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The 5 Worst Things to Buy at Dollar General

Experts say the discount chain isn't the best option for all of your shopping needs.

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Dollar General can be a quick and convenient shopping resource for those shopping on a budget. The retailer stocks everything from groceries to household essentials, making it possible to get many of the items you need all in one place. But while it can be easy to keep filling your cart, experts say there are a few products that you might be better off purchasing elsewhere. Read on for the worst things to buy at Dollar General.

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Over-the-counter medicines

Sick ill man looking for medicines at pharmacy shelf

Whether you're battling seasonal allergies or need something to take care of aches and pains, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can be a massive help in managing symptoms. But according to Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with, you might end up spending far more shopping at Dollar General than if you were to shop at a warehouse club or even big box stores like Walmart—especially if you purchase name brands.

"For example, Dollar General has a 30-day supply of Zyrtec for around $21, but at Walmart, you can get the same thing for $19.97," she explains. "This might not seem like huge savings, but big box stores also offer bigger sizes, so you could opt for a 90-day supply of Zyrtec at Walmart for $42.47—which is even better than the 30-day supply—working out to about $14.16 per month, in that case."

Kitchenware and dining items

dollar general shopping cart

Even if you're not a great home chef, having decent cookware at hand can make a huge difference in the experience. And according to experts, picking up bargain kitchenware or other dining items at Dollar General can wind up ultimately blowing out your budget.

"Not only are these things that consumers need and use daily, but if they need to be replaced, then the actual cost can skyrocket to two or three times the sticker value over time," says Marie Clark, editor of shopping and retail site CostContessa. "Consumers are better off paying for kitchen gadgets or tools or pans that will last longer." Instead, she suggests checking Ikea, Walmart, or Target for better quality options that "only cost a small amount more."

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Broken makeup

Cosmetics can be tricky to work into your budget if you're watching what you spend. But if you're concerned with getting the best deal out there, the dollar store likely isn't your best option.

"You can find name-brand products at Dollar General, which is great, but the price usually isn't the best," says Ramhold. "For instance, Maybelline Cheek Heat gel-cream blush at Dollar General goes for around $7.25, but at Walmart, you can find more colors, and it comes in at just $5.98. Another example is Covergirl Lash Blast Mascara, which at Dollar General is about $10.75 for a tube—but at Walmart, you can pick up a 2-pack of this product for $13.56."

That's why it's best not to assume the bargain will still be the answer to your makeup needs. "Even if you find cosmetics you like, it's still better to shop around because big box stores will generally have them at better prices," she advises.

Boxed side dishes

dollar general store
Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

While they may not have much in the way of fresh food in most of their stores, Dollar General does provide plenty of grocery products that can help make stocking up on certain kitchen staples more affordable. However, Ramhold tells Best Life that while items like macaroni and cheese and other shelf-stable items may be easy to find there, you can get them much cheaper shopping elsewhere.

"For example, Velveeta Shells & Cheese is about $4 for a 12-ounce box at Dollar General, but at Walmart, the same thing is $3.43," she points out. "The same goes for things like Kraft macaroni and cheese, too: A 4-pack of individual serving cups sell for $5.35 at Dollar General, but $4.92 at Walmart. And the standard boxes of Kraft dinner go for $1.35 at Dollar General, but they're only $1 at Walmart."

Ramhold says that while the prices might not seem vastly different, they can add up over time depending on how much you purchase them. "And it's not just mac and cheese, either: Products like Hamburger Helper are much cheaper at stores like Walmart compared to Dollar General," she adds.

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Gift cards

customers walking out of dollar general
Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock

Gift cards can make for a great stocking stuffer or last-minute present in a pinch. But just because you see them for sale at the dollar store doesn't mean you should add them to your cart at checkout.

"Shopping gift cards at Dollar General means paying face value, but if you shop at warehouse clubs, you can save anywhere from $15 to $50 off the face value of gift cards," Ramhold explains. "And even by shopping at stores like Target, you can save 5 percent on products by using your RedCard to pay for them."

Ramhold adds that there are also plenty of discount sites online where you can shop for gift cards as well. "Don't pay face value for these items unless you have no choice," she warns.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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