5 Surprising Facts You Didn’t Know About the Dollar Store

Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBy Meg Favreau

The dollar store is a great place to shop for deals … right? Well, sometimes. You might be surprised to learn that it’s not always the cheapest place to shop. Read on to learn more about unexpected dollar store facts.

1. A dollar store shopping spree can satisfy your shopping craving.

Thanks to the way our brains work, a dollar store shopping spree can satisfy our shopping craving even better than shopping at a more expensive store. “Dollar stores are a great option for shopping sprees because of the way the mind translates purchases into pleasures,” says Jeremy Shapiro, an adjunct professor at Case Western Reserve University’s Department of Psychological Sciences. “We get a little kick from each purchase we make, and the size of the purchase makes less difference than the number of buys.”

As he explains, we get more enjoyment from a bunch of small purchases than from one big buy. So the next time you want to splurge, try doing it by heading to the dollar store.

2. Not everything at the dollar store is cheaper.

Earlier this year, a Fox reporter in Idaho found that out of 10 items she bought at the Dollar Tree (DLTR), eight of them were actually cheaper at the local grocery store. One way to avoid this is to keep a running list of stores in your area that have the best prices for products you use regularly. That way, if you see a product you use for sale, you can quickly and easily know whether or not what you see is actually a good deal.

Another trick is to pay attention to sizes and the price per ounce — not the price overall. Often, dollar stores will sell smaller sizes of products, so the cost appears to be less, but if you look at the price per ounce, you might discover that it’s actually less expensive to buy a bigger size at another store.

3. You can get brand names at dollar stores.

If you haven’t been in a dollar store recently, you might be surprised — the shelves aren’t just stocked with off-brand Irish summer soap. Rather, many dollar stores have started carrying name-brand items. But be wary — these name-brand products are often the products that you can find cheaper at other stores.

4. Off-brand products could be just as good as the name brand.

Think that you’re above advertising and product packaging? Well, you probably aren’t. Shapiro says that even wine experts — people who make their living tasting differences between wines — are influenced by how products are presented. “Blind taste tests have found that both ordinary people and wine experts like what they drink much more when they see it poured from an impressive bottle than a cheap-looking container,” he says, “and something similar probably happens with the items we buy from different types of stores.”

If you’re shopping for food, cleaning supplies or health and beauty items, a quick way to see if you’re influenced by your perception of products is to compare the ingredients between a name-brand and generic product. If a name-brand and a generic glass cleaner have the same ingredients, for example, you should be good buying the cheaper generic.

5. A new dollar store opens every six hours.

Many people thought that after the Great Recession started to taper off, the popularity of dollar stores would taper as well. But they’re still going strong. In fact, according to the brokerage firm Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc., so many new dollar stores opened as of July, that it equaled a new store every six hours.

Meg Favreau is the senior editor for the personal finance blog Wise Bread, which features other money-saving articles.

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