Refusing to Shop from the Dollar Bin

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by on August 5, 2010

Thanks to Charlie from Three Thrifty Guys with some great advice on the elusive dollar bins!

charlie_image1 I hate the dollar bin! I don’t like to use the word hate too often, but to me the dollar bin at Walmart, Target, or any other department store is big culprit of our increasing landfills. In the disposable economy we live in it seems that dollar bin purchases are the norm and are becoming increasing popular. They are the quick fix to a “sudden need” or realization that “oh, I need a pair of gardening gloves” or “my son/daughter needs a new plastic toy made from China”.

Does it ever seem strange that when you go into a store with a list that you never have any dollar bin items on your list, but strangely you walk away with 2 or 3 items from it? It’s the store’s way of tempting you as soon as you get in the door on something you supposedly need. Like Aaron’s (a ThreeThriftyGuy) Grandma talked about in her interview… “stop going to the store to buy stuff.”

Despite my strong opinion, I thought it might be good to lay out some positive, negatives and alternatives for many of the Saving Cents with Sense readers.


  • Cheap
  • Disposable – low buy in costs means that it’s easily replaceable
  • Quick solution or fix
  • New toys for kids (helps excite them about something new)


  • Cheap
  • Doesn’t last long
  • Made in China (typically not made in America)
  • Doesn’t support American made products
  • Usually breaks within a few weeks
  • Ends up in our land fill within a few years
  • Adds to the clutter in our home – something I strive not to do (tips to unclutter)


  • Craigslist – see if you can find a slightly used version of what you are looking for
  • Ebay
  • Antique store – I love going to antique stores and finding older products that are used and can be easily repair that will last for years. Strange thing is most of these products we produced in America years ago. Hmm…coincidence?
  • Repair old items – like Jacob from EarlyRetirementExtreme wrote in his interview – “Don’t look to Walmart for your solution.” By trying to repair items you’ll help out our landfills and learn a thing or two about being thrifty with existing items

I hope by logically laying out differing points of view that this will give you some ways to be thrifty, reuse products and help out our landfills at the same time.

Are you a sucker for the dollar bin?

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  • Kim N

    I kind of agree with you here so the only thing I really buy from the dollar bins are the pre-k thru 3rd grade activity books and the learning flashcards.

  • Megan

    I do agree that the dollar bins are a trap but for us, the dollar bins have been an occasional life saver. With my in laws living in Phoenix and us living in PA, we end up traveling at least twice a year with two little ones, we have scored some nice puzzles and activity books for only a dollar each which means if there is a tragic end to them in an airport or on the plane or if in the rush to get off the plane or on the plane we leave them we don’t have to worry about leaving our good toys or a favorite toy behind. yet as it turns out the $3 we spent on airplane toys a year ago have lasted us 3 trips and are still here and good. I also picked up a foam clock for my 3 year old who was having a hard time with bed time, now she helps us ‘set’ her foam clock for her bed time and when the clock on the wall matches her foam clock she knows it is bed time and has saved us a few tantrums. But on the whole, unless you needed the item anyway, you shouldn’t go home with it!

  • Okay, I’ll admit to liking Target’s dollar section, and dollar stores, though I tend to only buy items I would have been willing to pay more for anyway. A lot of items come from the same Chinese factory, and end up in dollar spots and in the normal section of a store under different labels and different prices — some even show up as premium items. This is something I noticed when dealing with wholesale websites in the course of my job.

    If there’s something I need, and it’s not possible to source a non-Chinese version, I’d rather improvise until I can find it cheaply, rather than buying it now, and paying more for it. I’ve also found items in dollar stores that I was unable to find elsewhere, like an insulated sleeve that fit my son’s water bottle. That said, I try to be careful with impulse purchases, unless there’s a specific need they meet. Finding a bunch of items to use for an upcoming birthday’s loot bags was great, but buying a ton of rubber ducks and lip balms normally would have just been a waste of storage space and money, no matter how cheap they were.

  • Well, for some things I do like the dollar bins but for a quick fix I do not. I teach a class of 3-5th grade girls at church on Wednesday nights and I do buy little pads of paper and things of that nature that the girls would like and use those as Birthday presents and/or prizes. It does save some money. However, if I prepare enough I can purchase a variety of items like this for cheaper than $1 each. Thanks for your feedback and suggestions, Melissa and other readers!! :)

  • I agree, most of the stuff in the dollar bins are just junk that nobody needs.
    .-= Susan C´s last blog ..My new grandson! =-.

  • Mya

    I LOVE the Dollar Bin and I will continue to shop there. I buy things I need, like stuff for party favors or little toys for the kids if they have been good on the shopping trip. The board books, crayons, and wooden toys we have bought from there have lasted for years, so I don’t agree with the statement that they are cheap and fall apart soon. You just have to be selective in what you buy. And whose to say that “nobody needs that stuff?” We all have different needs and it is up to the buyer to demonstrate self-control and not impulse buy, Target doesn’t force you to buy from the dollar bin. And for little cheap board books, coloring books, teacher supplies, etc, it is a lot easier in my busy schedule to shop there instead of going on Craigslist and Ebay. (Not to mention the wait for the items to be delivered or me making an extra trip to pick up the item). I will use Craigslist and Ebay for some larger items that I need use, but the Dollar Bins serve the purpose for me. Like I said, I like it, I am selective about what I buy there, and it serves my purposes.

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