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Dollar Store Secrets: What to Buy, What to Skip, How to Save

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- America has become a dollar store nation. No matter how much we earn, we all want to save. Dollar stores are booming in these tough economic times, attracting shoppers looking for low prices on necessities and the occasional small splurge.

In the past, people believed that dollar stores did not carry quality goods, but more and more people are discovering the incredible savings to be found at dollar stores.

With everything from cleaning supplies to baby clothes to food items, the dollar store is no longer a place to find knick-knacks and surplus goods. Good Morning America's Lara Spencer visited a local dollar store to show you how to save. This dollar store had all the same items as local competitors, but for 20 to 50 percent less. In a couple rare examples, the prices were the same, but nothing was more expensive.

Here are nine tips on how to stretch your dollar on your visit:

1. Make a List

Before you head out for your shopping trip, make a list of the things you need.

2. What Items to Buy

Paper products, household cleaning items, seasonal items (decorations, candy), craft items, baby clothes and non-perishable pantry items are some of the best things to pick up at dollar stores at a deep discount.

3. Ditch the Name Brands

Generic Brand vs National Brand. Many dollar stores carry the same national brands found in your grocery store or big box retailer. (Laundry detergent is one example.) Some generic brands found in dollar stores can be just as good as leading brands, especially for things like sponges or cleaning tools.

4. Cut Your Coupons

A lot of dollar stores honor manufacturer coupons, which is savings on top of savings.

5. Check Expiration Dates

Be sure to check expiration dates.

6. Avoid Tampered Packaging

Over-the-counter drugs are a real bargain at the dollar store. It is extremely important to always check the label and to make sure there are the appropriate vitamins and ingredients in the medicines. Also, be sure to take a look at the packaging and that it hasn't been tampered with.

7. Get the Best Batteries

When looking for batteries make sure to note that the best batteries have lithium.

8. Think Before Buying Electronics

Be careful of electronic equipment at dollar stores. Look for the UL label, which stands for Underwriters Laboratories Inc. UL is an independent product safety certification organization. If the product does not have the UL label, it could cause fires or other damages.

9. Leave the Kids at Home

Don't take your kids with you to the dollar store. It is hard to stick to a list with so many great deals as it is, and your kids will tempt you to buy even more things that you don't need.

The neighborhood dollar store may become one of your favorite places, and will save you a lot of money.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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