Are Dollar Stores Always Cheapest? The Answer Might Surprise You

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  • Dollar stores offer numerous items on the cheap.
  • Some of the other places you shop at regularly might offer lower prices.
  • Don't count out Amazon or your local warehouse club or grocery store for being cheaper than the dollar store for certain items.

If your goal is to save money on shopping, you'll really need to do your research.

The first time I set foot in a dollar store, it was at the urging of a friend who was eager to help me load up on party bag supplies for my son's birthday on the cheap. As I walked around scooping up small party favors, I couldn't help but utter, "Oh my goodness, everything in here really is a dollar" throughout that shopping trip.

Fast forward a number of years later, and many of the items at my local dollar store now retail for $1.25 (I guess it still counts as a dollar store if it starts with a "1"). But still, most of the time, it's pretty hard to beat those dollar store prices.

That said, through the years, I've done my research on dollar store items. And being the budget-conscious shopper that I am, I've found that sometimes, they don't actually offer the best deals in town. Here's where you might find better ones.

1. Amazon

When you're buying things like crafting supplies or party favors, it's generally hard to beat the prices you'll find at the dollar store. But if you're loading up on a lot of those supplies, you might get a better bulk rate on Amazon. And if you're a Prime member, you won't have to worry about meeting a minimum to avoid being charged for shipping.

2. Your local warehouse club

Dollar stores often stock nonperishable household items -- things like candy, boxes of rice, and soap. And while $1 (or $1.25) might seem like a good price for these items, you'll need to crunch the numbers to see how many ounces of product you're actually getting. In some cases, you might actually do better buying those items in bulk at your local warehouse club store. This especially applies if your warehouse club has those items discounted when you need them.

Costco, for example, releases a monthly list of items it's discounting for the next number of weeks, and you can view it online before you shop. So if you're willing to do some advanced planning, you can take advantage of those sales and have a better sense of where to do your shopping.

3. Your regular supermarket

When supermarkets run sales, the savings can be significant. Recently, I was able to scoop up pasta for $0.79 for a 16-ounce box because my local grocery store had it on special. At the dollar store, it would've cost more than that. Before you buy food items at the dollar store, always check your supermarket circular (if you don't get it delivered in the mail, it will almost always be accessible online). That way, you'll see which one is the better deal.

Always do your research

While dollar stores clearly offer a host of products at a very low price point, they're not always your cheapest source for the items you need. So if you'd rather keep your credit card bills to a minimum, spend a little time researching prices to see where the best deals can truly be found.

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