Dollar store deals and duds: Are you getting your money's worth?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Do you ever stop before buying a product in a store and wonder: Could I get a better deal somewhere else?

We're doing the work for you -- comparing some of the cheapest prices in town.

Our mission: to find out if you're really getting your money's worth when you shop at the dollar store, or is it more cost-effective to wade through prices at the warehouse clubs?

We walked the aisles of warehouse store Sam's Club and a local Dollar Tree, where everything is advertised to cost only a dollar.

We found both were winners -- depending on the products.

Here are our price comparisons for some commonly used products:

Nestle Pure Life Bottled Water
Dollar Tree: 50.72 fl. oz. for $1
Sam's Club: 50.72 fl. oz. for about $0.34
(Note: Both stores sell cheaper water; we compared the only brand sold in both stores.)

Dollar Tree: 50.72 fl. oz. for $1
Sam's Club: 50.72 fl. oz. (4 1/4 cans) for $1.12

Store Brand 2-Ply Toilette Paper
Dollar Tree: $0.25 per roll, 175 sheets per roll
Sam's Club: $0.37 per roll, 190 sheets per roll

Store Brand Paper Towel Roll
Dollar Tree: $1.00, 56 sheets per roll
Sam's Club: $1.25, 154 sheets per roll

Colgate Toothpaste
Dollar Tree: 4 oz. for $1
Sam's Club: 7.8 oz. for $2.72

Store Brand Zipper Sandwich Bags
Dollar Tree: 50 for $1
Sam's Club: 500 for $9.48

"You have to be very selective in what you buy at the warehouse club," Josh Elledge said.

The nationally-syndicated consumer expert has made it his mission for the past seven years to find consumers the best deals when they shop.

The overall assessment -- he said don't be fooled by buying in bulk.

"Per unit pricing, over the past number of years we've studied the issue in depth," Elledge said. "There are very few bargains to be had at the warehouse club."

We asked Elledge where the best deals were, thinking many were at the dollar store.

Elledge lives in central Florida but travels the country -- sharing all he's studied about marketing and how stores make money, through his website.

He also has an international following through his online podcast.

After buying a few bags full of popular items from a local Dollar Tree, Elledge gave us the low-down on what he says are the dollar store deals and duds.

Elledge told us if you don't mind a short-time use, it's great to buy items like hair clips and brushes at the dollar store, which will probably be lost or broken quickly anyway.

Another example of a short-time-use product is kids' socks.

"Socks disappear and they get dirty, kids wear them out in the mud," Elledge laughs thinking of his own three kids' younger years. "They get to the point where they need to be thrown away. Socks just don't last."

Elledge said party supplies are another great deal at a dollar store.

More dollar store deals, according to Elledge:

  • Shower curtain liners which are disposable
  • Spices if you only need the basics
  • Greeting cards which he says are way overpriced at other stores
  • Kitchen utensils like spatulas and wooden spoons
  • Small pool toys

"Just know that the one-time-use inflatables are not going to last all summer," Elledge said, "but if you need something to pop in the care before you're on your way to the beach for a quick trip, it's the way to go."

However, when it comes to dollar store duds, Elledge says don't bother buying school supplies this time of year at the dollar store.

"Over the next couple months," Elledge reveals, "you should be able to get all these items for pennies on the dollar," including the name brand Elmer's Glue, which Elledge says often sells in packs of three for a dollar at other stores.

Also a big no-no: Josh said never buy pet products like dollar store chew toys and edible treats.

"There have been a lot of complaints from people buying these products," Elledge tells us, shaking his head. "Dogs chew them up right away, they start ingesting them, they get sick from them. It's rawhide that might not be good for them."

Elledge says his research has also found complaints about short-life in dollar store batteries. He insists that and anything electrical are also dollar store duds.

"I would never buy electrical equipment at the dollar store just because of all the complaints people have had with things not working, things shorting out," Elledge said. "It's not worth it to me."

More dollar store duds, according to Elledge:

  • Many food items that may be lower quality or have a shorter shelf life at the dollar store
  • Most regular toys; look them over carefully for safety hazards and material quality, Elledge says.
  • Dental floss, deodorant, shampoo and other toiletries which can often be bought cheaper at other stores' sales and by using manufacturers' or on-line coupons
  • Tools, many of which are flimsy and poorly made causing you frustration when you use them.

About the Author:

Joy Purdy co-anchors the 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts with Tarik Minor and the 11 p.m. weeknight newscasts with Kent Justice.