10 things you should never buy at the dollar store

A woman shopping with a trolley.
Photo by Olga Rosi/Shutterstock

Finding a good deal is something everyone loves. Bargain hunting, haggling, and sale items are just a part of life for anyone who needs—or wants—to budget their spending. The dollar store is often the first place to stop when you’ve got a long list of items to buy, but it should never be your one stop shop. While the low prices and product availability might be attractive, they often come at a cost: quality. Here is a list ten things you should never buy at the dollar store; it will really make a difference in the long run.

Kitchen Utensils

Kitchen utensils hanging.

Photo by Boleslaw Kubica/Shutterstock

This includes spatulas, ladles and anything else plastic, as well as knives. The plastic kitchen utensils at the dollar store are generally low quality, which means they haven’t passed as many safety tests and often contain bromines—known to cause cancer. Plastic cooking utensils, especially those made from low-quality plastic, often melt much easier, which means you might end up with melted plastic on your pots and pans, or even bits of plastic flakes in your food. The knives at the dollar store are also low quality—meaning they aren’t sharp enough—and dull knives can slip and cause injury.


Close-up of batteries.

Photo by Andrew Scherbackov/Shutterstock

While batteries at the dollar store are often a great deal, they are generally off-brand products that don’t last as long. If you are powering an item that requires very little energy, the dollar store batteries might work out. However, most battery-operated items require a little more oomph. Cheap batteries can also end up leaking, which will cause damage or even ruin the toy or gadget they are inside. Try waiting until the higher quality batteries go on sale at the grocery store or hardware store, then stock up.

Electrical Cords

A black electrical cord.

Photo by suradech sribuanoy/Shutterstock

Basically, this includes any kind of electronic. Power bars and extension cords are especially cheap at the dollar store, but when it comes to electricity, you really don’t want to skimp on quality. Low-grade electronic cords can spark, burst fuses due to incorrect wattages, or even just stop working after a short period of time. There are often great deals online at Amazon, at hardware stores, or in the electronic store itself. It will cost more, but it will be worth it.


DVD cases.

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All those B- and C-rated film stars are on display at the dollar store. While some of the movies on sale will have actors and actresses you’ve (vaguely) heard of, most of the films are filled with unknowns. Sure, you can take a chance on a cheap movie with a great synopsis, but nine times out of ten you’ll end up wishing you could get those two hours of your life back. If watching terrible, low budgets films with poor acting, weak plot lines, and obvious endings are your idea of fun, the dollar store is your paradise; everyone else steer clear.


An electrician with tools.

Photo by Halfpoint/Shutterstock

If you’re a student, or find yourself using tools only once in a blue moon, it might seem like a great idea to grab some cheap tools from the dollar store. However, a cheap tool is often a low-quality tool, which could end up backfiring at just the wrong moment. The handle or your hammer comes detached from the head mid-blow, or a screwdriver that isn’t quite the right size so it ends up stripping the screw. Basically, any project that needs tools is a project that needs to be done properly and safely, so spending a little extra money will save you a lot of hassle.

Pet Food

Dry kibble in a bowl and a dog.

Photo by Ekaterina Markelova/Shutterstock

It might seem like a great idea to grab cheaper food and treats for your four-legged pal; however, most animals are just as sensitive about what they eat as we are, and they digestive systems can be easily upset. Poor quality or expired pet food can make your furry friend sick, so be sure to check the packing and ingredients list before you make the purchase. Many low quality, off-brand pet foods don’t have the vitamins and nutrients cats and dogs need to be healthy, so you’re better off buying bulk at a pet food store.


A little boy playing with a toy car.

Photo by AlohaHawaii/Shutterstock

Kids, especially really little ones, go through toys like the wind. However, cheaper toys from the dollar store will just make the problem even worse. First of all, they often haven’t been properly tested, so they don’t meet safety requirements, second of all, their poor quality means that they are more prone to breaking or falling apart. Kids often play rough with their toys, which means you’ll just have to go right back out to buy more because the dollar store toys are not going to last. Also, toys that are prone to breakage often create smaller pieces, which become choking hazards. In this case, it’s better to play it safe.


Raw meat.

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This one speaks for itself. The dollar store isn’t a grocery store, so there are many reasons why you shouldn’t buy meat there. First of all, low quality meat won’t come from anywhere you want to know about. Secondly, if the meat (or seafood) has been left out of the fridge during packing and unpacking, it could become contaminated and make you sick. And lastly, if it’s cheaper, it usually means less effort has gone into the preparation process, leaving you with a dull, tasteless hunk of meat.



Photo by Melica/Shutterstock

Most of the fabrics sold at the dollar store, including pillow cases, throw blankets, and towels, are made from low-grade materials that either feel terrible to the touch, aren’t durable, or—in the case of towels—don’t actually do their job. Towels, especially tea towels, from the dollar store aren’t made from the right type of fabric and cannot absorb water properly. What’s the point of a towel that can’t dry your dishes or your hands? Also, low-quality towels end up smelling terrible much faster than good ones, so you’ll have to buy twice as many to keep from having to turn on the washing machine every day.

Bottled Toiletries

Unspecified bottles.

Photo by BeautyStockPhoto/Shutterstock

This really applied to all bottled items at the dollar store: soda, shampoo, dish soap. While it might seem great to grab a bottle of shampoo for $1, the dollar store also sells smaller quantities. If you look closely, you’ll notice that all those items being sold for $1 are actually smaller than the bottles being sold at other retailers. So while it might seem like a great deal, the product is actually the same price per unit. You might even end up spending more because you’re tricked by the price tag into thinking it’s a great deal, when you can get twice as much of the same shampoo at the grocery store for twenty more cents.

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