Sneaky Tricks ‘Dollar Stores’ Pull That The Owners Don’t Want People To Know About

Sneaky Tricks

Birthday cards, candy, trinkets to keep the kids busy… dollar stores are full of jaw-dropping bargains. And all for that famous $0.99 price tag. What’s not to love? Well, studies show that savvy shoppers may just have a cartful of tricks to look out for. So, make sure you don’t fall victim to any of the most common swindles — involving everything from harsh chemicals to spoiled pet food.  

40. Canned Toxins

Bisphenol A is an industrial chemical that sometimes makes its way into canned goods. The bad news? Studies have uncovered links between the compound and high blood pressure as well as children’s moods and behaviors. The worse news? Checking the ingredients list isn’t a sure-fire way to keep safe, either. Perhaps it’s best to ditch the cans for now…

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39. Toxic Toys

Products at the dollar store are cheap because they’re cheaply made — fact. And you should be worried about what that means when it comes to the safety of these playthings. A 2015 study conducted by Ecocenter revealed a 49 percent chance of any dollar store toy containing at least two toxins. What’s more, there’s an 81 percent chance that the low-cost plastic will have at least one toxin present.

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38. Uncertified Electronics

When it comes to picking up a USB charger or any other piece of electrical equipment, be sure to check its label – or lack of one. All electronics should have a UL (Underwriters Laboratories) label to ensure the product meets the global leader’s safety standards. And if that’s missing, then all bets are off. A bad scenario? You wasted your dollar. The worst-case scenario? An electrical fire and a ruined appliance.

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37. Hidden Brands

Oh, and all those dollar boxes of cereal? Make sure you double-check the label there, too. Like, really squint at it. Grabbed your glasses? Great! Because according to TheStreet, brands make extra products that are of a much lower standard. Knock-off merchandise should be on your radar as well. Turns out, that’s often packaged with almost identical branding to the top cereals on the market. Still, cheap cereal does rule.


36. Floured Bargains

Before picking up that bag of flour, you may want to consider what you’re actually getting. At dollar stores, the bags are small. Makes sense, as that’s about what you’d expect for a dollar. But wait! Chances are that if you go to another supplier, you can find a better price per pound. Best stock up for your next bake sale elsewhere.

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35. Cheap Cutlery

Step away from the forks. And the knives, too. On second thought, it’s probably for the best that you don’t buy anything from the cutlery section. Why? It’ll likely become dull much faster than other, higher-quality items. And while dull knives don’t sound dangerous, the risk factor comes when you try to use them past their prime. Cut something, slip, and you’ll surely end up hurting yourself. Save yourself the Band-Aid!

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34. Hardware Elsewhere

A hammer or screwdriver may seem like a steal for just a dollar apiece, but don’t buy into the hype. The quality may even be so poor that getting the tool to work even once would be considered a miracle. Tape measures bend, carabiners snap – you get the picture.


33. Canned Cans

Everyone knows that expiration dates are a pretty vital detail to check before purchasing. Who wants to eat spoiled food? Just as you do with cartons of milk, you should check cans – of beans, of corn, of anything – to make sure the expiration date isn’t next weekend… or last decade.

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32. Dubious Dog Food

There’s a lot to consider when buying at the Tree – expiration dates, Bisphenol A, and knock-off cereals masquerading as a big deal, to name a few. Unfortunately, these tricks aren’t reserved just for human chow. That’s right: suspect pet food can find its way onto the shelves as well. So don’t forget to double-check that the store isn’t stocking up on spoiled inventory on your next trip. 

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31. Factor In The Date

You know what, for the sake of safety, it’s probably best to check the expiration date on everything bought at a dollar store. Sunscreen, too. To keep the public safe, the FDA mandates that sunscreen should perform at full strength for up to three years. After that? Best stick to the shade. 

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30. Bottom-Barrel Batteries

Cheap batteries are another no on that dollar store shopping list. They’ll die pretty quickly, but there’s also the very real possibility that they’ll leak battery acid all over the nice non-dollar store tech they live in. That will cost a lot more than any money saved on the initial purchase.

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29. Price Gouges

Here’s a twist: the most popular dollar store chains around the US don’t only sell things for a dollar. What’s with that? Well, the crafty tactic lures people into the building with the promise of $0.99 steals. But before you know it, they’ve raised the $5 price flags. Your best bet: don’t assume everything’s a dollar unless it’s clearly marked. Be careful out there, shoppers. 

via Coupons in the News

28. Scary Scissors

Some folks may advise against buying office and school supplies at a dollar store, but really, most discount stationery will still work just fine. Some things aren’t worth the buy, though, such as scissors and glue. Take our advice, and look for the brands that you trust. 


27. Party Supplies

Did someone say piñata? It’s bound to be a party when you turn up with those lit savings from the dollar store. Seeing as most paper decorations wind up being thrown away anyway, even $0.99 accessories are a waste of money. You may as well save on the colorful future trash you’re paying for.


26. Greeting Cards

Who doesn’t like gifting a card with handwritten words of love? The recipient doesn’t have to know you only spent a dollar on it. Just make sure you avoid the phony phrases and write in the best cursive you can to make the guilt fade away. All that’s left is to enjoy the priceless smile your loved one makes when they see your terrible handwriting.

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25. Food Storage

The inconvenient truth is that plastic food storage isn’t really meant to last. So although it may seem cheap at first, you’ll probably find yourself re-stocking your Tupperware in no time at all. If you want a more long-term solution, go for stainless steel instead. Another plus is that you’ll never have to worry about your food tasting like plastic again. Bonus!

u/Ghawr / Reddit

24. Sour Prices

Buying milk comes with the same perils as those deceptively small packs of flour. Sure, you can get some for $1, but the price per gallon will be much better at a grocery store. And let’s not forget, dollar store milk has the Sword of Damocles hanging over it: a near-future expiration date can spoil the pack.

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23. Cleaning Supplies

An essential for every household. Whether it be mops or buckets, the dollar store has you covered. Just be careful with any chemical-based products. Look for familiar and reliable brands to avoid a cheap product that could cause you and your family harm.

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22. One Dollar and Up

It’s the holiday season and you’re in need of presents in a hurry. But you shouldn’t necessarily rush down to your nearest dollar store. The festive season sees prices raised even higher. So why spend more than you should on cheaply made products that might not even last it out until the new year. Sometimes paying some extra cash really does pay off. That, or just leaving more time for buying gifts in the first place…

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21. Gum

Gum is versatile. It’s good for reducing stress, curbing hunger, improving memory, and more, but it’s not good at the dollar store. If you really like gum, look into buying in bulk because the price of one small package is roughly the same in every store. Stock up the year right!

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20. Holiday Decorations

Now just because gifting from the dollar store won’t likely bag you the best buy, their decorations are a steal. So if you’re a fan of holidays, you should be a fan of the dollar store! Their affordable range will spruce up your home for the holidays at a bargain price. For something that you’re only going to have up for a short time, that’s a great deal.


19. Gift Wrapping Supplies

There’s really no reason why gift bags and tissue paper should be so expensive. Regardless of the price, gift packaging wears out the same. Even if you’re the type to hold on to bags, it’s still worth it to buy at the dollar store if you run out.

18. Candles

Candles are nice to have in the house, especially scented ones, but they are much more a pricey luxury, and rightfully so. Cheaper candles don’t always burn the right way, or sometimes at all. But maybe you just want them for show, which is also a bright decision.

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17. Salty and Sweet Snacks

Let’s travel back in time when you only had to pay a nickel for a snack. Double that by 20, and you have a modern day bargain! Sweets and salty snacks are a great buy at the dollar store. Save the bulk of your money for the healthy foods.

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16. Anything Made of Cloth

Unless you’re really strapped for cash and absolutely have no other option, avoid buying any cloth material (towels, clothes, etc.) at the dollar store. You get what you give, and if you’re paying a cheap price for durability, expect to run back to buy more because it will not last.

BBC via Wu Liangshu

15. Coffee Filters

There isn’t really much to a coffee filter. It’s pretty much paper, which is priced cheap even nowadays, so why shell out extra when can you pay less at the dollar store? The best part of waking up is knowing you saved money!

14. Painkillers

When it comes to your health, don’t mess around! Unless you find the major brands that everyone can rely on, go shop somewhere else for any painkillers. You don’t want to waste your money. That’d be a real pain.


13. Activities for Kids

Keep the kids, or even the elderly, busy with coloring books and puzzles from the dollar store. Unless those books are lined with gold or silver, you shouldn’t have to pay top price for quality fun. Take a break from caretaking and distract the family with affordable activities.

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12. Body Care Products

Really, any product that has to do with taking care of your health should be at a higher price than $1. Because you’re worth it! And no one has time for toxic, cancer-causing chemicals!

The Wall Street Journal

11. DIY Supplies

DIY projects are all the rage today, and rightfully so. It’s fun, even meditative, to pour yourself into something creative, and the whole saving money bit is pretty stellar too. To make sure shoppers spend as much money as possible, dollar stores also use some common tricks learned from supermarket psychology.

10. Meat

If a $1 piece of meat wasn’t already a red flag, the size of this choice cut of beef should make things clear. Whether the packaging says “burger” or “ribeye steak,” there’s a 99-percent chance that whatever “meat” you pick up at a Dollar Tree is going to be pink slime — at best.

WBEZ Chicago

9. Soda

While generic sodas are just as terrible for you as name brands, it’s your wallet’s health that takes a hit when you shop Dollar Tree. Most supermarkets run regular sales that offer multiple bottles for just a few bucks, making $1 for one two-liter kind of a ripoff.

Mike Mozart / Flickr

8. Stauffer’s Cookies & Crackers

How hard is it to mess up a cookie? Evidently, not very. Some shoppers have compared eating Dollar Tree’s Stauffer’s brand cookies and crackers to biting into flavorless rocks. No thanks!


7. Cereal

“My favorite name-brand cereal for just $1? What a bargain!” you might say, though make sure you take a closer look at the size of the bag or box. Most of the time, these smaller sizes are actually more expensive per ounce than their supermarket counterparts!

The Krazy Coupon Lady

6. “Cheese”

And by “cheese” we mean whatever “Pasteurized Processed Sandwich Slices” are. In fact, the vast majority of Dollar Tree’s “cheese” products don’t even contain dairy — that’s why there’s no mention of cheese at all on this pack of “American Slices.”

The Hawkeye

5. Vitamins & Medicine

The vitamin industry is already an extremely unregulated one even at the top — do you really want to take a chance on whatever “Nature’s Measure” packed into those 500 mg? The same goes for those generic Dollar Tree medicines: if you wouldn’t put “American Slices” into your body, why settle for a Tylenol knockoff?

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4. Cooking Oil

Before you pat yourself on the back for switching from vegetable oil to a healthier alternative like olive or coconut, listen to this: most Dollar Tree brands typically contain only 5-10 percent of the advertised oil, while the rest is all soybean. Talk about a bait-and-switch!


3. “American Classic” Snack Cakes

Everyone knows that packaged pastries are loaded with preservatives, but according to Dollar Tree shoppers, the store’s “American Classics” brand takes the cake (no pun intended). Unsurprisingly, the general complaint about these snack cakes is that they “taste like chemicals.” Yum.

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2. Baking Soda

Once again, just because something is a dollar doesn’t mean that it’s a bargain. Warehouse stores like Sam’s Club only charge around 50 cents a pound for baking soda, so a one-pound box from Dollar Tree really isn’t a steal after all.

The Kazy Coupon Lady

1. Condiments

The sight of name brands on Dollar Tree shelves is always an appealing one, yet once again, looks can be deceiving. Instead of paying $1 for ketchup or mustard, supermarkets like Aldi offer the same size condiments — and even bigger ones — for less than a buck a pop.

Shoshy Ciment / Business Insider

More Bang For Your Buck

Now that you know your toxic toys from your big-time bargains, we should probably let you in on another trade secret – people everywhere are hacking dollar store items. That’s right, with just a few super simple tweaks, you can take the Tree’s most versatile items to whole new levels. Cheap doesn’t equal tacky, and making the most of your discount buys shouldn’t cost a bomb. 


Paint up some plastic toys to make stylish bookends

Bookends can give a pretty finish to any shelving unit. And now, they don’t have to cost the earth. Take some plastic toys from your local dollar store and mount them on a block of wood. Spray paint the whole thing any color you wish, and there you have it – DIY bookends.

Brighten up your yard with a simple pool noodle

Adding a touch of color to your outside spaces can keep them looking sunny all year round. And the good news is you don’t have to spend a fortune on outdoor decorations. Dollar store pool noodles are bright and waterproof, making them perfect for a cute garden garland.

Transform picture frames into trendy dry erase boards

While dry erase boards are pretty easy to pick up in office supply stores, they tend to look incredibly dull. But with a dollar store picture frame, a sheet of colorful paper and some imagination, you can create your own reminder board which you actually enjoy looking at.

DIY BBQ hack

Now everyone can get their barbeque on with this ingenious charcoal grill hack. Save on expensive outdoor cooking gadgets by taking a dollar cooling rack and placing it over a lasagne pan. Add charcoal and fire and voila – time to get cooking!

Use cheap mirrors to make chic pots

These striking pots will set you back just five dollars, plus a little bit of time and patience with a hot glue gun. Once placed together, the mirrors can be used as a pretty planter, an office organizer or a makeup brush holder.

Use binder clips to keep all your chargers handy

While gadgets are great for organizing our modern lives and keeping us entertained, the tangle of cables that come with them can be frustrating. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Using simple binder clips attached to your desk, you can keep your chargers separate and always close to hand.

Have a tidy car with these over-the-door organizers

As any parent will know, keeping a clean and tidy car can seem like an impossible task. However, an over-the-door organizer can make life a tad bit easier. Hang one over the front seat of your vehicle, and use it to quickly tidy up after every journey.

Make an impact with some compacts

If you’re hoping to add a show-stopping feature to your home, look no further than your local dollar store. A bunch of cheap makeup compacts glued together makes a head-turning mirror, that wouldn’t look out of place in any fancy interior design store.

Get wrapped up in the latest home trends

Rope baskets are all the rage at the moment. However, buying into the trend could cost you a pretty penny. The good news is that these stylish space-saving accessories are easy and cheap to make – and all you need is some hand-dyed rope and a plastic basket.

Freshen up your home with a handmade succulent planter

Given that succulents grow better in dry soil, they thrive in specially designed terrariums. But before you go out and buy a ready made one, consider making your own planter using bowls. Add a layer of gravel to the bottom container, then plant to your heart’s content!

Disguise ugly routers in an empty book

In these modern times, most of us couldn’t live without internet routers in our homes. But it’s fair to say that the networking devices are far from pretty. If you can’t bear to look at your flashing lights, place the router into a hollowed-out book. Just ensure your antenna is visible if you have one, to keep those Wi-Fi signals flowing.

Save space with a simple towel rail

If your struggling for space in your kitchen, why not add some towel rails to walls or the end of cabinets? You can use the bars to hang pots, pans and utensils, making them easier to find while also displaying them as a design feature.

Get your accessories boxed off

Keeping small items like hair bands and clips organized can be a challenge. That’s why this dollar store hack is so exciting. Just use a craft organizer or a big pill box to stash away accessories, and you’ll never have to worry about losing them again.

Save space with hanging baskets

If you’re struggling for storage space in your bathroom, this could be the solution for you. Hanging wicker baskets on the walls saves vital floor space. It also adds stylish shelving solutions that are ideal for towels, toiletries or washcloths.

Upgrade your laptop with a sheet of contact paper

Whether your laptop’s a bit bashed up or you simply want to protect it from scratches, look no further than dollar store contact paper. This chic wood-effect style is readily available and can be easily applied to devices for a quick-but-effective makeover.

Entertain the kids without breaking the bank

Making finger puppets is the perfect activity for rainy days. But before you go raiding the nearest craft store, stop by your local dollar store. Here you’ll find rubber gloves and other supplies that will keep your kids entertained for hours.

Spin a hula-hoop into a statement chandelier

Chandeliers scream extravagance, but they don’t have to cost a fortune. In fact, you can make an impact with your lighting with just a few dollars. By using a hula-hoop, some lace and a string of fairy lights, you can make your own stunning ceiling fixture without breaking the bank.

Make your pantry perfect

An organized pantry can make meal times easier and optimize space for more goodies. The best way to declutter your cabinets is to harness different types of containers, many of which are available from dollar stores. That means all you have to do it label them and fill them with your favorite foods.

Make working more fun with this colorful DIY mouse pad

Working is hard enough, without having to put up with a drab office environment. So why not spruce up your desk with a DIY mouse pad? All you’ll need is a cork round – such as a placemat – a funky printed fabric and some glue.

Make mini flower pots using salt and pepper shakers

Add a pop of color to your kitchen with these adorable salt and pepper shaker flower pots. Simply paint them your favorite color, add some ribbon and fill them with seasonal blooms for a rustic country kitchen feel.

Revamp plain white mugs with this marbling technique

These handmade mugs make great gifts, but you may struggle to give them away. To make them, fill a disposable casserole dish with warm water – adding as much as you’d like the color to reach on the cup – then drizzle in nail polish. Using a toothpick, swirl the mixture, then quickly dip the cups in to create the marble effect.

Turn a rubber mat into wall art

Vintage iron wall pieces can make a desirable addition to any home. But, sadly, they tend to be quite expensive. Luckily though, one blogger found that painting up a rubber mat and sanding it to give it an older feel had much the same effect – at a fraction of the price.

Pimp up candles with thumb tacks

Plain white candles are cheap to come by, but they can look rather uninspiring. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Pressing just a few thumb tacks into the wax to create patterns can transform your old candles completely, meaning you might never want to burn them.

Put your own stamp on your favorite tee

Stand out from the crowd in your very own, homemade statement tee. Just use a dollar store stamp set and get creative with designs. You can even get the kids involved to make their own, because what’s cooler than personalizing your own clothes?

Cookie cutter candles

Give old candle ends a new lease of life with these cookie cutter candles. Simply melt them down, add a crayon as dye, then pour them into the molds with a new candle wick. Once the wax has dried, pop them out and they’re good to go.

Use cups and saucers for a fairytale bird bath

This DIY bird bath looks fresh from the pages of Alice In Wonderland thanks to its tea party inspired design. To recreate the look, pile up a variety of plates, teapots and cups to create a stand worthy of the Mad Hatter himself.

DIY Japanese lanterns

With their minimalist design, Japanese hanging lanterns make popular light fittings. And with a little bit of imagination, the home accessories can be made using some Manila folders, wooden skewers and tissue paper. You’ll also need some craft glue, along with a hot glue gun and glue sticks.

Make flying a breeze with a washcloth carry case

Flying with toiletries can be a drama. However, an easy way of keeping all your liquids together is to fashion a washcloth into a carry case. That way, you’ll save time at security and have something to wash your face with when you get to your destination.

Handmade skewer starburst mirror

Starburst mirrors can add retro glamour to any space, and you can have your own for just a few dollars. Use spray painted wooden skewers and glue them around a small mirror to create the dramatic effect. And remember, gold or silver can give an expensive-looking finish.

Use cupcake liners to make a pretty chandelier

A plain round pendant shade can be transformed into something much more extravagant with some paper cupcake liners. Using a glue gun, stick the baking accessories all around the sphere, then hang pride of place in your home.

Get creative with the trash

Turn a dollar store waste basket into a contemporary night stand by spraying it and turning it upside down. People will never guess that it was once meant for garbage, let alone that it cost next to nothing.

Use a spice rack as a desk organiser

Keeping a tidy desk is no mean feat, so make life easier with this clever hack. Take an inexpensive spice rack and fill different pots with all your fiddly office supplies. Then, next time you need a paper clip or a thumb tack, you’ll know exactly where to find them.

Use wooden sticks to make feature walls pop

Create a standout wall design by arranging wooden craft sticks into a geometric pattern. You can paint each hexagon a different color for a striking finish, or dilute the paint gradually with water to create a bang-on-trend ombré effect.

Use contact paper to give your furnishings a marble effect

Not only can contact paper be used to give your devices a facelift, it can also give furnishings a much-needed makeover. One Instagram user used this marble-effect style to transform her nightstand from drab to fab.

Makeshift in-flight entertainment stand

Flying can be a long and boring ordeal, especially when there’s no in-flight entertainment. However, one woman has discovered a dollar store easel hung on the tray table makes the perfect phone holder. So now you can watch downloaded shows without cricking your neck.

Hang utensils on the inside of cabinet doors

Another way to save space in your kitchen is to hang your utensils on the inside of your cabinet doors. That way, they are tucked neatly away without taking up space in your drawers. Little adhesive hooks are perfect for this job, and are available at most dollar stores.

Cups as modular storage

While these white plastic cups might not look like much separately, when bolted together they make a modern, modular storage unit. Different sized cups can be used to store different items, but these ones are perfect for smaller items like hats, scarves and gloves.

Customise a vase with spray paint

A glass vase is a classic addition to any home, but why not give one a modern makeover with a spray of paint. Use tape to cover the parts you want to leave clear, then color the remaining spots in any colour you wish. Just let the paint dry thoroughly before removing the tape to avoid unwanted drips.

Brighten up the bathroom with flower-filled soap dispensers

See-through soap dispensers make stylish bathroom accessories. However, there is a way to make them even more striking. How about adding false flowers, glass gems and colorful soap?

Harness the heat-resistant nature of the clothespin

Given you can pick up 100 clothespins for one dollar, it’s always good to know new ways of using them. One of the most innovative ideas on the internet is this trivet idea. Firstly, take about 24 pins and paint or stain them how you please. Then glue them into a circle, and voila, you’ve just saved your surfaces from hot skillets.