Introduction: Navagating a Dollar Store for Instructables Hacks!

Picture of Navagating a Dollar Store for Instructables Hacks!

Of course browsing dollar stores isn't entirely new to many Instructables users - but maybe you have never entered to one of these budget friendly places for supplies.

This is the Instructable for you!

Did you see something on Instructables or Pinterest you wanted to try yourself?

Did you want to experiment with creating your own hack?

Do you need to wander around looking for inspiration for something to create, but are on a budget?

Try things out with dollar store goods first!

Or maybe last!

Sometimes it just simply doesn't matter where you get the materials! (I love those best!)

I am often amazed at what I can do with a little creativity and some dollar store goods when I have the itch to create something or try out something new.

But be warned! Even these things add up, and sometimes can create a lot of clutter around the house!

I normally try to have a project in mind when hitting up the dollar store. I find it is a lot like going to a grocery store when you are hungry - when you just want to make SOMETHING and happen into a dollar store... you can wind up with a lot of stuff you don't ever use!

Of course items you find in a dollar store vary from season, store chain, region, to even neighborhood. They get cheap items in lots that they distribute according to regional marketing demographic numbers, and sometimes when things are out, they are out for good... and sometimes you can buy things online in lots from a dollar store like Dollar Tree! This is useful when planning a big project or event (like when I needed to buy a case of 24 packs of Kid's Activity Dough for an icebreaker at an event I chaired.)

And sometimes, of course, you can find something at the dollar store for $1.00 that you could have found at Target for $1.00 or WalMart for 87¢. And if you are patient you can shop a Goodwill Outlet store (an experience unto itself*) where you can get things BY THE POUND - but overall the dollar store has some pretty standard items always in stock.

Step 1: *Nearly Getting Kicked Out of the Austin Goodwill Outlet

Picture of *Nearly Getting Kicked Out of the Austin Goodwill Outlet

*I almost got THROWN OUT of the Austin Goodwill Blue Hanger Outlet I went to - FOR TAKING PHOTOS!

I had to delete my photos all from my camera - but you can find some online if you Google Images it, or check out this article:"We Shopped The Goodwill Warehouse Outlet And You Won't Believe What We Found" on The Huffington Post. A friend made me this "merit badge" for the experience.

I have friends who have come up with several theories of why I was nearly kicked out (it wasn't posted anywhere to not take photos) but I figured they had their reasons AND I wanted to keep my haul, so I deleted the video and photos. I just found it all fascinating. Plus... I could be doing an Instructable of Goodwill Outlet finds! But alas... it was not meant to be.

At least you don't have to bleach wash all the new dollar store things.


Picture of You Can Find GARDENING SUPPLIES!

Of course it depends on the time of year - but these things came into my Dollar Tree with the Valentine's Day stuff - getting ready for spring!

I found little starter kits for spring flowers and herbs - very cool!

What are some of the Instructables you can make with these?

A few gardening related Instructables that you could use these supplies with:

And others:



Frames! Frames are great for lots of fun projects!

You can recover a cheap frame, put pretty paper behind the glass and use it as a dry erase board (get dry erase markers on another aisle,) or use the glass in more glass etching projects!

I even found mirrors here so I could try out a glass etched mirror idea on the cheap - but they did have an odd thin clear plastic layer that maybe made it more difficult, but it was really just to test the etching cream. So just be sure your cheap materials are useful for your projects!

What Instructables can you make with frames?

Glass things! These are just a few glass things you can find in a dollar store!

Want to try out etching glass?

I'm not sure how sturdy of a grade of glass you can find in a dollar store, some things may work that are thicker - for pressure etched projects.

Other techniques to try on glass:

Other glass Instructables projects you can try with dollar store glass finds:

Step 4: Toys! So Many Things You Can Do With Cheap TOYS!

Picture of Toys! So Many Things You Can Do With Cheap TOYS!

Sometimes I find name-brand characters (maybe very TINY - but still!) and sometimes the parts are just great to play with.

Stuffed animals that you don't mind modifying for your needs!

I've found LOTS of things for a photo booth in the dollar store: feather boas, mustaches, wrapping paper, party streamers, vinyl tablecloths, and bamboo skewers (cut off ends and affix glasses and mustaches and hats... wrap end in colored duct tape.)

Instructables on Plastic/Vinyl Toy Hacks:

Stuffed Animal Instructable Hacks:

Photo Booth Instructable (also in this contest! vote for it!):

Your Own PhotoBooth Corner by SonikaJAnand

Step 5: So Many Things for CRAFT PROJECTS!

Picture of So Many Things for CRAFT PROJECTS!

Glues and glitters and foam board and little pom poms and craft foam and puzzle pieces to alter...

The only thing stopping you is your imagination!

Check out my Tardis Wreath Instructable - though I used a wire form in that Instructable, the wreath pictured in this one I used a dollar store 9" foam wreath. Click on the wreath photo above to all the things I got from Dollar Tree! Great place for things you just will paint anyway.

Some Awesome Instructables using GLITTER!

Okay, I could post about three dozen more of those. Search glitter in the "Let's Make" bar!

Other beautiful craft Instructables you can use some of these dollar store finds for:

Step 6: Don't Forget Somewhere to STORE All of Your Stuff!

Picture of Don't Forget Somewhere to STORE All of Your Stuff!

Storage! For things great and small, you need storage so things don't clutter up everywhere and you can find things easily.

Cheap kits using the shoe-box sized containers are great for workshops or kid's crafts. I've created clean-up kits for hospitality events using a dollar store bucket, rubber gloves, sponges, spray cleaner, cleaning wipes, dish towels and a small bottle of liquid dish soap. These are great to have in different areas for quick clean up messes!

Some Kit Instructables (use a dollar store container and fill with these ideas, some of the things you can get at a dollar store!)

Some Altered/Decorated Journal Instructables (for the composition notebooks)

Step 7: Tools and Night Lights and All SORTS OF STUFF!

Picture of Tools and Night Lights and All SORTS OF STUFF!

Cheap tools for trying a project before you commit, paint brushes and rollers, eye protection and ear plugs!

Cheap batteries and night lights to alter and Sharpies and solar stakes and LED Lights and reading glasses!

Table cloths and vinyl table cloths and paint tarps - for cheap fabrics or drop cloths (protection from getting glitter and paint everywhere!)

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea!

Go to your local dollar store and see what they have that you can use first when making a new project! You may be surprised at what little parts you can find and save big on!

I think one of my favorites finds was discovering strands of 10 LED lights in December. They had little green trees or stars on them, that popped off (okay... fell off is more like it) and revealed plain white lights. The whole strand was the same basic type I got from Ikea for $5.00 each. Perfect for gluing to my gift wreaths!

And PLEASE continue to share you dollar store/thrift store hacks on Instructables! I really love reading them and trying them,

if you can't tell!

See what other people are doing with dollar store items:

Cheap fun at $ store by aaahotdog (dismantle the solar stake and use as a night light - charge during the day)

Searching "dollar store" in the "Let's Make" search


Battlespeed (author)2015-01-30

Hate to admit it, but I've driven right by dollar stores on my way to Walmart or Michael's, etc. when I might have found things cheaper. Thanks for the kick in the pants!

Laral (author)Battlespeed2015-02-03

If you know a store has exactly what you want sometimes it's better to pay more. I don't know about you but whenever I go to a dollar or thrift store I don't emerge until hours later. I comb through everything just to find an item that I can use for a project. They are a huge time sink for the curious.

abender1 (author)Laral2015-02-09

but fun!

dragon fllyer (author)Laral2015-02-04

Much like the Instructables website...!

AustinLLS (author)Battlespeed2015-01-30

I totally understand that! Sometimes I know what I want and know I can get it at Michael's or Joann's, and I don't feel like checking the dollar store first. Like I said, some things are truly hit & miss, and some things don't compare in quality. But there really are things that are just as good, or will work for something fine. I decided to just get in the habit of checking at our neighborhood Dollar Tree first when working on something. And really, some people it wouldn't matter so much, but for me, I would prefer saving my money for something else when I can :D Thanks for taking time to comment!

doo da do (author)AustinLLS2015-02-03

sometime you go and find things that you need and wasn't aware. That is the fun part, but not when you have a deadline. Doodado

loptica62 (author)AustinLLS2015-02-02

you are soooo right !

Drake88 (author)2016-06-13

Another good place for glass(especially labware) is American Science & Surplus ( They have a load of lab glassware, electric motors, electronic parts, containers for mid to small stuff, little zip baggies, etc. - and often these items are sold in bulk amounts if you want it that way.

They also sell a load of little educational kits that might not be used in schools anymore for one reason or another, books on various projects,etc.

They are a sellout secondary store - basically they buy up lots of goods when a store goes out of business, some factory needs to clean out a warehouse, etc. they then resale the items.

Thejesterqueen (author)2016-02-01

Thank you so much for taking the time to put this together. I love the comments too. It's late now, or I would be making a trip to the dollar tree. lol Going in the am.

Leah_lillypie (author)2016-01-25

I have to say one of my favorite things about the Dollar Tree is finding name brand items that still are cureently selling for way more than $1. Like As Seen On Tv products, Milani, Physicians Formula, and Elf Makeup, and the recent Pillow Pets minis!!!! They also have great storage, especially currently! Helps sonce I am reorganizing entire house, room by room, getting a head start on Spring Cleaning since I am stuck in the house during this cold Winter. My most recent shock found was a 10 piece set for a DS- had case for handheld game system, cases for games, pens, micro screen cloth, car charger, and mire. As far as crafts and DIY projects are concerned I have purchased the following from Dollar Tree: Mod Podge in Matte and in Glossy, Spray Adhesive, Fabric Marker sets, paints, glitter, glue gun, glue sticks, Glass Beads, letter & decorative beads, color elastics for beading, buttons, twine, burlap, ribbon, fake flowers, stencils, Adult Coloring books, gel pens, Sharpies, Double sided tape, glue dots, scrap book paper, drawing pads, Washi Tape, decorative Duct Tape & much more... Really, the sky is the limit there as far as I am concerned!

kudzu63 (author)2015-02-04

OMG!! You've given away my secret. Being retired and living on a very limited income, the Dollar Tree in our town is my go to store. I save my change and what few dollar bills I get for my weekly trips to the store. I usually have in mind what I want before I go but more times than not I get there and know that there is something specifically I wanted but for the life of me can't remember it when I'm there. LOL I have to use the Breatheright strips because of smoking for a hundred years and the ones that Dollar Tree have are little more than cheap bandade strips that don't work. I walked down the medicine aisle one day and noticed brand name Breatheright strips on the shelf. I looked and they were 10 ct. boxes. That's usually about $4 at Wally World. I didn't have but a couple of dollars on me but came back the next day and bought every one they had. What I got at Wally World would have cost me around $75 or so but I got 18 boxes there for a little over $19. I come across some things some time and have to ask in amazement if this is really only a dollar. It's a good store for some things.

Leah_lillypie (author)kudzu632016-01-25

I have a suggestion- Keep a notebook near your bed, and one in the kitchen and living room. It can be a small one. And when you think of things you need you can add them to an on going list conveniently placed around the house. This way you will have a list to refer to. I watch Dollar Tree haul videos on YouTube and it goves me an idea of items I would like to search for during my next trip to Dollar Tree.
I know if I didnt make To Do lists, shopping/household needs list, amd Dollar Tree lists I would always waste my time and have to return to a store since I would definetly forget otherwise. I never forget to take my notebook with me everytime I leave the house amd its small enough to fit in my purse. Never know when I will end up at a store so I take it even if I am just visitong family for the day or taking my kids to the park. My list system has saved my life numerous times, well it has saved me the hassle of multiple store trips anyways. I hope the advice helps. Good luck.

AustinLLS (author)kudzu632015-02-05

I know! They often have my toothpaste - even in smaller tubes it is a deal! So many things...

rellik1000 (author)2015-12-22

The DT sunbeam alkaline aa aaa batteries are the best bang for a buck

They are always a "throw in"whenever I'm there

rcline2 (author)2015-04-11

Duh it a store

doo da do (author)2015-03-14

I shop and like this store, and you never know what comes the back door. Lots of things you can use for something else

patsheldon (author)2015-02-28

Teacher here and all I ever DO is go to Dollar Tree. Love, love LOVE IT! Although my boyfriend drags his feat. lol!

Yard Sale Dale (author)2015-02-27

Maybe the employees are under warrants. hahha

mrandle (author)2015-02-23

I would stay away from the tools and ESPECIALLY the zip ties. I've had too many zip ties that are either not moulded properly and you can't feed the other end through OR ones that break under the slightest of force. Other than that the stuff you can find is AMAZING. My mom used to do trade shows and made center pieces from stuff at the dollar store and had ladies fighting over them lol. She had a shelf at the back for certain items when they came in they would put them on hold for her.

cdstudioNH made it! (author)2015-02-16

Look at all the stuff I made!! : D. All it required was $16 and an hour or so. Unique wine glass identifiers, Sweetarts rubik's cube, Peanuts frame and pic for the birthday girl and a mini aquarium.

AustinLLS (author)cdstudioNH2015-02-16

Awww! Awesomeness! How fun!!!

wolfsingleton (author)2015-02-10

Dollar Tree is definitely my main store for little projects. I get eye hook screws, super glue and cheap paints to use for making saltwater fishing lures from scrap wood. Foil pans as molds and cheap glue for paper mache models. Micro USB charger for phones and a picture frame makes a cool custom dock. Two foil roasting pans together make a nice one-time smoker for large meats (with a rack if you have one already). Also, if you like to keep magnets from all your parts scrounging, glue them to the bottom of the containers shown in step 6 and use them to hold parts and suspend them on the side of your fridge or metal workbench/shelves.

AustinLLS (author)wolfsingleton2015-02-11

I so totally want to see your work Wolfsingleton! Do you have a pic of one of the docs?

wolfsingleton (author)AustinLLS2015-02-11

I haven't done a dock in a bit. Really simple to do, it basically involves using one of the thicker,curved picture frames (made for 4"x6" prints) threading the micro USB connector through a gouged/drilled hole (vertically through the recessed edge) and super gluing it there. If your dock is going to be near a window and you have a clear/frosted frame, take the guts from a solar stake light, mount the LED behind a clear section of the frame and glue the solar panel and battery pack (cover with some foil to avoid direct sunlight on battery) to the central backing of the frame. Next time I do one, I'll take pics and make an Instructable.

Tater Zoid (author)2015-02-11

After reading your Instructable, I headed to Dollar Tree with the mission of creating something new. Thank you for the inspiration, not sure what I'll come up with yet.

AustinLLS (author)Tater Zoid2015-02-11

Okay... I cannot wait to see! Looks like a fun game, no matter what!
I love the banana keeper... somehow... that just makes it all kinds of happy!

hlanelee (author)2015-02-08

Goodwill Industries employees are actually clients that are on disability or that are unemployed. Goodwill provides them with work training and helps assist them in finding jobs (they do a better job at it than any government entity). These people have a reasonable expectation of privacy. That's why you could not take pictures.

AustinLLS (author)hlanelee2015-02-08

And I do respect that, truly - though it was not explained to me, nor was the policy posted anywhere. The photos didn't contain employees. And the way it was handled was horribly, actually - I was called out, surrounded by three employees, and told it was not the first time they told me (which it was) and I would have to leave. I had a friend with me and she came to vouch for me (she is a regular) and I deleted the photos as they watched. I had more of an issue of how it was handled than the reasons behind it. Had they just pulled me aside and said, "Hey... Please delete the photos on your phone..." I wouldn't have given it a second thought, actually. Ever. I was a little jarred by the experience.

hlanelee (author)AustinLLS2015-02-08

I agree with you, it was done badly. They could have used some tact, offered an explanation. I was just trying to fill a void....offer the explanation you deserved. It would be a much better world if we all treated each other how we would want to be treated. I'm reclusive for a reason.

AustinLLS (author)hlanelee2015-02-08

I do appreciate it, and I do think it is a valid reason :) I think of myself as a fairly social recluse myself :D

violingirl (author)2015-02-05

I almost got kicked out of Goodwill too. It was one of those Goodwills were everything was in big bins. Anyways they had a furniture part. I was playing on some exercise equipment and they got very mad at me.

AustinLLS (author)violingirl2015-02-05

Haha! :) I'm not alone then!

ieashadevine (author)2015-02-05

Dollar tree has a bunch of ither cool everyday life items too. The one in my town has as seen on tv items a lot. I just got a stonewave pot there. You can find really good things for gift baskets. They sometimes have big name makeup. My daughter is 7 abd wanted to carve soap and we found the exact soap i buy at walmart for $5 at dollar tree 2 bars fir a dollar.

Laral (author)2015-02-04

Have you ever gone to a Savers? They are like Goodwill's rich relative. Everything that Goodwill ain't. Big brightly lit spacious aisles. Everything cleaned up and arranged by category on shelves and bagged. One note on this--I cut my finger on an unclosed staple on a bag once and had to wait for the cashier to finish a sale before getting her to get me some disinfectant. Generally nice people and managers. They are much more willing to negotiate on price. I got a like-new chrome "Winnebago" Vitamixer for $8 minus the dome so I negotiated that price. I got the dome on craigslist for another $8. I got a pair of huge massive bass speakers for $20. Another note--I once got an amplified subwoofer that had been rewired and shocked me when I plugged it in. The manager didn't even apologize. He did give me $25 in coupons toward my purchase. They had a pasta machine that was like new with the ravioli attachment for $25 that I passed up since I had one. I got a Cuisinart Model 8 like new for $10 including extra discs on a rack. I've gotten Calphalon pots. The list goes on. And they have all kinds of electrical adapters neatly bagged and hung on a peg rack so you can find what you're looking for. Their pricing is insane. Things that you know are worth a dollar are priced $20 and sometimes things you know are worth $100 are priced $10. Those are the deals you are looking for. Highly recommended.

Laral (author)2015-02-03

Please elaborate on bleach washing. That sounds good. Every time I go to a thrift store, I feel like my hands have been violated. E-w-w-w!

AustinLLS (author)Laral2015-02-03

LOL! Of course! I put the pieces in a tub and washed with soap. Then I rinsed them and filled the tub back with water, and added bleach. I stirred that around and let it sit for about 20 minutes, then drained and let air dry all spread out on a towel. These are things I got for an event I wanted inexpensive toy decorations for :D (And lots of people wear gloves - I would the next time I go!)

Laral (author)AustinLLS2015-02-03

I never thought of wearing gloves and have never seen people wearing them. Good idea. I'll remember to do that.

AustinLLS (author)Laral2015-02-03

At the outlet stores? At the regular ones, maybe (I still wash things like this afterwards) but at the Goodwill Outlet, you are digging through bins of things... I saw broken glass & knives and other things... (which I pulled off to the side to not hurt people digging)

Laral (author)AustinLLS2015-02-03

Ii didn't know there were 'outlet' stores. What are they, stores that sell Goodwill 'seconds'. I thought Goodwill ONLY sold seconds. LOL. I've only been to the regular stores. So you mean like gardening gloves, not thin nitrile ones?

AustinLLS (author)Laral2015-02-04

Oh yes, gardening gloves!

This blog has the rundown of these places:

Laral (author)AustinLLS2015-02-04

You know, what's even weirder than the outlet store is their auction service. It has all the disadvantages of eBay without any of the advantages. The 'sellers' are just different Goodwills from around the country. There is no feedback. No real guarantee. No easy refund policy. Just Goodwill 'Keepin' it REAHL'.

Laral (author)AustinLLS2015-02-04

OK, I see. It's the Goodwill 'poor man's' Filene's Basement, only with used items. Why not?

Trike Lover (author)2015-02-04

Latest unusual find: a 3" x 3" x 3/4" booster battery pack with built-in connectors and cables for a certain brand of white cellphones and devices. It has a built-in multi-LED display to show how much juice is left in the battery, a USB-battery cable to charge it back up, and an on/off pushbutton switch The LED's come on while charging another device, or when it's being recharged from a USB port.. Appearance-wise, the case closely matches a famous brand we all know, and the built in connectors and cables properly fit various bits of gear I've tried. It does a nice job of temporarily extending a phone's run time - I've given it a good number of tests. The battery capacity is (I think) 3000 mAH, so it's capacity is decent. It comes with a nice little instruction book that gives lots of detail about various devices it will mate with. Cost? $3.00. It claims to be good for 1000 charge/discharge cycles, which seems a bit of a stretch. But even if it lasts only 500, or even 330 charges, not bad considering all the proper device connectors and a recharge cable are built in. This is a perfect example of finding pearls alongside the use-once and toss stuff.

thebeatonpath (author)2015-02-04

I am addicted to Dollar Tree, but I also go to the other places you mentioned. People would be surprised at the deals that DT has and how much Made in USA items they actually have.

thebeatonpath (author)2015-02-04

I am addicted to Dollar Tree, but I also go to the other places you mentioned. People would be surprised at the deals that DT has and how much Made in USA items they actually have.

Trike Lover (author)2015-02-04

Going to try and add to my reply with pictures. Lots of good hints in this Instructable - thanks for posting. I've found many excellent and/or name brand items of every kind at our $ stores, including food and domestic supplies - all top-grade stuff. However, two types of things are universally bad - plastic storage boxes or plastic bottles for food, liquid or "craft" items, and writing paper like school scribblers, notepads, etc. The containers leak, shatter or disintigrate with one use, and the paper quality is so poor it rips if sneezed at. Strangely, other items in similar categories are often good quality, sometimes brand names seen elsewhere for more money.

The plus side overall is an amazing variety of items of all kinds that are either good quality for their intended use, or things that can be re-purposed from their "intended" use to something completely different.

The low prices do lead to a collection of impulse-buy dollar store junk, so now I take a shopping list and try not to be distracted too much, A list also saves a lot of time, something others have commented on, LOL.
grannyjones (author)2015-02-03

I have been suspected of shoplifting before, but they get over it when I get to the checkout with a full cart.

Laral (author)grannyjones2015-02-03

Well, I'll spend maybe an hour looking mostly at small parts, which are obviously highly pilferable, and then buy a few small parts, not many. Maybe that's why.

helghast356 (author)2015-02-03

I haven't been to a dollar store in a while, but I try to hit up the goodwill outlet store once a week. It's crazy the stuff you can find there that they let slip through the cracks. I've taken pictures here and there and never had a problem.

shyrell (author)2015-02-03

So good I downloaded the PDF file! Thanks.

About This Instructable



Bio: I enjoy cutting and pasting things. I'm a library assistant at the local community college. I like to read, history and historical fiction are ... More »
More by AustinLLS:Navagating a Dollar Store for Instructables Hacks!Paper Napkins & Wrapping Paper Coffee Table HackLighted Tardis Ornament Wreath
Add instructable to: