...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Dollar stores once had the reputation of selling poor quality junk. You used to find watered down soaps and very off brand home goods. Whatever you bought maybe worked once and then you threw it away. The reputation was for extremely low quality products. But is that still the case today?

Two chain stores, Dollar General and Dollar Tree, have managed to change the perception of dollar store quality by selling a wide array of decent quality products. These stores offer a wide array of merchandise for low prices (often more than a buck though) on everything from groceries to personal-care items. Smart Shopper Magazines recent poll revealed three out of four women polled said they've shopped in a dollar store at least once this year. But what should you buy? What should you avoid? Here are some tips for shopping the reinvented dollar store:

It's not just a dollar. The name can be deceiving. While some outlets do only sell products for a dollar, the larger chain stores sell a wide variety of items on discount. Much of the time, you're going to pay more than a dollar for products, but the variety of prices means you'll get a wider array of goods.

  • Buy dollar-store brands. Shop Smart recommends checking out a store's branded items.
  • You can find savings of over 37 percent on items like quick oats and cereal. Sure you may not be getting Quaker, but you're getting a similar product for much less.
  • Take your grocery list. Check out the food items at dollar stores, as many of the stores have become substitutes for major grocery chains.
  • Check the freezer cases, condiments, packaged foods, soups and spices. They're offering a lot more everyday items than what you find at the grocery store. On packaged foods and single packs, prices are often much better at dollar stores.
  • Check expiration dates. While many stores are buying first-run items and national brands, always check expiration dates, whether you're shopping in a big-box store or a discount retailer.
  • Be careful when buying electronics, vitamins or any electrical products. You always want to check expiration dates on medications and food.
  • Visit the websites. Dollar stores are known for being catch-all shops, but it turns out they've moved online.

One surprise is that you can order some things offline. While you may have to order these items in bulk, it's useful if there's something you go through quickly, like a snack your child loves.

These websites also contain up-to-date information on product recalls and safety information, so if you're unsure about a product, visit the website. They're tracking that information for you.

Fill-in shopping. Dollar stores are looking to become midweek fill-in shops for people who want to navigate a store quickly.

They're great if you need to pick up random things from cereal to garbage bags to a notebook for your child.

Since they tend to be smaller than big-box stores, you can run in and out quickly. But know that in terms of the merchandise, dollar stores tend to sell seasonal goods. And there's no guarantee that the product you bought last week will be there next week. Their inventory changes all the time, so it pays to visit often.

Buy personal care. When it comes to products and personal care items such as cosmetics, hair-care products and hygienic products, you can find a lot of national brands in dollar stores.

As long as packages are not open, there's no reason to be leery of them.

Buy for the party. When ShopSmart asked readers what they like to buy at dollar stores, party supplies were among the most frequently given answers. Dollar stores sell tissue paper, cards and gift bags on the cheap. It's always good to stock up.

Safety first. Like many big-box stores, dollar stores sell kids toys and party favors, and some of those items are choking hazards for kids. Don't forget to take safety precautions when shopping for a bargain.

Dollar stores can be convenient alternatives to big-box stores. And now that dollar stores have e-commerce sites, the savings are even easier to find.

Most retailers can't beat the low-budget dollar-store brands, so consider frequenting the dollar store for necessities. Just remember, if buying food, vitamins or cosmetics: Always check expiration dates!

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