Target & Costco Have Price Tag Codes—Here’s How You Can Crack Them

published Feb 11, 2019
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Whether you’re trying to tighten the belt this year, or you’re one of those people who can’t stand the thought of paying any more for something than you have to, scouring the sale and clearance sections at your favorite stores is probably a habit. But rather than settling for a casual stroll past picked-over end caps, being armed with the knowledge of when items get marked down and how to know when you’re getting rock-bottom prices will ensure that you get not only the very best deals, but first pick of them.

(Image credit: Sean Wandzilak)


Markdown Amounts

Knowing how much stores mark down is helpful when you want to know if you’re getting the best possible price for something.

Markdowns at Target happen in three iterations for regular items: 30 percent, 50 percent, 70 percent. Holiday and seasonal items will go down to 90 percent off.

Note that a price ending in 4 does not mean that the price is the lowest it will go. This rumor got started because many times, back in the days that Target would do markdowns up to 75 percent off, a marked-down item would have a new discounted price ending in a 4.

Seventy percent is now the lowest Target will mark down a regular item, so when you see that, you can know that’s as good as it’s going to get.

Clearance Markdown Schedules

Big clearance markdowns happen cyclically. As Jessica Turner of The Mom Creative writes, for example, “the big toy clearance happens 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.”

Department Markdown Days

This schedule may vary from store to store, but in general, you can expect to find the following markdowns on the following days, according to All Things Target:

  • Monday: electronics, accessories, kids’ clothes, books, baby items, and stationery
  • Tuesday: domestic supplies, women’s clothing, pets and market products (food items)
  • Wednesday: men’s clothing, health & beauty, diapers, lawn & garden items, and furniture
  • Thursday: housewares, lingerie, shoes, toys, sporting goods, decor, and luggage
  • Friday: automotive, cosmetics, hardware, and jewelry

Additional Target Shopping Tips

The red and white clearance label tells you a lot: Look on the top right to see the percentage of the discount and look on the bottom left to see the original price of the item. If an item you’re considering isn’t marked down as far as you’d like, know that it will be marked down again two weeks after the previous markdown. This applies to regular items; seasonal items are marked down much more drastically and quickly.

(Image credit: Andriy Blokhin)


Spotting Costco Markdowns

Finding Costco markdowns is simple: Any price ending in .97 is a marked-down price.

Another thing to look for when deal-shopping at Costco is the asterisk in the top right corner of the price tag. Asterisks indicate that the item won’t be re-stocked (or at least not any time soon). Also look for instant and manufacturer rebates (these will be clearly marked on the price tag).

(Image credit: Lynn Watson)

Best Buy

While Best Buy doesn’t have any secret pricing codes (none that we know about, anyway), knowing about Best Buy’s rotating deals can save you a good chunk of change if there are electronics you need to buy.

As outlined by Nerd Wallet, here are Best Buy’s regularly occurring promotions: Deal of the Day (these happen, as the name suggests, daily), 4-hour Sales (occur intermittently), and 2-day Sales (also intermittent).

Best Buy does apparently mark down their items based on competitors’ prices. This usually occurs on Wednesdays, according to Rather Be Shopping.

Additional Stores’ Markdown Days

Knowing when stores typically do their markdowns allows you to plan when you’ll shop so you can have first pick at the items recently put on sale. Here are a few markdown schedules from some favorite stores:

  • Anthropologie: Monday-Tuesday, so shop Tuesdays
  • Gap: Mondays, every two weeks (prices ending in .97 are rumored to be rock-bottom prices)
  • Pier One: Sunday-Monday, so shop Monday
  • Old Navy: usually Sunday-Monday, so Tuesday is a good day to shop
  • Macy’s: Sunday-Tuesday, so shop Tuesday or Wednesday

It’s easy to get consumed by snatching up good deals for their own sake, so don’t forget to adhere to basic money-saving advice such as not buying things you don’t need in the first place. Try making lists of non-time-sensitive items that you need to get so you’re poised to look for them when you’re perusing sales.