The decline of the almighty dollar

One hundred years ago, a dollar would’ve bought you a pound of bacon, coffee and a gallon of milk. These days, it’s not out of the question you would have to dish out a five-spot for any one of those items.

It’s true: A dollar isn’t what it used to be. Today’s buck has the same buying power as 4 cents in 1915. But that doesn’t mean it’s useless, either. There are plenty of items that still cost $1 or less today. In fact, some of these items might surprise you.

Jewelry © iStock


Don’t expect the Hope Diamond, but if you’re looking for inexpensive jewelry, look online. There are plenty of wholesale retailers — like Norcross, Georgia-based WineOnion — that sell costume jewelry, from earrings to wedding bands, for under a buck. Or, search Amazon for jewelry, then use its filters to set the price at $1 and only show items that offer free shipping.

Photos © iStock


Everything is digital now, but if you want to fill your photo albums or picture frames, you can get printed photos for cheap. Sites like Shutterfly offer prints starting at 15 cents, but you’ll have to pay for shipping. Good news, though — many retailers with in-store photo centers will let you order inexpensive digital prints online, and you can pick them up for free. At CVS, for example, you can get five 4-by-6 inch photos for just a buck.

A road trip © iStock

A road trip

Road trips are a great budget vacation option, but gas prices can add up. To make your road trip incredibly cheap, consider taking a bus. Megabus offers one-way bus trips between cities in the U.S., Canada and Europe, and seats start at a dollar. You have to be flexible and plan in advance, but it’s hard to beat a buck for travel.

Stock © iStock


You can buy stocks for pennies on the dollar — literally. Appropriately named “penny stocks,” these are stocks that trade at less than a dollar. But keep in mind, you get what you pay for. They’re risky, time-consuming to research and there are many scams associated with them. Proceed with caution.

Designer perfume © iStock

Designer perfume

A good designer perfume might smell heavenly, but the cost probably stinks. If you’re willing to settle on just a hint of indulgence, you can get a designer fragrance for under a dollar. EBay is full of perfume samples for less than a buck, plus free shipping. Sites like also sell dollar perfume samples and occasionally offer free shipping promos.

Amazon goods © iStock

Amazon goods

You can find just about anything on Amazon, and it’s pretty easy to turn it into your own personalized dollar store. Just browse any category, filter by price at no more than $1 and see what you can find. Similarly, Amazon’s “filler item finder” website will let you more or less do the same thing. Just type in “$1” in the search tool, and the site will pull up a long list of various Amazon items that cost a dollar.

Pregnancy tests © iStock

Pregnancy tests

Pregnancy tests can be expensive. If you’re a hopeful mom-to-be, you might find yourself paying a pretty penny for these tests. But you can find them for a buck at your local dollar store. Skeptical of their reliability? Don’t be; they’re just as accurate as their name-brand counterparts. WEWS-TV in Cleveland had a family medicine doctor review the research from Dollar Tree’s test kit. Her conclusion? While the tests may be a bit more cumbersome, she found them just as reliable as brand-name pregnancy tests.

Subscription box service © iStock

Subscription box service

From Birchbox to BarkBox, subscription box services have become incredibly popular. And the Dollar Shave Club offers subscriptions starting at, yes, a dollar. Each month, you’ll get a brand-spanking-new razor shipped to you with five cartridges. The only drawback? You also pay $2 for shipping and handling.