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:
- 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.
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.
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.
2 things I avoid the dollar store
Now, let’s be real. There are some things don't buy at the dollar store.
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.
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!