Dollar stores were the darlings of the recession, with big chain brands reporting healthy sales and store expansions. They even became popular destinations for gift-givers. But when is getting something for a buck a real steal, and when is it not worth four measly quarters?
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TIME Moneyland asked experts to tell us what they always grab at dollar stores — and what they won’t touch with a 10-foot pole. They agreed on a lot of things, but there were a couple points of contention. One category that divided our experts: cleaning products. Some say cut-rate sprays and scrubs work as well as pricier versions; others are unimpressed. Another was candy. On one hand, do you really want to pay more for empty calories than you have to? But at the same time, are those off-brand peanut butter cups or licorice whips going to taste as good as their name-brand counterparts?
Read on to find out what to pick up and what to put back the next time you’re browsing the aisles in your local dollar store.