Personal Finance

5 Things Not to Buy at the Dollar Store

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This weekend, the San Diego Union-Tribune had an interesting story on the success of dollar stores in this economy where everyone’s looking for a deal. Dollar store stocks have been outpacing the market, giving Walmart and other giant retailers a run for their money. And while it’s true that these stores can be fantastic places to stock up on inexpensive party plates, notebooks, cleaning supplies and gift wrap, the truth is you’re better off leaving some items on the shelves. In fact, Consumer Reports has done extensive research in the past outlining exactly what you should and shouldn’t buy at local dollar stores. Here are the top five things you’re better off ignoring:

  • Batteries: The dollar-store variety of batteries are often of poor quality, which can amount to possible leakage and poor performance. Better off going to a big-box retailer or wholesaler to stock up on batteries, should you need many.
  • Children’s Toys: Researchers found these items tend to be of very low quality and pose safety risks to children, often because of their small, detachable parts. Some also lack required safety labeling.
  • Electrical Products: Consumer Reports has found that extension cords, lamps and other items may have false UL labels—which indicate they’ve been certified by Underwriters Laboratories, which tests product safety—and should be avoided.
  • Toothpaste: If it’s going in your mouth, you want to make sure it’s safe. And while you can find your favorite brands at dollar stores, think twice about throwing any unfamiliar brands into your cart. In the past, toothpaste has been on a list of contaminated imports from China.
  • Vitamins: Labels aren’t always correct on vitamin bottles found at some dollar stores. For example, they may omit the amount of nutrients.

While these items pose safety risks, there are some other products that may not be worth it simply because you can find them for less at other retailers. School supplies, for example, go on sale at Walmart and Target in August and September, at incredibly low prices that may outdo dollar store price tags.

[Related: Saving and Investing Smarts]

Image: SqueakyMarmot, via Flickr

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