(Updated 8/31/17) I’ll start this Frugal Hack with a sad, but true, confession. Whenever my wife and I have a rare date night we always end up at our local TJ Maxx or Ross rummaging through aisle after aisle of designer brands at bargain prices. Now before you blast me in the comments for being the most unromantic man on the face of the earth, I have to say that it is usually her idea and it is always after I take her to an incredibly romantic restaurant where she is wined and dined.
If you have ever shopped at a discount store like Ross, TJ Maxx, or Marshalls you know that it is virtually impossible to do with small kids and quickly becomes an exercise in futility and looks something like herding cats. Like a fine wine, you need time to take in the aroma of the clothing deals and browse through the merchandise without interruption. No one knows this better than my wife which is why we typically end up here at the end of a date night. Well, hopefully with a little luck, it won’t be the absolute end* of the date night…thankfully a great deal really turns my wife on. Anyways, I digress, here are the my insider tips to score you a great deal at TJ Maxx, Ross, and Marshall’s.
Also, be sure to check out our article detailing all the top name brands you can find at Ross, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls.
(* date night with no sex.)
When it comes to finding the best deal at TJ Maxx there are some important nuisances to consider:
~ Shop on Wednesdays – Historically, TJ Maxx marks down merchandise on Wednesdays. While this can vary some from store to store, your best bet for finding new mark downs is on Wednesday mornings right when the store opens. Also, most TJ Maxx locations get new arrivals 3-5 days a week so the selection is constantly changing.
~ The Scoop on “Irregular” Items – Over 95% of the items at TJ Maxx are first quality while the other 5% are “Irregular”. This doesn’t mean they have a hole in them or a Monica Lewinsky stain, but rather an error in the manufacturing process. Things like the wrong color dye or wrong material. In other words, they are irregularities that the average customer is not even going to notice.
~ TJ Maxx Vs. Macy’s – Don’t be shocked to see the same merchandise in TJ Maxx as your local Macy’s or Nordstrom on the same exact day. The price will be much less at TJ Maxx of course. The reason? Let’s say that a clothing manufacturer has enough denim to make 65,000 pairs of jeans but Macy’s only buys 50,000, then off-price retailers like TJ Maxx will come in and buy the extra 15,000 pairs for a steep discount and pass the savings along to you.
~ Sales at TJ Maxx?– The only time when you will find any sales at TJ Maxx is at the end of the current season when they try and clear out old merchandise. This makes it a great time to stock up for the following year. Snatch clearance deals quickly as they won’t last forever as TJ Maxx will eventually donate unsold clearance items to local charities.
~ Designer Names at TJ Maxx?– Don’t be fooled by TJ Maxx commercials which are not allowed to display name brands in their ads. They have them in droves. On a recent shopping trip I found big deals on Nike, American Eagle Outfitters, Levi’s, and Puma. And that was only in the men’s section.
~ Holiday Shopping Strategy – Unlike many big department stores, TJ Maxx receives new items for Christmas shopping right up until Christmas eve. Why? Their buyers are buying merchandise all year long and not on a seasonal basis. Which means they are buying for Christmas right into early December making them a great place to shop if you procrastinate this year on your Christmas gift list.
Ross – (Dress for Less)
People either love or hate Ross. There is not a lot of middle ground when it comes to the discount store. The stores often look like a small tornado has gone through and many of the floors appear to have not been mopped since the Clinton administration. But people go for the amazingly low prices, not the ambiance. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your next shopping trip.
~ Shop With an Open-Mind – The secret to shopping at Ross is walking into the store with an open-mind. You have to be aware that you’re probably going to have to dig for a deal and maybe even step over a child throwing a temper-tantrum to receive aforementioned deal. Give yourself plenty of time to look through the racks of often unorganized clothing, shoes, purses, luggage, and home goods.
~ Snatch Up Deals ASAP – Ross replenishes their inventory at least 3 times per week. Their buyers do NOT buy a ton of any certain item as they try to keep inventory costs as low as possible. What this means to the shopper is that deals are here today, long gone tomorrow. I can attest to this personally. A few years ago I found this really cool Calvin Klein shirt at my local Ross store, bought it, wore it a few times, and it quickly became a gamer. I went back to buy a couple more and they were gone and I have yet to see them again. The funny part is I look for it every time I go in even though CK probably stopped making it a couple years ago. Lesson learned.
~ Shopping Secrets – The other day I stumbled upon this really cool forum on The Nest.com and found a couple little known gems from loyal Ross shoppers:
- Business travel secret from member Tiki_life, “Knit polyester tops from Ross (which they seem to have WAY more of than any normal store) are comfortable for the plane, NEVER wrinkle, and don’t show sweat.”
- Hidden bargain secret from member Love_to_Shop, “Don’t forget to spend some time in the wrong size. Many shoppers will shove clothing back on the rack in the incorrect spot, so spend some time perusing your incorrect size for a hidden gem. The employees can’t keep up with the chaos of the store so use this to your advantage.”
Unfortunately, we don’t have a Marshalls in the town I live in but we have been known to hit one on occasion when driving to the San Francisco bay area. Here are some shopping secrets:
~ Look For Red Tag Items – When you see an item at Marshalls with a red price tag you should snatch it up like a fat man eyeing the last Krispy Kreme. It means that the item is on clearance and the price will NOT get any lower.
~ Shop in January & July – A couple years ago, Marshalls style expert, Sonya Cosentini, let the cat out of the bag about red tag items. She said that items are only marked down to clearance prices in the months of January and July. This obviously makes sense as it’s the end of the cold and warm seasons so they have a lot of clothing to clear out to make room for new styles. So be sure to shop those two months to maximize your savings.
~ What About Purple Tags? – For those that are highly fashion-conscious, you’re going to want to look for items with a purple sales tag at Marshalls. They signify clothing items that were seen on the runway during Fashion Week. Apparently these items move pretty quickly so you’ll have to be persistent to find them. Items including not only clothing but also shoes, handbags, and other accessories.
~ Get To Know an Employee – This one is based solely on my own experience. I think Marshalls has some of the the friendliest and most helpful employees of any large chain store I have been in. Whenever I ask one of them a question they actually take the time to stop and help me. Novel concept, huh? They always point me to the best deals and drop the dirt about new shipments and when they will be hitting the sales floor. Has anyone had a similar experience or am I just getting really lucky?
Ask the Reader: Are you a fan of any of these discount stores? What tips do you use to score the best deals?
By Kyle James