Pound shops are an Aladdin’s Cave of stuff. You can buy bacon and bras, make-up and Mars Bars, seeds and slippers.

But not all of it is treasure. After all, even if something costs just a pound, that’s still a pound too much if it’s junk.

What to buy in pound shops

Here are the guaranteed winners.

Bin bags

It’s never worth buying the cheapest supermarket bin liners as they just split and drip bin juice all over your feet. However, pound shops often sell decent bin bags for much less.

Kids’ art supplies

There’s no point spending a fortune on kids’ art stuff because it all ends up in a big sticky heap covered in brown paint. Stock up on activity books and art supplies in a pound shop and at least you will know the mess didn’t cost much.

Branded non-perishables

If you can see toothpaste, shower gel, air freshener refills, cleaning products from the top brands and they cost just a pound then stock up. These items won’t go out of date and, as long as you’re careful to check the prices are comparable (see the below point about buying smaller packets), there’s no reason not to stock up and save.

[Related story: How to save money on your food shopping]

Decorations

Unless you are the kind of person who spends £20 on a single Christmas bauble, then let’s be honest, most decorations are just tat. So if you need birthday banners, Christmas decorations or Halloween stuff then buy it at a pound shop.

Books

While pound shops won’t typically have a vast selection of books, they can be a great place to buy reading material without paying the RRP. It’s common to find books priced at £6.99 selling for just a quid, so if you see something you want then it’s a bargain.

Unexpected bargains

Sometimes you will be in luck and a pound shop will have a brilliant bargain. It’s not uncommon to see top brands mysteriously priced at just £1, and if you want to be sure it’s a bargain then a quick comparison via a website like Mysupermarket.co.uk will show you whether you’re right.

These bargains typically fly off the shelves, though, so stock up while you can. There’s no guarantee it will be there the following week.

[Related story: Poundworld's 'everything £1' claim banned]

What not to buy in pound shops

Now here's what to think twice about.

Little packets

If something looks like an amazing bargain compared to your standard supermarket price then pause a moment. Is this actually a comparable product or is it a smaller packet?

It’s fairly common to find that you’re actually paying more per kilogram than you would in a supermarket, but you think you’ve found a better deal because the item price is lower.

Branded perishables in bulk

If you see a perishable that you often buy for twice as much, it can be tempting to stock up. However, before you fill your basket, make sure that the best before date isn’t too close – it’s not a saving to get 18 packets of biscuits home and discover you only have a week to eat them.

Clothes

This is a tricky one. It’s not unheard of for pound shops to stock well-made clothes at a bargain price.

However, more often than not it will be cheaply made clothes at a bargain price. Before buying anything, have a serious look at the quality of the stitching and fabric, and think carefully about whether it will survive its first wash.

Budget household essentials

Some pound shop items will definitely be cheaper if you bought the budget version in your local supermarket instead, despite being of a similar quality. For example, budget dishwashing sponges can cost £1 for five in a pound store but you could buy the same amount for 30p in your local supermarket.

If it’s more comparable to your regular supermarket’s budget range than to the top brands then it’s worth comparing prices first.

Paracetamol

You can usually buy about four packets for £1 in your local pound shop, but these can be even cheaper elsewhere. For example, a pack of 16 is just 19p in Asda right now, so you could get five packets for a pound and have change.

[Related story: How much holiday currency will you get for your pound this week?]

Children’s toys

If you don’t mind cheap toys for stocking fillers or to spend pocket money on then a pound shop is great. However, if you want to buy stuff that will survive rough play then a pound shop is not the place to purchase.

Stationery

This is not a hard and fast rule, as sometimes pound shops will have top brand bargains. However, all too often the stationery you buy for a pound can be bought cheaper elsewhere, particularly at budget supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl.

Before stocking up on pens, buy a small amount and try them to make sure they work. And before filling your basket with envelopes and brown paper, it’s worth checking the prices at a few other retailers.

Non-brand name batteries

You can often buy a vast number of batteries for just £1, which can be a real relief for any parent who needs to keep their children’s toys working. However, the internet is full of people complaining that these cheap batteries don’t last long at all, so it’s probably worth checking them out yourself before filling your car with boxes of ‘bargain’ batteries.

Earn money on your everyday spending with a cashback credit card: compare them now