Family Dollar, Dollar Tree or Dollar General: Which is Cheaper?

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A sign is shown next to a clear blue sky for the dollar tree.

Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder

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In theory, the dollar store sounds like it could be a one-way ticket to heaven. A store full of everything you need and, yes, some things you could want – all for the price of a dollar. what could be better?

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But in late 2021, popular chain Dollar Tree announced that it would increase the price of most of its products from $1.00 to $1.25. The traditional dollar store was becoming a dollar store by the name itself.

Other businesses such as Dollar General and Family Dollar may seem comparable, but they sell their items for less. Dollar Tree was the last of the behemoths to live up to the true ethos of a dollar store. And this year, that last piece of vintage Americana died as well.

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Still, we’ll leave you with a silver lining here: Dollar stores remain a cheaper alternative to big box stores, where you’ll usually find essentials like laundry detergent, garbage bags, and body wash. In fact, you might be surprised by what you can find at the dollar store for discounts on items like socks, vases, greeting cards and even party supplies.

But is it really cheaper — and worth the potential inconvenience — than just going to your local grocery store, Walmart, or Amazon? We crunched the numbers to find out how each dollar store compares to the variety of products you need—and how they compare to big box stores.

And when we say numbers are lacking, we mean comparing prices. We cannot ultimately decide which option would be best for you based on location, accessibility and products. But we can tell you which one will give you the most bang for your buck.

What I Bought (and How Much Does It Cost)

Our methodology is simple: We picked 10 items you need around the house and compared prices at three Dollar Stores, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree and Dollar General. In some cases, we couldn’t find the exact same product in each, but this should give you a good basis for comparison.

Here what we found:

1. Toilet paper 2. House cleaner 3. Body wash 4. Canned vegetables 5. Pasta 6. Spices 7. Laundry detergent 8. 13-gallon garbage bag 9. Coffee 10. Cereal So, which dollar store is best?

Here are our gorgeous totals, bearing in mind that these exact products are not comparable.

Family Dollar: $45.60 Dollar Tree: $14.75 General: $38.10

Instead of declaring an outright winner, I think it’s fair to call it a tie between Dollar Tree and Dollar General.

It ultimately depends on the kind of experience and items you are hoping to find. At Dollar Tree, because the goal is still to keep the price as close to $1.25 as possible, the items you’ll find are smaller and less likely to be brand names. For example, you’ll find Zest Body Wash instead of Suave. If you want to stock up for a real military, Dollar General is your best bet. And while we didn’t currently compare stores, Dollar Tree lacked our writer’s prior experience. That said, some of the containers were so small that she would have to buy 10 bottles of laundry detergent for the size.

Her best store experience was actually at Dollar General, where she found the friendliest staff. Seeing as how this series fared based on our lack of numbers, this seems to be the clear winner.

Still, there’s one last metric to drive it all: How do all three fare compared to some of our non-dollar-store favorites? Let’s take a look at how much these items will run you at Walmart and Amazon.

Here’s how much we would have spent on nearly identical items:

Walmart: $48.80 Amazon: $68.88

The crunch of numbers suggests that you pay for convenience and experience when you buy from a more humble dollar store like Walmart and Amazon. The price difference with Amazon, in particular, is surprising. Of course, this doesn’t include shipping or Prime membership. It’s easy to get rolled into Amazon’s ease, but the prices really aren’t always that cheap.

What we’ve shown is the practicality of the Dollar Store. So if you were ready to take these institutions to a museum, don’t write them down yet. One of these dollar stores can help you stock your home in a way that doesn’t break the bank.

Author Elizabeth Jinis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder, often writing about selling goods online through social platforms. His work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Smithsonian Magazine, and the Tampa Bay Times.

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