Good news for gadget lovers running low on cash: your local dollar store has a growing selection of consumer electronics.
OK, so don’t expect to walk out with a wireless speaker or touchscreen tablet, but you might just be pleasantly surprised at what you can buy with loose change found in your pocket or purse.
So long as you have reasonable expectations when it comes to quality and longevity, you can’t go wrong with many of these $1, $2, or $3 items.
To help take the guesswork out for you, the following are a few of the best bargains found while rummaging through store chains like Dollarama, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, and 99¢ Depot — all in the GTA.
Be aware, however, not all stores have the same products, plus you might find a very similar one under a different brand name.
Now hear this
For just a buck, the gray and yellow Maxell Wrap'd Earbuds sounded remarkably good when connected to a smartphone and tablet, not to mention they’re comfortable, durable, and feature a built-in microphone to take calls (though there isn’t a button to activate a personal assistant, mind you). The four-foot “flat wire” cable eliminates tangling, plus included with the earbuds is a soft, rubberized silicone case to conveniently wrap the cable around when not in use. Also, in the package are different sized ear tips, to give you a perfectly snug fit.
Available in black, blue or pink, the Tech-1 Monopod ($2 to $3) is an extra long “selfie stick” that expands from 7 inches while collapsed to nearly 40 inches when extended. Simply snap in your smartphone or point-and-shoot camera into the spring-loaded adaptor — which can hold larger phones, too, like the iPhone XS Max — and then use a wireless shutter or the phone’s timer to take wide group shots. Other features include an adjustable 2-way tilt knob, hand strap, and standard-sized tripod port on the bottom of the stick to add onto an additional tripod, if desired.
Step it up
Don’t want to blow your budget on a Fitbit or Apple Watch? For just $3, you can pick up the Step Gear Pedometer, a small wrist-mounted activity tracker that counts your steps, tracks your distance, and estimated calories burned – and displays it on the small LCD screen (along with the time, too). Available in multiple colours and with an adjustable strap, this inexpensive pedometer includes an AG4 battery (already in the tracker). Simply press the small and silver “Mode” button to get going.
See the light
Unless you own a tablet or e-reader with a backlit screen, reading an ebook or paper book in bed can be an issue because you’ll need to turn on a lamp — which might disturb a partner. Instead, I found a GE LED Book Light for just one buck. Available in blue, pink, green, and other colours, simply clamp it onto your e-reader, paperback or hardcover, and flick the switch to illuminate the page. This adjustable book light includes a 10,000-hour LED bulb, says the company.
As the name suggests, Window and Door Alarm ($1.25) is a small device that can notify a homeowner of a possible break-in. Peel off the sticky adhesives on the back of this two-part alarm, press it up against the opening of a door, window or cabinet, and flick the switch to turn it on. Now, should the two pieces of the magnetic device become separated, a piercing 90-decibel alarm will sound. Three alkaline watch batteries (LR44) are required, but included, to operate this no-name product from Dollar Tree.
Doubling as a clamshell compact used to apply make-up, the Hype Compact Speaker ($3) is also an external speaker for your favourite audio device, such as a smartphone, tablet or music player. While it’s not a Bluetooth wireless speaker, it includes a custom 2-foot cable that plugs into the source and has an integrated USB connector to juice up the rechargeable battery, when needed. Stereo sound quality is surprisingly loud.
Not only can you pick up an 8-pack of Sunbeam-branded AA batteries for $1, but you can also pick up a battery tester for that price, too. Determine if your batteries need replacing or charging with the Sunbeam Battery Tester that can test AA, AAA, C, D, and 9V batteries, via the topside sensors. Three red lights on the face of the unit tell you if the power status of your batteries, ranging from 20 percent to 100 percent. If the battery is dead, no LEDs will light up at all. Naturally, this product requires batteries, too (three AG13 watch batteries), but they're included.