14 Dollar Store Items You Should Never Buy for Christmas Gifts

Dollar stores can help you complete your holiday shopping, but there are some gift items you should just skip.

displeased stylish young woman with wavy hair opening box with present
Updated May 28, 2024
Fact checked

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Dollar stores can be a great way to help you save money and stick with a budget on everything from day-to-day items to specific special deals.

You may be tempted to hit the dollar stores near you for holiday gifts on a budget, and there could be some real gems on the shelves. But you might also fall for some duds that will land flat with their recipients.

So, before you start stuffing stockings with dollar-store finds, here are some of the items you should steer clear of if you want a happy holiday season.

Beauty products

kues1/Adobe blonde woman feeling sad

There may be someone on your list who likes makeup or face masks, but try to pay a little more than a dollar for beauty items. They may not work as well on people with sensitive skin and could even cause problems for the wearer.

Power cords

New Africa/Adobe woman inserting power plug into extension cord

It may be a good idea to get the techie in your life some new power cords to charge up their phones, earbuds, e-readers, laptops, and other items that need to be charged.

But steer clear of the power cords at dollar stores. They not only may be low quality, but they also may cause a hazardous situation for the user.

Art supplies

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/Adobe  designer drawing sketches near devices and coffee

The artist in your life may need new colored pencils, sketch pads, or extra erasers for their creations. But it’s a good idea to price out dollar-store items compared to name-brand versions.

You may be surprised by how many more crayons and colored pencils you can get in a box from a different place than your local dollar store.

Oven mitts

Africa Studio/Adobe man taking baking tray with delicious croissants out of electric oven

You may be excited to get some oven mitts for the cook on your Christmas list, but be careful as the mitts may not be as thick as you think.

A cheap oven mitt can lead to burns for the wearer, so it may be best to steer clear.

Toys

lithiumphoto/Adobe grandmother having fun time with her grandchildren

You may have plenty of toys to buy for the kids in your life, but try to find them in other stores before you grab something from a dollar-store shelf.

The quality of dollar-store toys may be subpar, leading to toys breaking or pieces coming off and becoming potential choking hazards.

Instead, spend a little bit more money on toys that can withstand heavy use from kids.

Hand sanitizer

Mlle Sonyah/Adobe woman wearing a denim shirt

You may think hand sanitizer is a practical gift, especially because of the increase in winter germs like the flu, RSV, and COVID-19.

But some dollar stores may use cheap ingredients that could be hazardous or don’t sanitize your giftees’ hands properly.

Candy

zenmaster8/Adobe colorful candy and red licorice

Candy can be a fun stocking stuffer or maybe you want to get something for your friend with a sweet tooth. But candy can get old or have an expiration date.

You don’t want to give someone sweet treats that are hard when they’re not supposed to be or chocolate that’s cloudy and flaky because it’s past its expiration date.

Knives

Andrei/Adobe woman holds in her hands a broken kitchen knife

The cooks in your life may enjoy a nice set of kitchen knives or a good knife to help them navigate recipes with plenty of chopping.

But knives from the dollar store could be flimsy or dull, which could cause injury to the person using them.

Instead, spend a little bit more money for a good quality knife from a different store.

Tools

Krakenimages.com/Adobe man holding toolbox and screwdriver

Working on household projects or creating items for a hobby may be appealing to a giftee in your life, but don’t pick up any tools from the dollar store.

You don’t want a hammer or screwdriver failing while they’re working on a project, and the quality of tools at dollar stores may not be able to stand up to rigorous use in a workshop.

Plastic utensils

Di Studio/Adobe man comparing plastic and wooden forks and knives

It can be fun to throw a holiday party as a gift for your family and friends. But don’t serve your famous mashed potatoes or that fancy peppermint ice cream with plastic utensils from a dollar store.

The quality may not hold up when your friends are scooping up your ice cream.

Batteries

Przemek Klos/Adobe little girl putting used batteries into jar for recycling

All those electronics you bought as Christmas gifts are going to need some batteries to operate them. Try to skip the batteries from your local dollar store, which may not work as long as name-brand versions.

They also may leak, causing a dangerous situation for kids and issues with the toys that are operated by them.

Pet food

anastas_/Adobe pet owner pours dry food to the cat and dog

You may be picking up a new furry friend for your family this holiday season, but don’t head to your local dollar store to feed your favorite family member.

The portion size for a bag of pet food is small compared to other retailers like your local grocery store or Costco.

And when you break the price down per ounce, you could save money by picking up a bigger bag.

Jewelry

Mitch Aunger/Adobe treasures

Jewelry can be a beautiful present for someone on your list, but skip the racks of earrings and necklaces at your local dollar stores.

The pieces are cheap and can break easily or discolor skin if your recipient has sensitive skin.

Wrapping paper

nd700/Adobe colorful wrapping paper

Need something to wrap up all those gifts that you bought? Don’t get the wrapping paper from the dollar store.

It may rip easily and could take longer to wrap gifts as you strain to carefully package up your boxes with extra tape to make sure the wrapping doesn’t come undone.

And be careful of light-colored papers, which can be thin and give away what’s underneath before the recipient opens it.

Bottom line

ivanko80/Adobe loving couple doing Christmas shopping together

It’s a good idea to create a budget for your holiday shopping to make sure you don’t go overboard or end up in debt.

Dollar stores may be a good way to keep more money in your bank, but you should do some research before you start grabbing anything off the shelves.

It could be the difference between a holly-jolly gift and one that ends up more like a ho-hum present.

Choice Home Warranty Benefits

  • First month free
  • Protection for unexpected expense
  • 24/7 claims hotline
  • Network of over 15,000 technicians

Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.