Rich Or Poor, You Should Shop At The Dollar Store

Rich Or Poor, You Should Shop At The Dollar Store

How do the rich get rich? By not spending money.

How do they stay rich? By not spending money (obviously).

And how do the middle classes survive? By being frugal.

Enter: the dollar store.

It’s not as "cheap" as you think

During the 2008-09 financial crisis that plagued most of North America, dollar stores became more popular and their appeal became wider.

Obviously, when the purse strings need to be tightened, the dollar store is the logical place for everyone to shop.

The dollar store stereotype is that it sells cheap products for cheap, right? While that may have been true at one point, the evolution of the dollar store has been quite impressive.

Particularly that of Dollarama, the Canadian retail giant that has made big money by selling small things for a small price.

Dollar stores in Canada

There are four major chains of dollar stores in Canada:

  • Dollarama,
  • Dollar Tree (which bought out Dollar Giant back in 2010),
  • Everything For A Dollar, and
  • The Great Canadian Dollar Store.

Dollarama dominates the country’s discount shopping scene, but these other stores are holding their own, as are many of the numerous privately-run dollar stores found in many communities.

(There’s a really cute store down the road from my house called A Buck-And-Near, and their logo features a big pirate face. Clever, eh?).

The Japanese-styled store called Miniso recently opened in Ontario and has plans to open many more, which experts speculate may mean serious competition for Dollarama.

The King of Dollar Stores

In Canada, the "King of Dollar Stores" is Dollarama, no contest. The Rossy family, who owns the discount retail chain, is currently worth $2.52 billion, putting them at #40 on the list of the top 100 richest people in Canada.

With Dollarama stores available in popular shopping areas such as Dartmouth Crossing in Nova Scotia, Complexe Desjardins in Montreal and West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, it’s NOT a stretch to see how well-to-do families might shop here when times are tight.

Related: How to Budget Without Tracking Every Dollar
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8 things I buy at the dollar store

Dollar stores near you often carry major brands at a discounted price...

Just make sure you know the regular price of these same items elsewhere so you’re certain you’re getting the best deal.

And if you’re trying to pinch your pennies ‒ but are finding it hard to switch from name brand to generic products ‒ their no-name brands can be just as good as what you’re used to.

From greeting cards to groceries, I save tons of cash by opting to shop for these items, without sacrificing any of the quality.

1. Greeting cards

Despite what television commercials tell us, people don’t usually check the back of a birthday card to see whether the sender shopped at Hallmark.

Dollar store cards are dirt cheap and just as good as the expensive ones – sometimes even better.

2. Special snacks

If there’s one thing that’s sure to make you go broke, it’s the cost of snacks at the movie theatre. A bag of candy can cost upwards of $5!

Instead, I make a pit stop at the dollar store on the way to the theatre and browse their nearly overwhelming selection of candy and treats all for $1. A heck of a lot cheaper.

3. Party supplies and favours

Know what else costs a ridiculous amount of money? Kids birthday parties.

Well, any parties, for that matter.

Unless you’re throwing a soiree for several hundred people – in which case I recommend you hit up Costco and buy in bulk – shopping at the dollar store is a no-brainer.

It’s simple. Disposable dishes, decorations, snacks, toys for treat bags and even garbage bags to clean up after – can all be found at the dollar store at amazing prices.

Try buying the same stuff at Party City and see how much you spend. (I’m guessing there will be a lot of zeros in the difference.)

4. Some grocery staples

The dollar store have many lunchbox staples available for way less than the grocery stores. They even offer plastic baggies for wrapping these treats, also at a fraction of the big-store cost.

I have a dairy allergy, which means I'm one of the lucky people who gets to spend more money buying almond or soy instead of cow’s milk...

Behold! Dollarama now carries soy milk. Some stores even have organic products in stock.

Related: How To Eat Healthy On A Budget

5. Kitchen supplies

Have you noticed that Dollarama carries Betty Crocker brand products?

I remember buying rubber spatulas from the dollar store when I had my first apartment and cursing them when they broke after two weeks.

But with higher quality brands like Betty Crocker and Wilton, I can save money and cook like a chef.

6. Office supplies

Staples and Office Depot are overrated. I don’t really think the quality varies from paper clip to paper clip, do you?

So instead of dropping some serious change on office supplies at these big box stores, I go to the dollar store and load up on highlighters, pens, pencils, day planner, and notebooks.

7. Kids’ presents

The dollar store has all the children’s books you need to look like the coolest auntie out there.

You'll also find adorable gift wrap (and bow) a few aisles over for cheap.

8. Home decor

Redecorating? Revamping? Re...considering your previous choice of a poultry-themed kitchen?

Check out this article on how to decorate on a budget and notice all the dollar store ideas.

Related: When To Buy Things To Save The Most Money

2 things I avoid the dollar store

Now, let’s be real. There are some things don't buy at the dollar store.

1. Electronics

Do you really think that $10 Samsung tablet will even last to the end of the week? Very doubtful.

Also, it’s rarely a good idea to use a phone or device charger from the dollar store, or even things like their HDMI cables. They’ll last you a few uses, but that’s it.

The $2 you spend on these items would likely be better put towards the $20 you’ll spend at Walmart or elsewhere, and will save you the hassle of having to shop for a replacement in a few days.

Related: 36 Canadian Computer And Electronics Stores You’ve Never Heard Of

2. Toiletries

Some of the generic toiletries you’ll find at the dollar store are adequate.

For instance, I’ve used Dollarama’s no-name brand removable pore strips many times and find them as effective as the same Bioré product.

That’s been the exception for me, though. The shampoos, soaps, and toothpaste that you don’t recognize aren’t going to be worth even the few pennies you pay for them.

And definitely don’t buy the generic makeup. It’s almost certain to be bad for your skin (not that it’ll stay on your face for very long anyway).

Quality items at a reasonable price

The dollar store is for everyone. A place to find decent quality items at a very reasonable price.

And if you’ve recently scored a good deal at the dollar store, please share your story in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links. We're letting you know because it's the right thing to do. Here’s a more detailed disclosure on how HTS makes money.

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Jacki Hollywood Brown's picture

As a former professional organizer, I suggest everyone look for organizing supplies at dollar stores. They have the same/similar products as other big name organizing specialty stores (Container Store, Solutions Stores, and even IKEA) but at a fraction of the cost!

October 30, 2018 @ 1:19 pm
Rob's picture

Note that only AFTER you have made a purchase at a Dollar Store, do you learn via the receipt, that there are NO exchanges and NO returns at all. Every sale is a final sale, so don't even think about trying to return something that isn't quite the thing you were supposed to bring home.

October 30, 2018 @ 1:25 pm
Rob's picture

I have had some good luck with generic toiletries at Dollarama & Dollar Tree over the years. I use the White Pearl mens white stick deodorant Dollar Tree sells for $1.25, & find it every bit as good as Old Spice & other drug store brands selling $3 - $5. And I find that their generic shampoo & body wash brands, some are OK, you just have to try 1 bottle & see how well it works & how fast you go thru it, & then avoid the bad ones. You can also get the name brands there too, just have to watch the prices they sell for.

October 30, 2018 @ 2:28 pm
Anil Ramji
Anil Ramji's picture

one item to avoid at dollar store is batteries. The don't last long even if they are brand names

October 30, 2018 @ 2:50 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I've had the same experience Anil. I think it depends on which ones and what you use them for, but the CR2032 batteries I buy there barely last a month in my garage door opener and they are weak from the the very start because the opener gets terrible range on those dollar store batteries.

I read another study done on dollar store battery and they proved they do last less time but if you did a price analysis, they still came out slightly ahead in terms of total run time per dollar spent.

October 31, 2018 @ 12:06 pm
Linda's picture

Careful with some of the toiletries. I purchased a face cleaner that was a Cetaphil knock off. I carefully checked the ingredient list and it matched exactly, including the order listed. However, when I tried to use it on my face, it immediately got my eyes all irritated, red rimmed, etc. Something Cetaphil doesn't do.

This particular product would most likely be perfectly safe on other parts of your body but I should not have purchased it for facial use.

October 30, 2018 @ 3:30 pm
Terrie's picture

I agree with your thoughts on dollar stores. I tell my hubby not to buy electric stuff or batteries(Anil) but he still does. My neighbour and I agree with not buying the toiletries and some of the food. Wonderful cards, party stuff and decor items like place mats, treats for kids, decorations, even Diabetic socks for $1.25 at the Dollar Tree. Wow!

Great ideas from your blogs, Stephen. Thanks a bunch!! I still haven't seen advice for internet, tv and phone. I need one where we don't get our address messed up since I have several autoimmune diseases and conditions, so 911 is called about 3 times a year. Nice to have private calls also.


October 31, 2018 @ 4:02 am
HowToSaveMoney Team
HowToSaveMoney Team's picture

Hi Terrie,

Thanks for your great comment!

As for your question, here's an article where Stephen addresses how to get great deals on your internet, TV, and phone bills: $166 – My Cost For High Speed Internet, TV, 2 Cell Phones, Home Phone, Long Distance, And Movies

A few tips from that article:

  • Don't be afraid to get service from a different provider to get the best deals possible.
  • Call your internet providers to ask for discounts.
  • You can get your TV service for FREE using internet TV.
  • Consider magicJack for your home phone service. 

I hope this helps you out, and you continue finding fantastic ways to save your money!

October 31, 2018 @ 10:34 am
Kate's picture

After spending $10 plus/per year on watch batteries elsewhere, I now buy them for $1.25 at the dollar store and they have lasted just as long.

October 31, 2018 @ 9:12 am
Pat's picture

Every year I go to the dollar store and buy a several dozen sets of gloves. They are $1.50 for two pair and stand up well. I keep a pair in every place I can think of, knapsack, purse,any travel bags and the car. I donate many to either the food bank or a shelter, several go to the local school and I keep a dozen pairs in my car to hand out as I see people without any gloves.

For not a lot of money I am able to do some good.


October 31, 2018 @ 1:11 pm
Pelene's picture

I was surprised that Dollarama in Hamilton ( Barton Center) is accepting Amex, as I am collecting points on Cobalt Blue. As I wasn't shopping often at Dollarama, now intending to do more frequent.

October 31, 2018 @ 5:21 pm
Money Beagle's picture

Medicine. I know many would never consider such a thing, but any medicine sold is regulated and they would get in big trouble if it weren't quality stuff. It's dirt cheap. I get 8 NyQuil type tablets for $1. That same package runs at least $5 anywhere else.

November 02, 2018 @ 3:03 pm
HowToSaveMoney Team
HowToSaveMoney Team's picture

That's a great tip, thanks! 

November 06, 2018 @ 9:45 am
Jay's picture

Re: Don't buy #1....

Bought a simple AC outlet timer and it was dead out of the package.
Seems that they flog a LOT of "Sunbeam" products which sadly is just the name of the former great company bought out by somebody making crap to sell to unwary dupes.
Same goes for the batteries under the same name.

If Sunbeam was still a worthy manufacturer, you'd find their products at The Bay.


November 02, 2018 @ 10:27 pm
HowToSaveMoney Team
HowToSaveMoney Team's picture

That's a shame that Sunbeam has gone downhill. I checked their website and a good portion of the reviews aren't great either. Hopefully they get themselves together soon.

Thanks for your comment, Jay!

November 06, 2018 @ 9:46 am

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