October on a Budget: Does Dollar Tree or Walmart Have Better Deals?

Dollar Tree and Walmart: Two go-to stores for budget-friendly shopping. But when you break it down by unit price, which one is actually less expensive? You’re in the right place. Read on to see how we compare them head to head to help you find the biggest savings this fall. 

Dollar Tree vs. Walmart: How do prices compare?

Dollar Tree’s motto is that everything is $1 while Walmart uses individual pricing. Everything for a buck? It seems like a good deal but it’s important to consider what you’re getting for the money. Comparing unit prices is the best way to gauge how far your dollars will go at Dollar Tree vs. Walmart. 

Unit price is what you pay per unit and it’s a deceptively simple way to end up overpaying for things. For example, say you’re buying laundry detergent. You could buy a 60-ounce bottle for $4.99 or a 28-ounce bottle for $3.50. 

If you’re looking only at prices the $3.50 bottle is the better deal because you’re saving a buck and a half. But the unit price tells a different story. The 60-ounce bottle has a unit price of 8.3 cents per ounce. The $3.50 bottle, on the other hand, has a unit price of 12.5 cents per ounce. 

Now that we get the gist of unit prices, let’s compare the cost 10 items you might be looking to buy this fall season.

Item Dollar Tree price Dollar Tree unit price Walmart price Walmart unit price Winner
Kleenex on the Go Facial Tissues  $1 for a 3 pack (30 total tissues) 3.3 cents per tissue $1.97 for a 6 pack (60 total tissues) 3.28 cents per tissue Walmart, by a slim margin
Hand sanitizer $1 for one 8-ounce bottle (generic brand) 12.5 cents per ounce $0.97 for one 8-ounce bottle (generic brand) 12.13 cents per ounce Walmart, by a slim margin
Faux sunflower stems $1 for one 6-stem assorted 16.6 cents per stem $0.97 for one 5-stem assorted 19.4 cents per stem Dollar Tree
Tealight candles $1 for one 8-pack 12.5 cents per candle $0.84 for one 8-pack 10.5 cents per candle Walmart
Harvest hanging sign $1 for one 23.4 x 5.8 in. sign $1 per sign $4.24 for one 20 x 5 in. sign $4.24 per sign Dollar Tree
Harvest theme placemat $1 for one 18 x 12 placemat $1 per placemat $12.99 for four 13 x 19 placemats $3.25 per placemat Dollar Tree
Fall harvest paper plates $1 for one 18-pack 5.5 cents per plate $4.89 for one 8-pack 61.1 cents per plate Dollar Tree
Baked apple cinnamon puffs $1 for a 3-ounce bag 33.3 cents per ounce $18.99 for a pack of six 3-ounce bags $1.05 per ounce Dollar Tree
Spiral notebooks $1 for one 70-page wide-ruled notebook 14.3 cents per page $0.50 for one 80-page wide-ruled notebook 6.3 cents per page Walmart
Ballpoint pens $1 for one 10-pack (generic brand) 10 cents per pen $1.26 for one 10-pack (Bic) 12.6 cents per pen Dollar Tree

Is Dollar Tree cheaper than Walmart?

The short answer is that yes, Dollar Tree can be cheaper than Walmart when it comes to buying certain things. This is based on the unit price you’ll pay at Dollar Tree vs. Walmart. 

So, according to our analysis some of the cheapest and best things to buy at Dollar Tree include:

  • Fall decor
  • Fall placemats and home goods
  • Fall-themed paper plates (and napkins, cups, etc.)
  • Fall snacks
  • Pens

On the other hand, Walmart proved to be the better place to shop for things like tissues, hand sanitizer, and notebooks for back to school. That’s why it’s important to take the time to calculate unit prices. 

The Lesson: Always check the unit price before you buy. That way, you can shop confidently knowing that you’re stretching every dollar and cent as far as possible. 

What should you never buy at Dollar Tree?

Shopping the Dollar Tree or any other dollar store could save you money. But aside from unit price, also consider the quality of the items you’re buying. 

For example, say you need to buy some kitchen sponges to do dishes. You can pay $1 for a three-pack at Dollar Tree or $2 for a three-pack at Walmart. Your savings instinct tells you the Dollar Tree sponges are the better deal. But if you’re using them up at twice the rate that you use the more expensive Walmart sponges, you may not be saving yourself money in the long run. 

So what items should you not buy from Dollar Tree? 

Some of the items you may want to steer clear of, either because of quality issues or cost, include:

  • Batteries
  • Kitchen knives and cutlery
  • Vitamins
  • Over the counter medications
  • Beauty products
  • Sunscreen
  • Toothpaste
  • Pet food
  • Tools

As for school supplies, they can go either way. As our test showed, you might get a better deal on pens at the dollar store though you can’t beat Walmart’s prices for notebooks. But you might want to look closely at things like canned goods or cleaning supplies so you know exactly what you’re paying per unit. 

Save money on Dollar Tree and Walmart shopping

Getting ready for fall doesn’t have to break the bank. Taking time to compare prices for different fall items at both Dollar Tree and Walmart can help you decide which one is the better place to shop for maximum savings. You can also boost your savings by using cash back apps to earn money back on eligible purchases and clipping coupons (digital or paper). Those are some simple ways to grow your savings account while still picking up all the fall favorite items on your list. Happy shopping!