No Bang For Your Buck: Dollar Store Items That Aren’t Worth Buying

Dollar stores can be an excellent resource for someone living on a budget, but just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. If you get ten items that don’t work, then that’s ten dollars you just spent for no reason. Whether it’s ineffective electronics, irritating skin and hair products, or hazardous food and kitchen items, there are plenty of examples of things that prove you get what you pay for. Read on for items that aren’t worth buying at the dollar store.

Low-Quality Headphones Can Ruin The Sound

Ian Waldie/Getty Images
Ian Waldie/Getty Images

Headphones are one of the easiest items to discern in terms of quality because you can hear the difference right away. While some headphones are overpriced due to the brand, there is a certain amount that’s worth paying for the quality.

Cheap headphones or earbuds can sound crackly, muffled, or have a poor connection to your device. The result can be difficulty hearing or, worse, pain in the ears from the unpleasant static and inconsistent connection.

Dollar Store Batteries May Drain More Quickly

Nail FattakhovTASS via Getty Images
Nail FattakhovTASS via Getty Images

Batteries are one of those items that seem logical to buy cheap, but don’t let that assumption deceive you. Batteries do expire over time, and ones at the dollar store are likely to be inexpensive because they are old.

The longer a battery sits, the less energy it has. That means those dollar batteries may run out before a more expensive pack will. Plus, they may be made with an outdated formula that isn’t as effective as more modern ones.

Cheaply-Made Toys Can Be Hazardous

toys
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William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Toys can become the bane of parents’ finances since they are so expensive and only keep a child entertained for a few years at best. Still, it’s not worth going dollar store cheap on toys because they likely won’t last more than a few months.

Especially since kids can get a little rough with their play items, cheaper toys are likely to break and can potentially become choking hazards. Dangers aside, you don’t want to have a little one crying because the toy they just got is already broken.

Dollar Store Hand Sanitizer Can Contain Harmful Methanol

LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images
LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images

When it comes to hand sanitizer, it’s worth paying an extra dollar or two to know that the ingredients can be trusted. The FDA reports that some of the Dollar Tree brands contain methanol, a toxic chemical that can be harmful when absorbed through the skin.

As a result, some of these products have been recalled. You want your hand sanitizer to be tough on germs, not tough on you. Pay attention to ingredients and stick with the more reputable brands.

Inexpensive Pet Food Can Have Low-Grade Ingredients

John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images
John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

You don’t have to feed your pet steak tartar but you still want them to have a good diet. Even if you’re shopping on a budget, dollar store pet food isn’t worth the vet bill that can come out of a bad batch of kibble.

Many pets take a longer time adapting to different foods than humans do, so you don’t want to throw them a curveball with low-grade ingredients. Plus, pet food at the dollar store is more likely to be expired, so at the very least, check the dates!

Thin Trash Bags Will Burst Mid-Carry

Tannis Toohey/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Tannis Toohey/Toronto Star via Getty Images

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of having a plastic bag full of garbage break on the way to the dumpster, then you already know what we’re about to say. Saving a couple of bucks is not worth the mess you’ll end up cleaning.

Especially if it’s going to be for heavier items, like drawer objects during a move or a big pile of donation clothes, opt for quality plastic bags. Plus, if you have to double-bag it, you’re going to run out twice as fast.

Poor Quality Makeup Can Be Harsh On Skin

Lars Niki/Corbis via Getty Images
Lars Niki/Corbis via Getty Images

When you put on makeup, you already run the risk of clogging your pores or irritating your skin and eyes, even with a quality brand. Going with the cheap stuff greatly increases the likelihood that something will cause a reaction.

Often, inexpensive makeup is less pigmented or doesn’t go on as easily, causing you to use more of it at once. Plus, dollar store makeup can be expired, meaning it may already be dried out or broken the minute you open it.

Dollar Store Light Bulbs Will Cost More In The Long Run

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Light bulbs from the dollar store may seem like a steal, but they’ll rack you up a higher bill in the long run. Cheaper lightbulbs typically use more electricity and don’t last as long. To top it off, they produce more heat, which you’ll have to balance out with more fans or AC in the summertime.

LED lightbulbs may be pricey, but their energy efficiency makes them worth it. There are also CFL lightbulbs that are not as efficient but still heaps better than the incandescent bulbs you’ll find at the dollar store.

Cheap Tools Won’t Get Many Uses

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As with children’s toys, tools that were inexpensive to buy were probably cheap to build. Since tools need to be able to handle lots of wear and tear, the last thing you want is one that can barely perform a task without snapping in half.

Even if its something you’ll only need to use on occasion, it’s still worth getting an item that will last. Buying a new measuring tape every few months will cost more than buying a quality one once.

Inexpensive Plugs Can Be A Fire Hazard

DIY Photolibrary/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images
DIY Photolibrary/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

If you’re in need of an extension cord or any type of plug, be wary of the inexpensive brands. Especially if it’s for something that requires a lot of energy, like computers, you want to make sure that it has an approval logo somewhere on the packaging.

Cords hold tons of tiny wires in them that can become damaged due to the wear and tear of everyday life. Inexpensive ones are not only more likely to break, but can become a fire hazard if something goes wrong.

Some Plastic Kitchen Utensils Contain Questionable Chemicals

MikesPhotos/Pixabay
MikesPhotos/Pixabay

When it comes to anything you put in or near your food, you want to be sure it doesn’t contain anything harmful. Unfortunately, certain plastic kitchen utensils contain questionable chemicals that may not be the best for you.

Though you don’t eat your plastic serving spoons, you do use them to mix hot liquids. The heat can cause chemicals in the plastic to release into the food. That’s why it’s important to opt for quality kitchen items that are proven to be nontoxic.

Thin Oven Mitts Offer Less Protection

Bruno/Germany/Pixabay
Bruno/Germany/Pixabay

While we would like to say that dollar store oven mitts are just as protective as any, the reality is that they are cheaper to make for a reason. The fewer materials that go into the mitts, the less of a barrier that exists between your skin and the searing hot pan.

Plus, cheaper oven mitts are more likely to become worn out over a short amount of time. Instead, opt for something more durable that’s been marked down.

Inexpensive Shampoo Can Be Harsh Or Watered Down

CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images
CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images

If you’re someone who doesn’t dye or heat style your hair, you may be thinking that the most basic shampoo and conditioner will get the job done. In reality, the cheap stuff can be harsh on your scalp and dry out your hair.

Best case scenario, you won’t see any negative consequences of cheaper shampoo and conditioner, but will have to use more of it because it’s so watered down. At the end of the day, you’ll get more bang for your buck sticking with a quality brand.

Cheap Toilet Paper Can Be Irritating

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

When it comes to toilet paper, you don’t want anything that’s going to be abrasive. The dollar store offers the cheap brands that not only feel tough compared to pricier alternatives, but are also incredibly thin.

By the time you layer up enough toilet paper to get the job done, you’ll have gone through more sheets than you would with a better-quality version. If you still want to save a little, keep an eye out for coupons and buy in bulk.

Knockoff Pens Can Leak Or Dry Out

Fredrik von Erichsen/picture alliance via Getty Images
Fredrik von Erichsen/picture alliance via Getty Images

Pens are one of those things that many of us just can’t have enough of. But wouldn’t life be easier without a junk drawer full of pens that are missing caps and don’t even write anymore?

That’s exactly what you’re signing up for when you buy a pack of dollar store pens. They’re fine for playing party games, but in the long run, they’ll likely dry out, leak, break, or otherwise be an uncomfortable pain to write with.

Cheap Gift Wrap Will Tear Easily

Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images
Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images

We know what you’re thinking: isn’t the point to tear gift wrap? Yes, but you want the gift wrap to at least stay put together while you’re wrapping the gift! Dollar store gift wrap is made so thin that you’ll likely end up with a patchwork wrapping job that looks like a small child did it.

If you’re going to get wrapping supplies from the dollar store, opt for their gift bags instead. Just be sure that the present isn’t too heavy or it may fall through the bottom.

Deodorant May Be Less Of A Value For The Size You Get

BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Deodorant isn’t exactly something you want to skimp out on in terms of quality. Brands that you find at a dollar store may be more likely to clump up, mark clothes, or wear off.

If you’re still convinced that the brand is worth it, then check the price at the grocery or drug store first. Often, the tiny dollar store deodorants are a comparable price per volume to the larger ones at other stores, and those ones will last longer.

Cheap Chargers May Not Work Well On Newer Products

Xinhua/ via Getty Images
Xinhua/ via Getty Images

Nowadays, electronics have become such a common household item that USB chargers are practically as disposable as rubber bands. Even so, it may be worth spending a few extra dollars on a quality one.

For older devices, a dollar store charger will work fine because the electronic won’t require as much energy. But for smartphones and other modern electronics, be prepared to see the words “slow charging” come up on your screen if you use a dollar store USB.

HDMI Cables From The Dollar Store Won’t Likely Last For Long

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

As with USB chargers, HDMI cables are commonplace in many households due to the widespread use of electronics. These cables are often needed to perform tasks with televisions, DVD players, laptops, cameras, game consoles, and more.

Since they have so many uses, it may be tempting to buy a bunch of them from the dollar store. However, these cheaply built cables are more likely to break. You’re better off ordering one that’s on sale from an electronics store.

Dollar Store Canned Goods May Contain Harmful Chemicals

Dollar-Tree
Pinterest
Pinterest

If there’s one thing that you can bet will be inexpensive at virtually any store, it’s canned goods. Since you can get your dollar green beans from the grocery store, it’s not worth stocking up on them at the dollar store.

The difference is that grocery stores typically carry well-established brands that are more closely screened for harmful chemicals. With dollar store canned goods, there’s a higher risk they’ll include something questionable. Researchers have already found BPA in the linings of Dollar Tree canned food.

Skin Care Products May Be More Likely To Cause A Reaction

Anastasiia Ostapovych/Unsplash
Anastasiia Ostapovych/Unsplash

There are multiple reasons why dollar store skincare products aren’t worth buying. For one, they are often made with harsh chemicals that can dry out and irritate the skin, or worse, lead to an allergic reaction.

Additionally, some dollar stores aren’t certified to sell some of the brands they carry, meaning they are counterfeit and may not be the real thing. Finally, a small skin care product may not even be a good deal once you consider the price per volume.

Dollar Store Steak Is Small And Doesn’t Taste Good

steak
Crazy4Lookin/YouTube
Crazy4Lookin/YouTube

Being that steak is one of the more expensive food items you get at the grocery store, it may be tempting to try out one from the dollar store. Once you take into account how poor the size and quality is, you’ll be running to get a $20 pound of quality red meat.

For starters, the dollar steak is only 3.5 ounces, 30% of which is water and seasoning solution. The approximately 2.5 ounces that is actual meat has a taste and texture that will have you thinking otherwise.

School Supplies Can Have Hazardous Chemicals

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Though you might expect something that you eat or put on your skin to have potential health risks, you probably don’t think twice about school supplies impacting your wellbeing.

Yet, a 2015 report from the Ecology Center found that certain dollar store kid backpacks and pencil cases had elevated levels of at least one hazardous chemical. Just think of that new pencil case smell from childhood and you’ll realize how easy it is to inhale those chemicals.

Dollar Windshield Washer Fluid Can’t Stand Up To Cold Climates

Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Getting a gallon of anything for a buck seems like a steal, but that isn’t the case if the product doesn’t work. If you look closely at the windshield washer fluid labels at the dollar store, you’ll see that they are rendered ineffective in cold climates.

So during snowy seasons when you most need a clear windshield, you’re out of luck. For just two dollars, you can get a brand that works in temperatures several degrees below zero. The choice is obvious.

Gum Costs About The Same Everywhere

Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Getting a pack of gum for a dollar may seem like a bargain, but you’re also getting less pieces per pack. If you do the math, you’ll realize that the price of gum per stick is close to the same wherever you go.

The manufacturer’s suggested price comes out to 7 cents per stick, whereas the dollar store is about 5 cents a piece, and Costco bulk packs break down to about 4 cents per piece. So, unless you chew a TON of gum, it won’t make an impact on your wallet.

Soda May Be More Expensive Per Milliliter

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Getting a bottle of soda for a dollar may be a steal compared to vending machine prices, but for a store price it may be a little costly depending on the size. If you compare milliliters, you may find that getting a larger bottle at the grocery store is cheaper.

For instance, a 2-liter bottle of soda from a grocery store is typically less than $2. If you’re getting a bottle of soda that’s 20 ounces or less, that’s a quarter the liquid.

Cheap Snacks Can Be Full Of Empty Calories

Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Snacks that last for years on the shelves are sure to come with a laundry list of ingredients you’ve never heard of. If you look at the labels for dollar tree cookies, crackers, and other pantry items, you’ll realize how low quality these items are.

Between the heaps of sodium, sugar, preservatives, and questionable food dyes, these snacks are likely to do more harm than good. At the very least, they’ll be low in nutrients and thus full of empty calories.

Chips And Cereals Might Not Be Filled

Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Low-quality chips and cereal are generally no more than a few dollars, anyway. To knock that price down to a mere dollar, manufacturers will sometimes fill their boxes with less product to cut down on costs.

As with many items on this list, pay close attention to the amount you’re getting. If it’s only a dollar or two of savings and the product is considerably smaller, you may be paying the same or more per volume for an inferior product.

Dollar Store Baby Items Aren’t Worth The Risk

Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Dollar store baby gripe water was recalled in 2019, along with baby cough syrup. Though recalls of various items and brands do happen, they are more likely to occur with cheap products because they contain inexpensive ingredients from less established manufacturers.

Since babies are incredibly fragile, it isn’t worth running the risk, especially when it comes to products they ingest. If you must shop for dollar store baby items, stick with ones that are less likely to be hazardous, like bibs, rags, and socks.

Cheaper Vitamins May Be Less Effective

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

When it comes to vitamins, prices are all over the place. While it may not be worth buying a $100 bottle of multivitamins, a $1 version may be just as much of a ripoff if it isn’t actually benefiting your body.

Consumer Reports found that dollar store multivitamins didn’t always contain the full amount of ingredients listed. It’s worth paying a little extra to get the full extent of what you paid for, especially since your body may not absorb it all.

Dollar Store Wedding Decor Won’t Look Or Function Right

GEORGES GOBET/AFP via Getty Images
GEORGES GOBET/AFP via Getty Images

Weddings can be so incredibly expensive that it’s understandable that the bride and groom would be looking to cut corners. Still, dollar store wedding decor is so poor in quality that it’s worth opting for something a little more impressive.

The plastic cutlery may look decent, but it won’t function very well. Decorations are made with such cheap materials that they may stand out in the wedding photos, especially if they are chipped or broken. You’re better off hunting for sale items and being as minimalist as possible.

Tupperware May Contain Unwanted Chemicals

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Lisa Ducret/picture alliance via Getty Images
Lisa Ducret/picture alliance via Getty Images

As with kitchen utensils, inexpensive food containers may not be worth the risk. The plastic containers can come with chemicals that leak into your food, especially if you pop them in the microwave.

On the bright side, plastic containers that aren’t for food don’t pose as much of a risk since you don’t ingest the items they hold. Opt for dollar store storage containers that are for items like clothing or papers, not food and beverage.

Baking Soda May Be Cheaper Elsewhere

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for ARM & HAMMER
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for ARM & HAMMER

Since everything at the dollar store is only a buck, you may be under the impression that every item is being sold at a higher price elsewhere. One exception is baking soda, which many retailers sell for less than a dollar.

If you happen to be shopping at the dollar store and need baking soda, you’re only going to lose a few cents at most. However, it certainly isn’t worth going to the dollar store specifically for baking soda.