Navagating a Dollar Store for Instructables Hacks!




About: 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 my favorite genera. I'm a lone, funkified, kind, random, ca...

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

*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.


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!

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!

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!

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!

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

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94 Discussions


4 years ago on Introduction

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!

6 replies

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

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.


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

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 doAustinLLS

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

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


3 years ago

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.


3 years ago

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.


3 years ago

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!

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4 years ago on Introduction

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.

2 replies

Reply 3 years ago

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.


Reply 4 years ago

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


3 years ago

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

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


4 years ago

Duh it a store

doo da do

4 years ago on Introduction

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


4 years ago on Introduction

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


4 years ago on Introduction

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.


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.