It’s hard for me to pass up shopping at the dollar stores since there are at least 67 things you should always buy at a dollar store. There are so many wonderful treasures to be found.
But there are also traps and pitfalls, so you have to shop smart to really save.
- Shop the dollar stores with a budget. 99.9 cents adds up quickly and much like the dollar slots at a casino, you can go over budget very quickly.
- Don’t be fooled by look alike labels. It’s incredible how much one shampoo bottle might look like a very expensive, high end shampoo, but when you really look at it, you realize it isn’t the same manufacturer. They can use the same colors, shape and typeface to make it look the same. However, the quality will be much inferior and many times full of very different ingredients, so take the time to look closely.
- Know what expiration dates mean and check them before you buy. A lot of items at 99 Cents Only dollar stores are close to or past their expiration dates. Learn what products are still good after their expiration dates and you can really score. Brown sugar has an indefinite shelf life. Who knew? On many items, it doesn’t matter, but on canned goods (which have really long expiration dates) I pass them up if too old. Crackers and similar food products get very stale if they are old.
- Get familiar with quantities. One of the tricks of the trade is to put a smaller amount of something into the same size package. This is true for everything from tissues to marshmallows. Start looking at the quantities in the packages you buy at the regular store, so that you can compare it to items at 99 Cents Only dollar stores. The math might tell you that it isn’t a bargain. Calculate the per unit price to be sure.
- Check for mold or dried out flower bulbs. I have successfully bought and planted a bunch of flower bulbs from 99 Cents Only dollar stores. However, I look closely when choosing. If the bulb is mushy or smells moldy, don’t buy it.
- Art supplies can be a great bargain, but just like No. 4 above, you have to check the quantity. The rolls of scotch tape are shorter than the average roll at the office supply store. This is a good buy if you need different dispensers for a group of kids, but not a good deal if you just want one large roll for your desk. Figuring out what is the best deal on this one could require a calculator.
- 99 Cents Only dollar stores have recently upgraded their dish selection. They are now carrying the popular square dishes. Their ceramic and plastic sets are so nice and so cheap that you could use them for an upscale BBQ. Wash them after the picnic and keep them in a pre-stocked picnic basket.
- All 99 Cents Only stores do not carry the same merchandise. The more affluent the neighborhood, the better the merchandise. Therefore, shop at the 99 Cents Only dollar store in the most affluent neighborhood near you. Of course, they have a lot of the same stuff, but they have extra stuff as well. Remember, to find the treasure, you have to look for the “X” and dig. The best items I have found have been a small amount of an item tucked away. A name brand was changing its label, so they sold the products with the old label to the 99 Cents Only store. Once that stock was gone, it never came back. I got a dozen tubes of my favorite toothpaste that way. Saved about a hundred dollars that day.
- Follow the 99 cent only store on facebook, twitter, instagram and the Blog 99 for daily deals and ideas. While you’re at it, follow BargainBabe.com, too! Join us on our Facebook page, our Twitter feed, and you can find us on Pinterest.
- If you want bulk amounts of an item, don’t wipe out the shelf. (I’ve done that. They don’t like it.) Instead, see if you can order it online at Club99. If they don’t have what you want, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll-free at (877) 399-2368 to see if they can special order it for you. All orders are shipped to a 99 Cents Only store of your choice. There is no shipping charge. Minimum order is $47.99.
- Once you determine “your” 99 Cents Only dollar store, get to know the employees. Once they get to know you, they love to share great deals that just came in stock.
- 99 Cents Only stores get deliveries several times a week. Each store has a different schedule, so ask what the schedule is for the store you shop. Remember, the new merchandise does not go out onto the sale floor the day of delivery. It goes out the next day at about 5 a.m. A crew comes into the store in the middle of the night, unpacks the new merchandise, and puts it out on the floor. Therefore, the best time to shop is when the store opens in the morning.
Those are my smart shopping tips for dollar stores and particularly the 99 Cents Only store.