Items in dollar stores rarely cost $1 anymore, but that hasn’t stopped people from flocking to these discount meccas. As Americans continue to grapple with high living costs — particularly when it comes to food shopping — sales at the likes of Dollar Tree, Dollar General, and Family Dollar are booming.
Whether you’re a recent convert or an old hand at dollar store shopping, here are some little-known tricks that could help you save even more. Every extra dollar in your bank account is a dollar you can spend on meeting other financial goals.
1. You can use cash back apps
Cash back apps work in different ways, but a number of them will work in dollar stores. This is especially true for those that allow you to scan your receipts after you’ve been to the store. These apps let you earn money or points on your shopping and often also have bonus offers on specific products. Pay attention to the product sizes, as dollar store products may not fit the offer requirements.
Dollar General recently announced it had teamed up with Ibotta to create a new DG Cash Back Program. Sign up online or download the app to get extra savings and special deals when you shop at Dollar General.
2. You can use coupons…sometimes
Watch out for store-specific coupons as these can be a great way to snag the best bargains. Most dollar stores also accept manufacturer and other coupons, though there may be restrictions about how you can use them. For example, the Krazy Coupon Lady says you have to print online coupons to use them at Dollar General.
Check the fine print. As with cash back apps, the different-sized packaging in dollar stores can mean some coupons aren’t valid. For example, if a coupon is only valid for a 52-fluid-ounce bottle of juice, you won’t be able to redeem it on other sizes. You may also find there are limits on how many coupons you can use on any one day.
Dollar stores are not always the cheapest option, especially not if you can bulk buy. The trick is to combine your dollar store shopping with regular stores and know where to get the best value for the things you buy frequently. Work out the cost per ounce and use your cellphone to check prices, even when you’re in the store. Every home is different, so try to find a system that works for you.
For example, I go once a month to a high-end grocery store to buy cheese, tea, and a couple of other items I can’t get anywhere else. I buy cleaning products, snacks, spices, household items, and office supplies at a nearby dollar store. Fresh produce is usually better quality and better value from the fruit and vegetable shop. And I get most of my other groceries online. That way I can find the lowest prices without trailing around too many stores.
4. You can snag bigger savings on sale days
Watch out for clearance days at your local dollar store. For example, Dollar General has regular clearance sales where you can save as much as 50% or more. Watch out for sale alerts online. It’s also worth signing up to your favorite dollar store’s membership club so you’re the first to hear about events and discounts. Dollar Tree has a Value Seekers Club and Dollar General has myDG.
5. You can use your SNAP food benefits in dollar stores
SNAP food benefits are designed to help low-income families access nutritious food. The benefits are usually paid onto an EBT card, which can then be used in stores — including dollar stores — to pay for certain items. Wherever you shop, there are restrictions on what you can buy using SNAP dollars. For example, you can’t use your food benefits to buy hot food, pet food, cleaning supplies, or pharmacy items.
6. You’re never far from a dollar store
It’s fair to say that dollar stores have multiplied like rabbits in recent years. One report from the Institute for Local Self Reliance found that nearly half the new stores that opened in the U.S. in 2021 were dollar stores. And, 75% of Americans live within five miles of a Dollar General, according to its website. That makes it easier to combine a dollar store stop with the rest of your grocery shopping.
A word of caution
There are many ways to save money by shopping in dollar stores, but don’t get too carried away. Items in dollar stores are not always cheaper, especially if you look at the price per ounce. It’s also important to check sell-by dates and make sure the packaging isn’t damaged. All the same, if you can incorporate dollar store shopping into your grocery habits and you may well find your monthly grocery budget will stretch a little further.
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