The 36 Best Things You Can Do With $1

published Feb 17, 2020
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Credit: Kath Nash

As a true millennial who rarely pays for things with cash, I often open my wallet to find a lone dollar bill in there. Usually it’s change left over from the couple times a year when I did happen to have cash on hand. And while I’ve made the mistake many times of forgetting about that single bill, there are actually quite a few things you can do with a dollar, ranging from practical to fun to inspiring (even some online shopping).

So next time you open up your wallet to see George Washington staring back at you, consider this list of the very best things to do with a buck. Even if you, like me, avoid having cash on hand, it’s pretty much impossible to argue with making the most of your money and, most importantly, not forgetting it’s in your wallet in the first place—even if it’s just $1.

If you want to feel inspired:

  • Buy a song you’ve never heard of on iTunes. 
  • Channel your childhood and buy a colorful new marker or pen for doodles. 
  • Buy a 99¢ domain name as a joke gift for a friend, or for that business you’ve been thinking about starting (maybe this will be the commitment you need!).
  • Donate your dollar to any charity you care about (and maybe get some friends to join in too).
  • Buy a lotto ticket and fantasize about your dream home.
  • Take advantage of sales and download a super cheap movie or TV show you’ve never heard of before from Amazon Prime or iTunes.
  • …or download a book that’s on sale, if you have an e-reader!
  • Browse through the internet dollar store and see all the things you can buy with just $1 online.

If you want to do something practical:

  • Go shopping at a dollar store and pick out your favorite item, or just one you’ve been meaning to get forever.
  • Stock up on Instant Coffee for those times when you just don’t have time for a full brew, or are busy at work.
  • Purchase a few stamps so you never run out. You can buy single stamps at the post office, shipping stores like UPS and FedEx, and some banks.
  • Stock your pantry with a canned good you always end up needing, like tomato sauce.
  • Start an at-home change jar and make a point to point all your leftover change (including small bills). To make it more fun, set a reward for yourself when you fill the whole jar.
  • Find cheaper versions of your favorite products. This makeup website has products that are all $1, for example.
  • Buy some extra toothpaste, because there’s nothing worse than running out.
  • Make a goal to double it every day. For the first day, save just the dollar bill, the next day save $2, and so on.
  • Take a trip to your local farmer’s market and see how many vegetables you can get for $1. 
  • Get yourself some new butter knives.
  • Finally buy a bag dispenser for storing all those plastic bags you have stuffed in a drawer somewhere.
  • Check out Dollar Shave Club and stop using old razor blades.
Credit: Joe Lingeman

If you want to treat yourself (or someone else):

  • Buy a nostalgic piece of candy that reminds you of your childhood.
  • Find a delicious food truck or street food cart and treat yourself to something small.
  • Save it to get yourself a coke from a vending machine during a long road trip.
  • Stop at McDonald’s on your morning commute and buy a coffee instead of brewing it yourself.
  • Buy some basic wax melts from Etsy.
  • If you live in a city, find a $1-per-slice pizza place and have yourself an indulgent mid-day snack.
  • Use it to boost your usual tip for your local barista.
  • Invest in some lotion to soothe dry skin in the cooler months—and have some change left over!
  • Save it for the summer when local lemonade stands from the neighborhood kids are popping up.
  • Skip your typical office snack and instead buy a single piece of fresh produce from the grocery store. It’ll taste delicious!

If you just want to have fun:

  • Go on your phone’s App Store and find a $1 game that will be the perfect mindless escape while killing time.
  • Go to a thrift store and challenge yourself to find the funniest or most surprising $1 item in the store. This is fun to do with a partner, too! It’s amazing how much time you can kill (and how many amazing items you can find) in a secondhand store.
  • Find a used book store and get a second hand paperback for $1. Libraries often have these types of sales, too.
  • Leave it somewhere for someone else to find—in the pages of a magazine in a waiting room, in the pages of a library book, or just on the sidewalk. 
  • Give it to a little kid, maybe your niece or nephew. Seeing a child’s face light up is priceless!
  • Take a stroll through Target’s Dollar Spot section and get a new home decor piece.