There's a science to shopping at Target. Here's how to get the best bargains. (Photo: Thinkstock)Between back-to-school sales and everyday bargains, Target is an all-purpose shopping destination for plenty of people. But there's a science to shopping at Target, and these tips and tricks can help you save even more money.
Just because something is on clearance at Target doesn't necessarily mean that's as low as the price will go. There's a lot of information to be found on those little red clearance stickers that can help you determine if it's the best deal you can get. In the bottom-left corner of the tag is the item's original price. In the bottom-right corner is the current sale price. And in the top-right corner is the percentage off. Regular prices at Target always end in a "9," savvy shoppers have noted, but clearance items can be priced at 15 percent, 30 percent, 70 percent, 75 percent, or even 90 percent off.
Learn to decipher Target's clearance price tags to get even better bargains.Food, furniture, and electronics generally don't drop by more than 15 percent, some savvy shoppers point out, but holiday items may end up 90 percent off at the end of the season. The key is to check if the price ends in a "4."
"If the price on the sticker ends in an '8,' it will be marked down again," says Kelly at FaithfulProvisions.com. "If it ends in a '4,' that's the lowest it will be. So if you see a price ending in a '4' at 50 percent off, you might want to grab it now, because it's not going to get any cheaper."
Target has a team of employees who focus on marking down merchandise, and certain departments get marked down on certain days, several frugal bloggers have noted. According to TargetSavers.com, Clippergirl.com, and others, the general Target markdown schedule is:
Monday: Children's clothing, baby items, electronics, and office supplies/gift wrap/stationary.
Tuesday: Women's clothing, home decor and domestic items
Wednesday: Men's clothing, toys, food, health and beauty, garden items
Thursday: Housewares, lingerie, shoes, sporting goods, luggage
Friday: Cosmetics, jewelry, hardware, automotive, and home improvement
Ask a Target associate what the markdown schedule is for your local store, since schedules -- and prices -- may vary by location. "In addition to knowing the day of the week, it's important to know that they mark things down to the next level every two weeks," writes Kelly at Faithful Provisions. "So, if you're watching an item and see it was just marked down 50 percent, come back the same day in another two weeks and you should find it at 75 percent off."
Be warned, though: If you hold out for that better discount, the item may be sold out when you come back. And if the item was purchased online but returned to a store, it might be the only one of its kind in the place -- and it will be priced to sell.
"The best deals you will find at Target are returned online-only items," wrote Reddit user "goldenglove2," a former Target employee. "Most of the time they go straight to 90 percent off because there is no place for them on the planogram."
Those deeply discounted items often end up on the end caps of rarely trafficked aisles, several Target fans have pointed out, and though they're clearly labeled "Clearance," the items aren't necessarily in any kind of order.
"At our store we literally close our eyes and toss," Target employee "santisanti" confessed on Reddit.
If you're shopping for toys, it's best to stock up in January, when stores make room for spring and summer stock, and in late July or early August, when the fall and winter toys come in. Holiday merchandise tends to get marked down quickly once the big day has passed; experts call it "the 3-3-2 rule." The first three days after the holiday, items are 50 percent off. For the next three days, they're 75 percent off. For two days after that, they're 90 percent off and, after that, whatever is left goes to Goodwill.
If you don't have the time to track clearance prices, you can still minimize your bill in other ways:
Sign up for a Target Red Card. You can save 5 percent every time you use it, and if you prefer to shop online at Target.com the Red Card will get you free shipping.
Watch for the Daily Deal. Bargain shopping sites like Want Not can help you keep track of Target's Daily Deal offerings -- up to five items at a bargain price plus free shipping.
Bring your own bags. Most Target stores will give you 5 cents off for every bag you use, according to Quizzle.
Clip (or print) coupons. Target offers plenty of store coupons on their website and through their mobile coupon program, and you can use them in conjunction with the manufacturer's coupons you find online or clip from your local newspaper; maximize your savings by using them on trial-size items when you can. Also: The store sometimes prints high-value coupons at the bottom of your receipt, so check them before you toss them.
Keep your receipt. Target will match prices in a competitor's printed ad as long as the product has the same brand name and model number and the ad is from within seven days of your purchase. They won't match prices from Target.com or other online retailers, but if they put the same item on sale less than a week after you buy it, they'll give you back the difference.
Sign up for the Birthday Club. If you sign your kids up for Target's Birthday Club," they'll get a special birthday offer every year (About.com says that offer is a coupon for $5 off any $50 purchase.)
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