Secret Dollar Store Deals You'll Wish You Knew Sooner

Americans love a good bargain. We will go out of our way to stretch every dollar, so it's no surprise that dollar stores, liquidators, and online platforms promising rock-bottom prices are thriving. To get customers through the doors, some retailers use loss leaders, or deeply discounted items, knowing you'll pick up more than you came for once you grab a cart. Others use psychological pricing, prompting you to believe something is a good deal when it isn't. 

Dollar stores are known for substituting lower-quality or smaller-sized products to make us think we're saving when we aren't. However, it's still possible to find actual deals at dollar stores. "In general, dollar stores provide great value," Meaghan Brophy, a senior retail analyst specializing in dollar-store trends, told The Washington Post. "But as many items are custom-made in smaller sizes by manufacturers for dollar stores, shoppers need to compare the price against weight, length and size."

Different stores specialize in different things, but all leading dollar stores accept coupons

Dollar Tree's 35-year-long transformation from liquidated randomness to brand-name food staples and on-trend style means it has more relevant and useful products than ever. Even though a post-inflation $1.25 (plus tax) price tag now holds on everything in Dollar Tree, the retailer is brimming with secret deals in every department at rock-bottom rates.

Dollar Tree has a mix of everything and is comparable to a mini box store or pharmacy, with aisles divided into departments ranging from toys and decor to kitchen items and crafts. However, Dollar Tree also offers grocery, cleaning products, medicine, candy, and snacks. Dollar General and Family Dollar, in particular focus heavily on groceries. And if you're looking strictly for candy, toys, home decor, clothing, and electronics, some argue that while not technically a dollar store, Five Below eclipses Dollar Tree in shopper experience and quality (via Business Insider).

When you're putting together your shopping list, be sure to grab the Sunday paper or head to the most popular coupon websites to print off manufacturer coupons. Leading dollar stores — Dollar General, Family Dollar, and Dollar Tree — all take manufacturer coupons! Also, many dollar stores have scratch and dent clearance bins or tables where end-of-run or end-of-season items are discounted even further.

A $15 DIY Dollar Tree gift basket that dazzles

Stuffed holiday stockings, party favor bags, gift baskets, and care packages are begging to be assembled in the aisles of dollar discount stores. Pulling together a hostess gift or present for someone hard to buy for is a breeze with this $15 "movie night" gift basket from Dollar Tree. You'll be able to pull together classic favorites and unique elements, up-leveling your gift-giving effortlessly.

First, look for a large punchbowl. Then head to the candy and snack aisle for a box of Pop Secret microwave popcorn and three classic candies, like Dots and Good & Plenty, sold in those nostalgia-infused rectangle boxes that take us back to simpler times.

Because dollar stores buy liquidated items that you won't find anywhere else, you'll need to poke around in the grocery department next to see what secrets it may be hiding. Finally, pop over to party supplies and grab a pack of tissue paper, some on-point party napkins, and a Hallmark-brand card. If you want to really push the envelope, bumping your budget up to $17.50, you can pick up two pieces of glass stemware or two mugs for serving up drinks.

Make your wedding budget go further with deals on wedding staples

The key to hosting indulgent events lies in the tiniest details. While the bulk of your wedding budget should be used for quality food and drink, bursting bouquets, and dazzling dresses, you can rely on dollar stores to amplify the effect of luxury with touches that many brides overlook due to cost.

While you can go to more affordable spots for bulk candles, some dollar store candles in containers that can be reused, repurposed, or decorated and given as favors. Take, for example, Dollar Tree's mason jar candles. It's impossible to find lidded Mason jars alone at that price, and having a glass-contained candle is ideal for safety and cleanup if you're lining walkways, placing them at each place setting, or offering them with a ribbon or twine as a party favor.

Succulents and herbs are another popular wedding favor, and with multipacks of mini terra-cotta pots, you can make each place setting special. For a maximalist effect, forgo the slideshow and imagine a gallery wall full of photos showcasing the beautiful moments of your relationship. At Family Dollar and other dollar stores, you can pick up picture frames in so many styles and sizes. Be sure to add a multipack of easily removable wall-hanging hooks so the venue won't flip over dozens of nail holes.

Make a little artist or your inner artist swoon with craft supplies

Pinterest predicts that paper crafts are making a comeback, and there is nowhere better to pick up crafting supplies than dollar stores. For the beginning painter, crafter, or artist, Dollar Tree tends to beat the socks off of the big craft stores. Craft stores, even with their weekly coupons and membership points, can be prohibitively expensive. At Dollar Tree, you can find a number of Crayola products — the gold standard for children's art projects — like glitter and neon crayons, scented markers, washable paints, and colored pencils. Not only that, but Crayola's 24-count box of classic colors for $1.25 can't be beat unless you buy in bulk or happen to be shopping back-to-school sales.

When you're sketching out your next art project, outfitting a classroom, or encouraging a young crafter, always hit the dollar store first and save your specialty item purchases for the craft store.

Dollar stores excel in first aid and TSA-friendly travel essentials

When it's time to fill a quart-sized bag to get through airport security or keep things light for a weekend camping trip, dollar stores have you covered with travel-sized pharmacy and toiletry products that are all perfectly portable. Medications come in low-count, single-use packaging, like these Tylenol Go Packs. Good Housekeeping specifically recommends buying several first aid essentials at dollar stores, including Advil, bandages, and cotton swabs. 

You can find plenty of single and small-volume goodies, like Blistex medicated lip balm, antibiotic ointment, and other first aid products — all of which can be dropped into an adorable pencil pouch for stylish storage. When setting your children up for going back to school, pick up mini packs of tissue and small bottles of hand sanitizer to add to their backpacks — and maybe send a couple extra as a much-appreciated surprise for your child's teacher.

Bring up baby on a budget

If there is one universal truth among all parents it is that children are expensive — even before they're born! Many people trying for a baby are already paying close attention to ovulation indicators, PMS symptoms, and period timing. When evidence presents itself that a pregnancy test may be in order, finding out right away is a top priority.

Thankfully, dollar stores sell affordable, accurate, and sensitive pregnancy tests so women can test more frequently without feeling anxiety or pressure to wait until payday. As gynecologist Alyssa Dweck confirmed to Self, "Generic brands definitely work." Additionally, because over-the-counter pregnancy tests are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, even dollar store tests must meet the standards for accuracy in order to be sold at all (via Healthline). 

When it comes to diaper pricing wars, parents can prepare by bookmarking Groupon's handy weekly diaper pricing guide and cross-checking the per-unit price at Dollar General, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, or other dollar stores. Keep in mind that manufacturer's coupons are accepted at most dollar stores, but the coupons must meet the exact requirements of the stock in terms of package size and diaper count. 

Aspiring plant moms must head to the dollar store for these essential deals

If you have a plant collection, you've probably become familiar with the sky-high prices most retailers ask for pots and baskets. Of course, that's not the case everywhere. In the spring, Dollar Tree offers a mind-blowing array of gardening supplies, from 11" hanging pots, stylish 10" planters, coconut basket liners, and a version of the classic IKEA watering can at half the IKEA price. 

If you're just getting into tending plant babies, make sure to pick up a set of vinyl-lined gloves to keep your nails clean, a pair of scissors dedicated to your greenery, small plastic bowls for catching water underneath plants, and a roll of brown paper to cover your repotting surface. In the craft aisle, you can find a small spool of twine and a set of wooden dowels to allow you to train plants and offer growth support. 

Tailgate parties done up by dollar stores will have fans buzzing

Dollar stores' selection of paper and plastic party serveware is perfect for all sorts of parties. It's time to look beyond birthdays and deliver a tailgate party setup that will have fans cheering. From plates to balloons to napkins, you can immerse fans in spirit. Grab extra 84" diameter round tablecloths to cover wet stadium seats or turn into makeshift ponchos in case of foul weather.

Make your snack smorgasbord buzzworthy by seeking out for Dollar Tree's outrageous flavor selections, like dill pickle sunflower seeds, salt and vinegar peanuts, and taco-supreme flavored snack mixes. Before you check out, be sure to grab items from the expansive catering supply department for a great presentation paired with easy cleanup.

Grab low-priced hot dogs, buns, condiments, chips, and drinks from either Dollar General or Family Dollar and, to really dazzle guests, drop into Five Below to search out inexpensive blankets, hats, scarves, and gloves to match.

Transform your home with dollar store decor

When you don't want to invest a lot in a new home trend, scour the shelves of dollar stores. Dollar Tree has numerous items that can be used as shelf filler and wall hangings. With a little paint, you can also transform dollar-store items into the home decor of your dreams (via Home BNC).

Sarah Jones, an interior designer at NY Furniture Outlets, told Insider that she recommends the hexagonal shelves from Dollar Tree. "Their geometrical shape will bring to your room modern minimalistic vibes," she said. John Linden, the lead designer at MirrorCoop, told the publication that he's a fan of Dollar Tree's metal vase with rope accent. "They'll look perfect in your garden, on your porch, or even on the hardwood floors of your living room," he revealed. "No need to make DIY versions when you can pick 'em up for a buck." For the candle-lovers out there, you can also find plenty of bargain candles to provide a magical warm glow and pleasant scent to your home. And when it comes to decorating for the holidays, know that dollar stores often offer expansive selections of holiday items for most major celebrations.

Dinner deals that are both family-friendly and budget-friendly

You might associate dollar stores with places to buy candy and snacks, but crafting a week of healthy meals using healthy, brand-name products is possible using dollar store ingredients. It's possible to put dinner on the table for a family of four for under $8 a day, depending on the items you purchase at your local dollar store. For those looking for meal ideas, check out TikToker @DollarTreeDinners, who routinely shares videos of budget-friendly meals purchased with ingredients from Dollar Tree.

Overall prices of beans, pasta, and rice tend to hold steady across retailers, while the real food deals are often found in brand name goods at stores like Dollar Tree. For example, you can purchase Idahoan Original Mashed PotatoesRoTel Original Diced Tomatoes and Chiles, a wide array of Hunts Premium pasta sauces, tomato products, and ketchup at Dollar Tree for $1.25 each. Dollar Tree also carries almond milk, coconut oil, and whole-grain oats, proving that healthy food can be had at a bargain. Additionally, Good Housekeeping recommends buying spices at dollar stores to add flavor to your dishes at a nominal cost.