It can be hard to resist Target TV ads and circulars featuring cute clothes, trendy home decor and personable pets — not to mention sometimes seductive sale prices that can be enough to make you want to buy a bathing suit in February. But not everything Target offers is a bargain. Here, retail experts offer advice about which of the store's products are on target.
Click through to find out the best ways to save money at Target.
1. Clearance Clothing: Best
While Target isn't necessarily known for having the lowest prices on trendy threads, cost-conscious consumers can often find deep discounts when they wait for items to migrate to the clearance racks, said Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing with DealNews.
"Savvy shoppers should pick through the clothing clearance sales for extremely cheap wares; while clothing at Target might start at relatively high price points, inventory that doesn't sell can sometimes be marked down dramatically — sometimes even in the single-digit price range."
Whether you're a fashionista or not, it never hurts to find ways to save on clothing.
2. LEGO Sets: Best
Sakraida offers similar advice to those in the market for perennially popular LEGO sets. But, unlike clearance clothing finds, these discounts aren't exclusively available in a Target store, but also through Target online shopping. In addition to the 5 percent discount they get in-store and online, Target REDcard users can also get free shipping on orders.
"Target isn't always the best place for toys, but surprisingly we see a lot of discounts on LEGO sets specifically," she said. "When the sets go on sale, you can expect discounts of about 40 percent off."
3. Black Friday Buys: Best
Target doesn't always nail the bullseye when it comes to the lowest prices on tech tools either, but they sometimes offer deep discounts for special sales, so it's worth including the retailer when comparison shopping Sakraida said.
"Occasionally the store will have good deals on tech items, particularly around Black Friday and the holidays. But on average, we don't recommend people buy electronics at Target unless you've thoroughly price checked the item and know it to be the cheapest available."
4. Food Storage: Best
While you're comparing prices on holiday gifts, you might want to stock up on containers to store all those leftovers, Sakraida said.
"Target frequently offers the best price on food storage sets, with many multi-item kits priced at around $10," she said. These sets are items that are always cheaper at Target.
For instance, a 14-piece Pyrex set of food storage containers was priced at $18.89 at Target.com compared with an Amazon.com price of $34.39.
5. Registry Items: Best
If you're having a baby, Target can serve as a one-stop shop for everything from furniture to strollers to sleepers, said Emily Helwig, digital marketing manager at Dealspotr.com, an online database for promo codes.
"You'll have a ton of options spanning all departments, and here's the fun part: Target will offer you 15 percent off on the items you don't receive as gifts," she said.
Engaged couples get the same discount on anything that hasn't been checked off their registry. "Perfect if it turns out that your family and friends, in fact, don't know you as well as you thought," Helwig said. Just one more secret way to save money at Target.
6. Cartwheel and Coupon Combos: Best
Sometimes, the best deals come from stacking conventional coupons with offers available through Cartwheel, Target's paperless couponing app. In addition to conventional coupons that work in any store, savvy shoppers can sometimes get Target coupons online, through the mail and when they check out at Target stores, among other places, according to an article on the Dealspotr site. They can then combine coupons with Cartwheel offers and even redeem deals from other money-saving shopping apps such as Ibotta and Checkout 51 because some items should never be bought without a coupon.
7. Shopping List Staples: Best
It may seem a little like shopper cyberstalking, but your Cartwheel app will offer personalized "For You" deals based on your buying habits. For instance, if you frequently buy Target's store brand Market Pantry eggs, you'll often find exclusive discounts to entice you to pick up a dozen.
8. Pantry Basics: Best
Similarly, during sales, shoppers can stock up on shelf-stable foods for less than they would pay at traditional grocery stores. Plus, Target often offers Cartwheel discounts on items that are already on sale, said Kristen Castillo, a writer, editor and television producer.
"For example, store brand and big-brand — like Barilla — pastas and sauces are both sold at budget prices," she said.
In fact, Target's weekly sale ad for the St. Louis area recently offered several varieties of Barilla pasta for $1 a box and jars of Barilla-brand pasta sauce for $1.77, a savings of about 60 cents over the same products at some nearby grocery stores.
9. Cold-Case Basics: Best
Cold-case basics are often a bargain buy, too, said Castillo, a married mother of two sons and self-described "avid discount shopper."
These items, including eggs and milk, are typically priced lower than grocery stores," she said. "However, for specific items like yogurts, they have limited stock and variety."
As just one example, a recent weekly sale from Target stores in the St. Louis area wooed shoppers with a $3.99 sale on 64-ounce cartons of Horizon organic milk, which was priced at a dollar more at local Shop 'n Save stores.
10. Baby Bonuses: Best
Castillo recommends stocking up on baby gear during the retailer's semi-annual baby sale. She also keeps an eye out for coupons and Cartwheel offers. For example, Target sometimes offers gift cards for purchases of multiple boxes of diapers. And these offers aren't limited to the baby department. Savvy shoppers can earn gift cards for purchases of everything from fresh food to pet supplies.
While you're stocking up on bargain buys, experts warn against getting distracted by carefully crafted displays and impulse items.
1. Bullseye’s Playground: Worst
Don't be drawn in by the colorful "Bullseye's Playground" display at the front of the store that's stocked with a rotating selection of small seasonal items, Castillo advises.
"Most of the items these days are $3, $5 or more," she said. "Similar items are actually $1 at dollar stores. For example, a dry erase board with a marker is $3 at Target, while DollarTree had a similar one for $1."
Offering another illustration, a 2-pack of Crazy String was available in the online Bullseye's Playground for $8 compared with a 24-pack available through Amazon for $38.50, or just over $1.60 for each neon-hued party in a can.
2. Wine: Worst
Although Target introduced a line of "California Roots" wines priced at $5 a bottle last year, brands available at other stores don't often represent the best bargain available. For instance, a 750-milliliter bottle of La Marca Prosecco is priced at $11.47 on Total Wine & More's website, well below Target's retail price of $13.99.
3. CDs: Worst
While Target often offers Cartwheel discounts and sales on CDs, many of its recent releases are priced at around $13.99, which is not always the lowest price available online or from other brick-and-mortar retailers. For example, Walmart shoppers could recently save as much as $4 on pop singer Pink's most recent release, "Beautiful Trauma."
4. TVs: Worst
According to Sakraida, Target isn't known for offering big bargains on electronics. And Consumer Report's review of 2017 Black Friday deals supports that sentiment. Many of Target's advertised sale prices for televisions were comparable to its conventional competitors. However, warehouse clubs including Costco beat big-box retailers like Target and Best Buy, so it's important to shop around because sales could change those deals.
5. Smartphone Accessories: Worst
Those looking to outfit their smartphone or tablet would probably be better off buying through Amazon or other online retailers who typically outprice Target on items like PopSockets. For instance, Amazon was offering a standard black PopSocket for smartphones and tablets for $8.49 compared to Target's price of $9.99. But it's also worth noting Target offers a price match guarantee if you don't want to wait for delivery or make a stop at another store that's offering a lower price.
6. Some Prescriptions: Worst
While some pharmacies offer a selection of generic drugs for free, Target pharmacies, now operated by CVS, don't. For instance, Publix supermarket pharmacies showcase a selection of antibiotics, high blood pressure, diabetes and allergy drugs at no costs to patients. The CVS pharmacies in Target stores do offer some value-priced generics, however, as well as a pharmacy rewards program that allows members to earn points toward ExtraBucks Rewards that can be used on most items in the store. So it pays to choose a pharmacy that best suits your prescription needs and your pocketbook.
7. Gift Cards: Worst
You'll typically pay full price for gift cards you pick up off end caps and checkout aisle displays at Target, but planning ahead can cut card costs. For example, Sam's Club frequently offers discounted gift cards. And you can also shop sites such as Gift Card Granny, Raise and other online gift card marketplaces where you can sell unused gift cards for cash or buy gift cards at a discount.
8. Books and Magazines: Worst
If you buy mountains of magazines, you'll definitely get the best prices through annual or multi-year subscriptions. And, even if you only make the occasional last-minute buy when your Hollywood crush is on a cover, Target isn't always your best bet, especially if you're already a member of certain retail reward clubs.
For instance, if you have a Barnes & Noble membership, which costs $25 a year, you get at least 10 percent off almost everything in the store and free express shipping for online orders. Plus, bibliophiles get 40 percent off the list price of all hardcover bestsellers in addition to other coupons and offers. For those who prefer pixels to pages, Amazon Prime members can read as much as they want from a selection of over 1,000 books, current magazines and other media, including audiobooks with Audible Narration.
9. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables: Worst
Many Target stores offer a decent selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, making them a great place to pick up a bagged salad or some cherry tomatoes after you're finished ransacking the racks in the clothing clearance section. Sometimes, sales can put the store's produce prices on par with full-service grocery stores. But you can't always count on bargains (bananas go for 29 cents each at some locations), and you certainly won't find anything too exotic. So if you're trying to tackle a complex cooking project, you're probably better off shopping at the grocery store.
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10. Fresh Meats: Worst
Along those same lines, Target isn't the best place to stock up for a big barbeque in most cases. Stores' selection of fresh meats tend to be limited when compared with full-service grocery stores, and you won't find full-service meat counters to fill special orders. Plus, grocery stores can offer deeper discounts on meats since they typically stock and sell more of it than big-box discount stores like Target. So, although you can pick up everything from gas grills to grass-fed beef at many Target locations, don't count on big barbeque bargains in the grocery section.
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