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10 dollar store ‘deals’ that are actually duds

10 dollar store ‘deals’ that are actually duds

Theo Thimou February 15, 2018
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If you like to save money, you probably love the dollar store!

But some things at the dollar store aren’t a deal because you can easily find better prices at your local big-box store or supermarket.

RELATED: Clark Howard’s top 5 retailers to watch in 2018

Consider skipping these 10 dollar store products

Despite their generic name, what we call “dollar stores” aren’t a monolith.

The true dollar stores like Dollar Tree and the 99 Cents Only chain sell everything for $1 or less. But others like Dollar General and Family Dollar sell merchandise at a variety of price points.

Navigating those unexpected differences in price point isn’t all that hard. The real threat and challenge comes because you have to watch the product size of whatever it is you’re buying for the price you’re paying.

If you don’t, it’s easy to fall in the trap of loading up your cart at the dollar store when you could be getting a better deal down the street. This is especially true when you look at the unit price on food items and household necessities at Dollar Tree!

Tribune News Service is out with a new list of dollar store items that are routinely cheaper elsewhere. All prices are sourced by Tribune and compared with prices from other retailers’ websites.

1. Toothpaste

Dollar Tree sells a 2.9-ounce tube of Crest regular paste for $1. But Walmart sells a pack of three 6.4-ounce tubes for $5.

Which one is cheaper relative to how much product you’re getting for the amount your paying?

The truth is Walmart’s offer beats Dollar Tree because its triple pack has a unit price of 26 cents per ounce — that’s eight cents per ounce cheaper than at Dollar Tree.

2. Soap

The sudsy stuff sells for 15.6 cents per ounce at Dollar Tree when you’re talking about a pack of two 3.2-ounce Dial antibacterial soap bars.

But Walmart has a six-pack of four-ounce bars for $2.97. That’s just 12 cents per ounce!

3. Pain relievers

Dollar Tree sells 40 caplets of 500 mg acetaminophen for 2.5 cents per caplet. But Target’s price is only 1.4 cents per caplet when you buy the $6.99 bottle of 500 caplets.

The best deal of all, however, is at Costco. Their $8.49 bottle of 1,000 caplets prices out at less than 1 cent per caplet.

Consider this: You’d have to pay $25 to get the same amount of 500 mg acetaminophen caplets at Dollar Tree that you get at Costco for $8.49.

Now that’s a really headache-inducing thought!

4. Breakfast cereal

Love Cap’n Crunch cereal? Skip the 5.5-ounce box for $1 at Dollar Tree and get the 40-ounce bag for $4 at Walmart in its place.

You’ll save eight cents per ounce in the process!

5. Salt

Remember the old Morton Salt ad that said, “When it rains, it pours”?

Well, you can make money rain down in your life if you buy your iodized salt at the grocery store, not the dollar store.

Kroger charges 49 cents for a 26-ounce canister of salt, while Dollar Tree charges one buck.

6. Canned vegetables

Dollar Tree charges more than both Kroger and Walmart for a smaller can in this category.

The dollar store prices its 15-ounce can of corn at $1. Compare that to Kroger (59 cents) and Walmart (50 cents), which both sell a slightly larger 15.25-ounce can of corn.

7. Tunafish

A five-ounce can of Van Camp’s Chicken of the Sea tuna will run you a buck at Dollar Tree. Walmart, on the other hand, has a cheaper unit price of 90.5 cents per five-ounce can, but you have to buy a four-pack for $3.62 to get that lower price.

8. Rice

Need to stock up on this pantry staple? Skip the dollar store and head to your grocery store.

Dollar Tree has a unit price of 50 cents per pound for a 32-ounce package of long-grain white rice. Meanwhile, Kroger’s 5-pound bag sells for $2.19 — that’s just 44 cents per pound.

9. Name brand cleaning supplies

Walmart charges just 88 cents for a 28-ounce container of Ajax. Yet Dollar Tree sells the same product in the same size for $1.

When it comes to cleaning products at the dollar store, you’re probably better off going with no-name products rather than brand-name ones. For example, some members of Team Clark have raved about a variety of $1 cleaning products from the L.A.’s Totally Awesome brand at Dollar Tree.

10. Name brand laundry detergent

Few shoppers can resist the lure of a major brand like Tide at the dollar store. But paying $1 for 10 ounces of Tide Clean and Fresh at Dollar Tree equates to paying a unit price of 10 cents per ounce.

Yet Walmart’s 138-ounce bottle of Tide Clean and Fresh costs $8.94. That’s just 6 cents per ounce!

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Theo Thimou is director of content for ClarkHoward.com. He has co-written 2 books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times.
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