What Can You Buy for $1 These Days?


Back in 1930, the humble dollar could get you a decent table lamp, a quality bathrobe, or roughly six gallons of regular gas. But these days, it’s hard to find anything that costs $1 or less. (See also: 50 Healthy Foods for Under $1 a Pound)

Now, in a previous post I listed 101 things you can do with a $1 bill, but that was a long time ago, and a lot has changed. I decided to compile a new list and look at the problem with fresh eyes (I tried to avoid the usual fare in here, like $1 menu items from fast food joints, an iTunes song, or canned goods from the supermarket).

So, here’s what I found that can be bought today for $1. Now, how creative can you get? Leave your ideas in the comments.

1. A Phone Call

You can place a four-minute call from your cell phone to the Cayman Islands with AT&T.

2. Quality Items

You can buy 100 different “quality” items from the One Cent Store. All you have to pay is shipping (which on 100 items will run you about $800).

3. A CEO

Own the CEO of a large corporation! Yes, Steve Jobs takes only $1 per year salary from Apple. The CEOs of Google reportedly do the same.

4. Relaxation

Travel to the Philippines, and you can get a 30-minute foot massage.

5. A Place to Put Your Car

In downtown Denver, you get one hour of street parking.

6. E-Books

There are many out there for free, including the awesome book “Unleashing The IdeaVirus,” but if you want to blow a whole $1, try some of these e-book titles.

7. Penny Stocks

Buy penny stocks. Depending on which company you choose, you could get quite a chunk of them for $1, as many shares trade for just a fraction of a cent. Of course, they probably won’t go anywhere, but hey, everyone starts somewhere.

8. Little Stuff From Amazon

Get crazy with Amazon fillers. There are a bunch of items on Amazon that cost less than $1, and if you’re ordering something anyway, why not tag one of these on there? Often, they can bag you free Super Saver Shipping, so you spend a buck or less to save a lot more in postage.

9. Cell Phone Protection

Make 100 cell phone screen protectors.

10. 10 Memories

Stores like Walmart charge around 10 cents for a 4 x 6 photo print.

11. Crafty Plans

Some knitting and crochet patterns cost just 99 cents at Ravelry.com, and they are delivered as PDFs.

12. Almost Free Handmade Goods

Etsy artists often give away items for free. It's considered “paying it forward,” and shipping on some of these is $1 or less.

13. Books

Half.com, eBay, and Amazon all offer used books for less than $1. If you are a member of Amazon Prime, you'll get your book with free shipping.

14. Mobile Phone Apps

While many are free, there are also a lot that you can pay for. Some are as low as 99 cents, and they’re great.

15. Lemonade

Buy a few glasses of lemonade from a child’s lemonade stand. You get freshly made lemonade, and children learn a little about the value of hard work.

16. Hope

Dropping your $1 bill into the bucket of a charity collection tin may not seem like much, but it all adds up.

17. Pool

Well, not a swimming pool, but a game of pool in a bar will usually cost you four quarters. If you’re really bad, that $1 could stretch for an hour of entertainment.

18. A House

Not a monopoly house either, but a real one. The current housing crash, coupled with some local economic factors, has produced some ridiculous deals. Of course, you may have to pay to move the house off some land that the government owns, or a small fortune in taxes and fees, but the actual deed could be yours for a buck. Read more about a home in Detroit that was on sale for just $1.

19. A Second Date

Research shows bad breath is a real turn off for either sex, so invest in a pack of gum or a roll of mints. Both can usually be found for less than $1.

20. Gold

But not much. With the prize of gold being $1516.99 an ounce, your $1 will get you 0.00066006601 ounces.

21. Gas

And finally, we’ll end with an easy one. At the time of publication, you can buy around 1/4 of a gallon of gas (the national average right now is $3.91 for regular). Depending on the fuel efficiency of your car, that’s enough for a round trip of 6–8 miles. More if you drive a hybrid.

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Guest's picture

And the best thing about parking in downtown Denver, you no longer have to have that dollar in change: you can swipe your card.

Scoff at the ridiculousness if you want, but that feature of the meters here saved my bacon when I was coming for a job interview and didn't realize the address of the place was downtown (Google Maps had lied to me). I didn't have any change, or any cash, and I was about 2 minutes from being less than 5 minutes early. o_O;

And I got the job. :)

Andrea Karim's picture

Credit card machines for parking have changed my life! Also, congrats on the job!

Guest's picture

At many Panera Bread restaurants, you can take your travel mug and get a travel refill for $0.92 plus tax!

Guest's picture

I love to read Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels. I found two of them at my local library for a dollar. Good reads too.

Guest's picture

Forgot a lottery ticket :)