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.
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.
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
- Family Dollar: 16-ounce package = $1
- Dollar Tree: 24-ounce package = $1
- Dollar General: 16-ounce package = $1
- 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
- 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
- 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.
Your Turn: Do you frequent the dollar store? Which one is your favorite?
Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.