Family Dollar, Dollar Tree or Dollar General: Which One is Cheapest?

dollar store

My grandfather’s favorite place to shop was the dollar store.

Whenever I visited, we’d go on a field trip and he’d stock up on everything from over-the-counter meds to bananas.

Before accompanying him, I never realized the breadth of items available at the dollar store. I was amazed by all the things you could buy — for much less than at other retailers.

Ever since then, I’ve told myself I should start going to the dollar store, but I always forget. I still do the bulk of my shopping at the grocery store, Walmart or Amazon.

That is, until, I read this post about what to buy at the dollar store — and got all fired up.

Why wasn’t I shopping at the dollar store? I was wasting money!

But before I turned over my new bargain leaf, I had to figure out which one would become my go-to.

Spending too much at the grocery store? Here are our best tools and tricks to save money on groceries.

Of the three major dollar stores — Family Dollar, Dollar Tree and Dollar General — which is best?

And by best, let’s be honest: I mostly mean cheapest. To find out, I went on a mission and shopped at all three.

Here’s what I discovered…

What I Bought (and How Much It Cost)

I decided to compare prices for 10 staple items at each dollar store.

Here are the results:

1. Toilet Paper

  • Family Dollar: 12 rolls of Cottonelle = $6
  • Dollar Tree: One roll of generic = $1*
  • Dollar General: 12 rolls of Cottonelle = $6

*Since everything at Dollar Tree costs $1 or less, its items are often much smaller. In the totals at the end of the post, I account for size discrepancies.

2. Cleaning Spray

  • Family Dollar: 32-ounce bottle of Formula 409 All-Purpose Cleaner = $3
  • Dollar Tree: 22-ounce bottle of Spic and Span Antibacterial Cleaner = $1
  • Dollar General: 32-ounce bottle of Formula 409 All-Purpose Cleaner = $2.40

3. Body Wash

  • Family Dollar: 12-ounce bottle of Suave Essentials Body Wash = $2
  • Dollar Tree: 12-ounce bottle of White Rain Body Wash = $1
  • Dollar General: 12-ounce bottle of Suave Essentials Body Wash = $1.85

4. Canned Vegetables

  • Family Dollar: 14.5-ounce can of Libby’s green beans = 65 cents
  • Dollar Tree: 14.5-ounce can of generic green beans = 79 cents
  • Dollar General: 14.5-ounce can of Libby’s green beans = 65 cents

5. Pasta

  • Family Dollar: 16-ounce package = $1
  • Dollar Tree: 24-ounce package = $1
  • Dollar General: 16-ounce package = $1

6. Spices

  • Family Dollar: 1.25 ounces of Italian seasoning = $1
  • Dollar Tree: 1.23 ounces of Italian seasoning = $1
  • Dollar General: 0.75 ounces of Italian seasoning = $1 ($1.66 for 1.25 ounces)

7. Laundry Detergent

  • Family Dollar: 2.95 liters of Gain = $6
  • Dollar Tree: 0.306 liters of Tide = $1
  • Dollar General: 2.95 liters of Gain = $8.95

8. 13-Gallon Trash Bags

  • Family Dollar: 26 Glad bags = $5.50
  • Dollar Tree: 8 generic bags = $1
  • Dollar General: 26 Glad bags = $5.50

9. Coffee

  • Family Dollar: 30.65 ounces of Maxwell House = $6
  • Dollar Tree: 6 ounces of generic coffee = $1
  • Dollar General: 30.6 ounces of Maxwell House = $5.95

10. Cereal  

  • Family Dollar: 12 ounces of Cheerios = $3
  • Dollar Tree: 6.8 ounces of Tootie Fruities = $1
  • Dollar General: 12 ounces of Cheerios = $3

So, Which is the Best Dollar Store?

Now for the grand totals…

Here’s how much I spent at each store:

  • Family Dollar: $34.15
  • Dollar Tree: $36.53 (adjusted for size discrepancies)
  • Dollar General: $37.96

So, though the prices are fairly similar, it looks like Family Dollar is the winner!

It had brand-name items for a cheaper price than the other two stores. However, it was also the least friendly and most cluttered of the stores I visited. It might just have been that one location, but it’s worth noting.

Even though Dollar Tree came in second, I don’t think I’ll return. The items were generic and in such small containers you’d have to buy 10 tiny bottles of laundry detergent at a time.

Yes, mini everything is pretty cute — but it’s annoying to buy and store, and the extra packaging is wasteful.

Despite the fact Dollar General rang in as the most expensive, I’m not writing it off: Its store was clean and well-stocked, and also had the friendliest employees.

Lastly, I price-checked my shopping list at the two retailers I shop the most: Walmart and Amazon.

If I’d made the same purchases at these stores, here’s what I would’ve spent:

  • Walmart: $45.19
  • Amazon: $61.88

Wow. I can’t believe Amazon’s prices are 81% higher than the least-expensive dollar store — for the exact same items.

That’s not counting shipping, or the fact some of those prices are only available to Prime users. I don’t usually shop at Amazon for household goods, and after seeing these numbers, I’m definitely not going to start.

My grandpa’s gone now, but the more time that passes, the more I realize he was right about a lot of things: You should be nice to everyone, marry someone with the same views on money, dance to get your exercise…

And shop at the dollar store.

Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.