10 Tips for Shopping Target Clearance

by jessicaturner on July 31, 2013

The best tips for shopping Target clearance, how to get deals at Target, where to find the Target deals and how to save money at Target. A must-pin

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t a Target clearance shopper. You see, my parents met at Target (they both worked there in the 70s, and my Mom still works there!), so Target is in my blood.

At a very young age, I remember getting so excited when I would find things on sale, and shopping the day after Christmas was a family tradition.

Now as an adult, I have taken shopping Target clearance to a whole new level. It used to be that 50% off was when I bought, but not anymore. I typically wait for 70% off – or 90% off when it happens! If I miss something at 50% off, I figure I didn’t need it and there’s always another sale. I am committed to saving as much money on gifts and items for my family as possible.

The last Thursday in July is typically the bi-annual big toy clearance (a huge portion of toys go 70% off to make way for Christmas toys). In honor of that, I thought I would share my 10 tips for shopping Target clearance.

  1. Understand how things get marked down: Most items will be marked down 30% off/50% off/70% off. Mark downs typically happen every two weeks (with the exception of seasonal items, which get marked down much faster.) Popular items (like food, beauty products and electronics) will start at 15% off. Holiday and seasonal items (Valentine’s, Easter, Summer, Back-to-School and Christmas) will go down to 90% off – YEOW!
  2. Pay attention to deal cycles: The BIG clearance mark-downs are cyclical. For instance, the big toy clearance happens at in late January and the end of July/early August (on a Thursday) every year. Mark your calendar and start paying attention to mark-downs prior to the sale.
  3. Learn when your store does mark-downs: Do certain departments get marked down on certain days? Pay attention. When you are in the store and you see mark-downs happening (usually in the morning), jot down the day. (Check out Kayla Aimee’s post for a general mark-down calendar by day.)
  4. Look on back end-caps: You will find most store clearance on the back end-caps. I always make it a point to walk up and down all the back aisles to monitor what has been marked down.
  5. Don’t just look on back end-caps: I know I just said look on back end-caps, which is true. Most clearance will be on back end-caps, this doesn’t mean you won’t find clearance in aisles, so it is good to check the regular aisles too. This past week, I found lots of photo albums on clearance, as well as canned pineapple marked 50% off in the canned good aisle (which is considerably better than the 15% off that I usually see food marked down to).
  6. Look at how low the price is: There is misinformation out there that if a price ends in 4, that this is the lowest the price will go. This is not true. You need to look at if the item is marked down 30% off, 50% off or 70% off. If the item is marked down to 70% off (and isn’t seasonal) then that is as low as it will go. Clearance stickers also say in the top right corner how low the mark-down is, just in case you aren’t good at mental math! :) Read this excellent post by All Things Target for more on this.
  7. Signs aren’t always right: Just because I sign says 30% off, doesn’t mean everything in the area is 30% off. For instance, even though this display in jewelry/accessories said 30% off, I found purses as high as 70% off in that area. That’s why the signs say X% off or more.
  8. Shop at Target often: Of course, visiting Target often will ensure you learn your store and don’t miss any great deals. There is a Target right on the way to my kids’ day care, so I often stop in after work before picking them up.Visiting multiple Targets will also give you a better sense of the stock and where the best store to shop is when a big clearance sale hits. Nashville has two Targets that I regularly monitor. For the summer 90% off sale, I knew that one store had 5 times the clearance of the other one I go to, so that is where I headed at 8 a.m. last week Tuesday. It was definitely worth the trip as I got $725 worth of stuff for $75. 
  9. Read Target blogs: Target blogs are a great way to monitor the best deals available. I love All Things Target and Totally Target. Some frugal blogs, like Money Saving Mom, also share Target deals.
  10. Follow Target blogs on Facebook: Often times I find that I learn of Target sales faster through my Facebook feed. I especially love the All Things Target Facebook page. The community is super active and always sharing what they are finding at their stores. This is SO helpful because then you know what to look for.

Additional tips when shopping clearance items (at any store):

  1. Budget: Spending lots of money that is outside the parameters of your budget is never wise, so be sure to pay attention to your spending.
  2. Review your receipt: Sometimes an item that is supposed to be on clearance will not scan properly, so be sure to pay attention when the cashier is ringing up your order AND review your receipt after the sale is complete.
  3. Return what you don’t need: Sometimes, I get a little crazy and will overbuy during a major clearance sale (like last week’s 90% off summer clearance). My philosophy is to snatch up what I think I want, evaluate what I want when I get home and return what I don’t need. Even if it was only $1, if you don’t need the item, the $1 is better in your bank account.
  4. Storage: When shopping clearance, it is important to have a place to put what you buy (especially when stockpiling gifts).
  5. Stay organized: Overspending and buying things you don’t need is not good! I keep a spreadsheet of all the people I buy gifts for and what I have bought so I don’t forget. Over-buying doesn’t end up saving any money.

Three final tips for saving money at Target

  1. Sign up for the Target debit card: This is NOT a credit card. It is a debit card just for Target that syncs with your bank account, AND you save 5% off on all purchases. I love this. Since I am shopping at Target anyway, why not save an additional 5% off? I buy a lot of groceries at Target too because you save more money on them when you use your Target card. The only thing to keep in mind is that it takes a few days for the money to come out of your account.
  2. Download the Target “cartwheel” app: It has tons of coupons in it that can be stacked with sales and manufacturer’s coupons, making for some awesome deals.
  3. Price-match to Amazon: Target will price-match anything in store to Amazon. You just need to take the item to the service desk, along with the Amazon app showing the price and bam! they will match it. Even better, you can still use your Target red card to save more money.

What are your questions for shopping Target clearance? Anything you would add to these tips?



{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah (theGIRL) July 31, 2013 at 6:47 am

Target came to my part of the country when I was in college. Oh my. I still remember that first catalog I got in the mail. I fell in love, and there’s been no turning back. So cool that your parents met there. 😉

Thanks for sharing! These are great tips. :)

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Valerie July 31, 2013 at 7:16 am

You forgot to add that with the Target debit card, you can select a school to receive 1% of everything you spend. You select it by logging into the website for that card. Its just another nice little bonus of having that card.

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jessicaturner July 31, 2013 at 7:49 am

I didn’t forget – I didn’t know that. SO awesome. Will do that with my card today.

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Valerie July 31, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Yep, its awesome! When you got to the Red Card page you will see a link for “Take Charge for Education”. You can click on it for more information!

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Linda had a little Lamb July 31, 2013 at 7:46 am

Thanks for the tips. I also like to purchase items on sale at any store. I didn’t realize that things so on sale so quickly and when.

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SnoWhite @ Finding Joy in My Kitchen July 31, 2013 at 7:50 am

Great tips! I love Target — even been to their very first ever store, and the 2-story Target :)

I really do appreciate you taking the time to share what you’ve learned about clearance deals. May I ask what you scored from their summer clearance? That’s quite an amazing deal.

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jessicaturner July 31, 2013 at 9:24 am

I got SO many great things! 8 lawn chairs ($1.29 each), 10 kids chairs ($1.49 each), tons of outdoor games (.99-$1.99), bubbles (.29), electric ice shaver (3.49), kids craft kits (.10), plastic cups (.17 each ), boxes of foam stickers (.50) and more. I was really fortunate. I think my store must have received a late shipment which is why they had SO much.

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Trista July 31, 2013 at 8:14 am

Great tips! Thanx for sharing!

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Ashley July 31, 2013 at 8:18 am

Which Target stores do you visit in Nashville? I live in Goodlettsville so I typically hit up the Hendersonville or Rivergate one and they’re hard to find good stuff in because they’re so busy all the time.

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jessicaturner July 31, 2013 at 9:09 am

The closest ones for me are White Bridge and Nashville West, but I also occasionally go to the Brentwood and Cool Springs stores. All of those stores are busy too. The secret really is to shop often.

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Sabrina July 31, 2013 at 8:37 am

Thanks for all the tips! I think the date in your post is wrong though….tomorrow is Thursday, August 1, not the 31st. I was getting all excited to head there today until I realized its only Wednesday. 😉

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jessicaturner July 31, 2013 at 9:10 am

YES! Typo indeed. August 1. I corrected it. (Some stuff has already been marked down 70% off, so you could go today and tomorrow.) :)

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Erin July 31, 2013 at 8:40 am

I love how you have been posting about stockpiling gifts lately (Dayspring, Lisa Leonard and now this post)! Thanks for all you do — I’ve loved these posts!!

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jessicaturner July 31, 2013 at 9:10 am

It’s a joy to help readers like you. xo

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Joanne July 31, 2013 at 9:43 am

I would only add that for things like food, beauty items, etc. that you shouldn’t be afraid to use coupons on top of clearance prices! I am always using coupons on clearance finds ~ not too long ago there were Venus razors on clearance and we happened to have a BOGO coupon at the time. It really helps to stack the savings! Thanks for all the great tips! Today is the first day I’ve been to your blog (via Money Saving Mom) ~ and I’ll definitely be back! :)

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jessicaturner July 31, 2013 at 9:53 am

Yes, I totally forgot to mention using coupons to maximize savings, but this is such a good tip! Thanks for visiting, and I do hope you’ll be back.

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LinhC July 31, 2013 at 9:48 am

Love these tips! The 1% back to a school really helps out the schools in our area.

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Sarah July 31, 2013 at 9:55 am

These tips are wonderful, and I LOVE Target. Thank you for sharing!

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Becca July 31, 2013 at 10:56 am

I also love that with the Target debit card, you get free shipping! Their shipping rates are pretty high and I rarely buy things online if I can’t get free shipping.

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jessicaturner July 31, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Yes! This is a great perk. Especially because sometimes you find things on clearance online that aren’t available in store. I also am a huge fan of Target diapers and it is nice to have them shipped right to my door from time to time.

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Christy July 31, 2013 at 11:15 am

This is such a great post Jessica! I love that your parents met at Target, that’s so cool. Thanks so much for linking to All Things Target. I can’t wait to see what you pick up at the 70% off sale.

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Cheryl July 31, 2013 at 12:13 pm

I work at Target. THANK YOU for dispelling that rumor about the clearance price ending in 4…blah blah blah. That pin has been annoying me for months! Great post.

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Stephanie Click July 31, 2013 at 2:25 pm

When we lived in Nashville, I always went to the White Bridge Target even though it was a little further for me. Always had great clearance!!!

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Leanne July 31, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Another money saving tip, if you don’t have or don’t want to use your Redcard.

I earn fuel points when I shop at my local grocery store, good for $.10 off a gallon of gas (up to 35 gallons) for every 100 points, up to 1000 points or $1 off per gallon. When I buy gift cards, I earn double points! I buy Target gift cards for the clearance sales and usually max out my points. Saving $35 dollars in gas outweighs the Redcard savings for me :)

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Cara July 31, 2013 at 4:15 pm

I happened to stop in yesterday and noticed a bunch of toys on clearance, and said out loud “Oh summer clearance is coming!” Thank you for letting me know when it starts in earnest as I made note of a few things to check back in on.
I did buy two things yesterday that were must haves for my 6 month old – one for now and one for Christmas. The one for now they only had one of, so I snatched it up and I’m saving my receipt in case the other drops below 50% — then I buy another and return it on the old receipt right then and there:)
Looking forward to shopping tomorrow:)

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Whitney July 31, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Awesome tips! I think the toy clearance was last Thursday. I stocked up on a bunch of toys last Thursday that were marked 30%-70% off that day.

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jessicaturner July 31, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Yep, last week you certainly could find some things marked 70% off, but overwhelmingly (at least according to the Target deal blogs I monitor) most stores have not done the big markdown yet. Glad you scored so many awesome deals.

Honestly, I don’t think the toy clearance is nearly as good as it was in January and last summer… but I still plan to pick up a few things! :)

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Breanna July 31, 2013 at 4:35 pm

i’d also add to check clearance labels on multiples of the item you’re looking at…what I mean is, I found an AWESOME pair of shoes a few weeks ago on clearance, and the pair in my size were marked down to $17.98, but other sizes of the same shoes were marked $14.98. I’ve found this happens frequently, and not just between various sizes. I’ve seen identical items on clearance with two different prices. If this is the case and- as with the shoes- I needed the one with the higher price, I always take the matching item with the lower price to the register with me and they’re always happy to ring me up at the lower price.

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jessicaturner July 31, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Good to know!

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Dale Burgess July 31, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Some years ago, someone showed me an article,stating that Target Stores did not support our Military men,is this true??

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Erin August 11, 2013 at 9:55 pm

I work at target…therefore I know this answer…target does indeed support military but it isn’t outright how other stores do. Same as other organizations. Instead of target having bell ringers or people outside the front door (target corporate and headquarters believe this can disturb and bother guests) they donate what the said organization thinks they would make if they were outside the doors…
I hope this makes sense. I am also a military wife and was very cautious about taking the job since I heard that rumor as well…

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Cindy July 31, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I totally can’t believe that I haven’t ran into you at Target, since White Bridge and Nashville west are the two stores I go to the most. And I’m all about the sales. I can’t believe though all the summer stuff you got. I got some at 70%, and then I guess I just missed the day it went to 90%, because, when I went looking at 90% there was nothing left.

Something that you could also add to your tips, don’t think I saw it mentioned. But I scored big after Easter this year. And part of the reason is because I went looking elsewhere for the clearance items. They had bubble guns in the Easter aisle, but were picked over by the time it hit 90% ( I found one I think), but there were still tons over in the toy section. I just had to determine which ones were on sale, which was no problem. I love scanners. So I always try to remember to check the actual shelf where the item might be located. Now I have enough bubble guns if ever needed at school or for goody bags at future parties.

Looking forward to tomorrow. I will be out at our stores with my son. So we might run into each other. Here’s hoping that there are tons of toys, and they are all marked 70%.

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jessicaturner July 31, 2013 at 7:57 pm

I scored some great deals after Easter too! The Sesame Street toys I nabbed for Adeline’s gift bags at her party were 70% off after Easter (and I got them in the toy section.) That is a great example of how monitoring deal blogs can help you score deals. I never would have known those toys were ringing up 70% off had I not followed All Things Target.

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Heather July 31, 2013 at 5:20 pm
Jen August 1, 2013 at 6:51 am

I use to shop Target clearance all the time at 70% off, but as of last year I notice Target rarely has 70% off anymore.
I use to buy clothes at the end of season for the following year for my daughter and the deals haven’t been as good as they use to be. Am I missing something?

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Renee August 1, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Jen- I think it depends on your store and how much inventory they have. The store closest to me has only had seasonal items go to 90% off twice in 5 years and items frequently don’t make it to 70% off either. :(

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Tiffany August 1, 2013 at 9:30 am

As usual, love your blog and all the money-saving tips. I will definitely be headed to Target today. :)

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jessicaturner August 2, 2013 at 6:00 am

Thanks so much!

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Jill August 1, 2013 at 10:17 pm

I was at target today and the summer stuff was not on sale and hardly any good clearance deals. :0(

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jessicaturner August 2, 2013 at 5:59 am

Yeah, the 90% off summer sale was last week. Sorry that you didn’t get any other good clearance sales!

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DAnee August 17, 2013 at 4:35 pm

I am huge proponent of Target’s 5% of deal as I feel without it you are actually spending 5% more than you SHOULD. However, I keep the credit card as opposed to the debit card-I pay the credit card off every single month without fail so it acts essentially as a debit card- because there is a $50 maximum responsibility for a stolen credit card but as far I am aware this protection is not offered on debit cards.

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Shelleyc August 18, 2013 at 1:42 am

B sure to add the Cartwheel app on your phone for additional savings and print coupons too from their website

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Shelleyc August 18, 2013 at 1:44 am

Oops! No ‘c’ in my name :)

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Diana W. August 18, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Thank you so much for the information! I do love a good deal. Keep up the good work.

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samantha October 30, 2013 at 11:10 am

I actually just brought a bunch of holiday (Halloween) plates from there. I know they they won’t match clearance prices but can I return and repurchase the items if it’s within a week?

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jessicaturner October 31, 2013 at 5:04 am

Yes, if they still have them. You won’t be able to repurchase the ones you return – you will need to go find them on the floor. Good luck!

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Kirsyen January 7, 2014 at 6:16 am

I thought the Red card was only 2%?

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Tina January 8, 2014 at 1:56 am

I have the Red card credit card…and it’s 5% off each time you use it.

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Carrie Roberts July 30, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Great tips, thanks for sharing! Another point, if you get your prescriptions at the pharmacy, enroll in Pharmacy rewards. After 5 Rx’s you get a card for an additional 5% off while using your Red Card. That’s an additional 10% off marked down prices! Awesome!

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Jenah July 31, 2014 at 9:12 am

I have lived in several places in the last few years, and I get the impression that it’s up to store managers to clearance things how they see fit. When we lived in a small rural town in Mn, the clearance rack was ridiculous. I could get the BEST deals on kids clothes! (Tshirts for 70¢!) But to compare that with inner city Chicago, they are much more stingy with markdowns (I assume because they can move product faster) and it totally depends from store to store. One had Halloween candy marked down 70% the day after and another store never marked it below 30%. It pays to look around!

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chelsea alexander February 23, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Thank you! This is the most accurate of all the “secrets” I’ve seen out there, especially when it comes to the lowest price issue.

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Jolie March 21, 2015 at 11:20 pm

Great article, thanks for the tips. Not only did we score a three story (!) Target in the local mall, but Kaiser recently contracted with their pharmacy. As if I didn’t need more reasons to spend the day wandering happily through their aisles.

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M Wyatt July 25, 2015 at 11:17 pm

Typically the markdowns are not determined by the manager in the building. Target team members are told what to markdown and when to mark it down by HQ in Minneapolis. Seasonal markdowns like Halloween, Christmas, and Easter are determined in part by how much stock is in each store. Another thing to watch for is sometimes things get marked down a day early. Especially on weeks with lots of price reductions the team that scans and tags everything will try to get ahead.

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Jaci October 18, 2015 at 5:11 pm

ALWAYS scan a sale item. It can be a sale on top of a sale!!!

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