The Dollar Tree and Why Size Matters

So what budget-minded frugal liver does not love the Dollar Tree and other Dollar stores of the world?  You know, those stores that sell everything for a single dollar or less?  Why wouldn’t a person striving for a practical frugal lifestyle make regular trips to the dollar store?  How can you not find a bargain on virtually every item sold by a dollar store?

Well, just as a dollar ain’t what it used to be, neither is a dollar sale.  The reason for this is that these dollar stores have perfected the art of downsizing.  In very subtle ways, they frequently manage to sell for one dollar a markedly smaller amount of product, which, on a unit basis, frequently costs the same as, or even more than, the full size version on sale for a few cents more elsewhere.

As an example, I was recently at the bottom of my latest can of shaving cream.  I visited a newly opened Dollar Tree and found the old reliable, Barbasol, on sale for, of course, a dollar a can.  It wasn’t a great buy, and I could tell that the can was more narrow than what I usually buy.  Still, it wasn’t worth it to me to drive to another store for perhaps a few cents in savings, so I bought it.  When I got home, I did the math and found that the Dollar Tree can held 7.5 ounces of lather, which comes to 13.3 cents per ounce.  By comparison, Target sells the standard 10 ounce can for $1.14, or a mere 11 cents per ounce.  Score one for Target.

Unfortunately, this was not an anomaly.  I notice that the Dollar Store also sells a store brand version of pop-tarts.  The Kellogg’s version is always substantially more at the grocery store, and even the grocery store brands sell for more than a dollar a box.  But, once again, looks are deceiving.  It turns out that the Dollar Tree box holds a mere six pastries, as compared to the eight found in the competitor boxes.

The same trick is played throughout the store, literally to the check-out line, where I find Dentyne Ice gum on sale at two packs for a dollar.  It sounds like a good deal, but only with a careful eye do you notice that each pack contains only nine pieces of gum.

Don’t get me wrong, I use these dollar stores, but I am careful about what I buy there.  I love to purchase personal cards, everything from birthday to sympathy cards, there, where you actually get two for a dollar.  Baby powder and other toiletries are usually wise buys.  The key is to remember one of our most basic rules of frugal living: to think it through.  Do not assume that you are getting a better buy merely because the product is priced at a dollar.  Check the package for content and go for the choice that provides the best buy per unit.

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One Response to The Dollar Tree and Why Size Matters

  1. Dollar Tree Daddy says:

    Totally in agreement on the Dollar Tree. Some things are great deals such as the paper gift bags, balloons and greeting cards. The soda, snacks and sponges are all a lot smaller than what we are used to buying, and we don’t realize the difference in size until we get home.

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