Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Price of My Vice Just Went Up

You know the “five and dime store” and the “dollar store”; but the “buck fifty-nine store”?

I read a week or two ago that Dollar Tree, the franchise that sells “everything for a dollar”, will be introducing a “Dollar Tree Plus” section in its stores where they will sell merchandise that will cost more than a dollar—typically about $1.59.

I have to confess that I was disappointed, albeit not shocked.  I love going into the local Dollar Tree to see what they can still sell for a dollar.  If you’ve never gone into one of their stores, you’ve missed a treat.  Tubes of toothpaste, toys, candles, gift bags, boxes of cookies, gallon jugs of spring water—every trip there is an adventure as they roll out new or seasonal merchandise on a regular basis.  My grandson bought a toy police kit there, complete with badge, night stick, and gun.   And he used his own dollar from grandpa.  He was thrilled.

But a dollar for everything?  C’mon, how long can that business model last?  As a boy I bought my favorite candy bar for a nickel and was outraged when it went up to a dime.  I’m lucky to find it now for 89 cents….AND it’s smaller.  And if you’re old enough, you will recall how putting a penny into a gumball machine got you two pieces of gum.  Those machines won’t even recognize anything less than a quarter nowadays.  So how long did Dollar Tree think they could continue to price everything according to their name?  But ten years from now what would you find for a buck in Dollar Tree?  A glass of spring water?  One small chocolate chip cookie?  Sample-size tubes of toothpaste?

I suppose this could be a lesson to entrepreneurs in what to name their business.  Don’t box yourself into a corner, for example, with a name like “Main Street Toys”, then move the business to Cary Street.   I have to say, though, that Dollar Tree did an admirable job with the “Dollar Tree Plus” concept.  Like you are getting more for the same dollar.

But let’s get to the heart of the matter.  What will this change mean for you and me?  In the classes I teach on personal finance, we talk about “leaks” in our budgets, the little (or sometimes big) extravagances that scuttle our plans to save and which leave us little or nothing in our bank accounts at month’s end.  We typically cite the $4 cup of coffee people buy each day before work, thinking it’s really nothing when in fact it costs over $800 a year that they could have saved.  (A cup brewed at home: about 8 cents a cup.)  My budget leak is Dollar Tree.  I get so intrigued by what they are able to sell so cheaply that I will almost always buy something I don’t really need when I go in there.  And since I don’t want to look like a cheapskate spending just a dollar, I’ll tack on a bag of chips, a packet of trail mix—something to make it worth standing in the checkout line.  My financial vice, as it were.

Little things add up.  Where is your budget leak?  Try tracking your money—every cent, as nearly as possible—and see where your money is actually going.  You will likely be surprised and maybe even shocked into taking action to save yourself some money.  A buck fifty-nine, or just the threat of it, little as it is, has me on the reform wagon.  Not going to Dollar Tree today, thank you.

Until next time,


“Money wrongly gotten will disappear bit by bit; money earned little by little will grow and grow.” Proverbs 13:11 CEV