Target (TGT) is a great place to shop for many a thing, but there are some things you shouldn't buy there. Amazon (AMZN), Walmart (WMT), Best Buy (BBY), Costco (COST), Dollar Tree (DLTR) and Staples (SPLS) beat the big-box retailer on prices in quite a few categories, saving you possibly thousands of dollars a year.
That said, some approaches -- sales, the Target markdown schedule, store coupons, a Target Red card and the Target Cartwheel mobile app, a favorite app of consumer guru Andrea Woroch -- occasionally makes Target the best buy. Some other notes:
- Target.com recently initiated the lowest minimum threshold of $25 for free shipping, bettering Amazon's $35 and Walmart's $50 minimums.
- Shopping at Costco requires a yearly membership, starting at $55.
- You can now use name-brand coupons at Dollar Tree.
Costco had the best prices on formula, hands down, with its store-brand Kirkland infant formula, beating both store-brand up & up from Target and Walmart's Parent's Choice for a 40-ounce canister at $17.99 compared to up & up's $23.49 and Walmart's 33.2-ounce canister for $19.98. Costco's formula was significantly cheaper than the Target price for name-brand Similac 22-ounce canister, $24.99 on sale.
Diapers were a pretty good deal at Target, with up & up beating out Amazon, Costco and Walmart for a size 5 box of 144 diapers at $28.99. With additional possible stacking of Target Red card and Cartwheel savings and the possibility to subscribe for delivery with free shipping over $25, Target could save you hundreds a year keeping your baby dry.
Walmart had Target beat for bedding sets. An eight-piece king bedding set at Walmart for $49.96 may cost five bucks more but includes five extra accessories, such as a bedskirt and more pillow shams. For basic pillows, Walmart beat Target at $3.58, compared to $4.04 at Target.
Consider quality, though, as you spend eight hours daily between the sheets. "You can find superior quality with similar prices or even sometimes cheaper prices at department stores like Macy's (M)," Woroch said. "Especially if you search sale items and then apply a coupon for a deeper discount. Grab a printable coupon or online coupon from CouponSherpa.com. Even Homegoods has a good selection of cheap sheets. The only problem is that there is a limited selection."
In the grocery aisles, Target had higher prices on some staples, such as dairy, produce and canned goods. Dairy was a shocker, with a gallon of store-brand Market Pantry Target milk $4.49, compared to $2.79 at Costco and $2.98 at Walmart. Smaller chain stores like Aldi and other grocery outlets have milk running at these lower prices. Over a year, at two gallons a week, one could save almost $200 at Costco.
Butter and margarine were cheaper at both Walmart and Costco. Bananas -- America's most popular fresh fruit -- ran 28 cents each at Target. An average banana weighing four ounces equates to $1 a pound at Target, compared to 57 cents a pound at Walmart, 46.3 cents a pound at Costco and possibly less at your local supermarket. Cheerios at first looked like a good deal at Target at $3.99 for 21 ounces, but at Costco a two-pack of 20-ounce Cheerios (40 ounces total) costs $5.49.
If you are a K-cup coffee fanatic, Costco is your destination, with 100 count K-cups for $36.99, as opposed to an 18-count package for $10.99 at Target and $10.98 at Walmart.
For organic food, especially for produce, go to Trader Joe's, said Meghan Heffernan, a representative for savings.com.
3. Holiday Decorations, Wrap and Cards
"Gift wrap, gift bags and tissue paper is cheapest at the dollar store or even discount retailers like Marshalls," Woroch says. "Greeting cards you can get two-for-$1 at the dollar store." Party items are also a better buy at dollar stores.
4. Kitchen Items
If you are starting a household or need to replace pots and pans, the Farberware New Traditions 14-piece set, guaranteed for life, was $20 and change cheaper at Walmart than the Target price of $99.99. A Kitchen Aid basic stand mixer in black cost $20 less at Walmart than Target, $229 to $249.99. A starter pots and pans set is usually available at Ikea for under $40, and a basic cooking set was spotted for $26.99 on a daily deal at Staples. Target did beat out Walmart by five bucks for a basic six-quart Crockpot manual classic at $24.99. But Walmart beat Target for a Keurig 2.0 Model K300 coffeemaker by $10 with a price of $109.
5. Electronics and Accessories
Target had one of the highest prices for 55-inch Samsung TVs at $1099.99, with the same model $769.99 at Costco and $998 at Walmart -- but a similar size TV 1080p LED model from Panasonic was only $680 from BestBuy.com, with free shipping, as featured on www.bradsdeals.com. Target did have a Westinghouse 55-inch 1080p LED HDTV in store for $599.99. Although TVs are sometimes a good buy at Target, Woroch said, "the best prices for HDMI cables, remote controls and antennas are at Amazon."
Costco also had a cheaper Apple (AAPL) iPod 32GB touch at $234.49 to Target's $249.00, but Target was able to offer an iPad Air 2 for $499 -- $80 cheaper than at Costco, and a Sony PS4 Destiny was cheaper at Target than at Walmart. For smartphone and tablet accessories like cases, chargers and protective screens eBay (EBAY) has the cheapest selection, Woroch said.
6. Printer Paper
A 500-sheet ream of printer paper at Walmart ran $3.72, compared to the Target up & up brand at $5.39. Occasionally, Staples runs instant rebate deals where the paper is almost free if you're willing to log on and enter the details of your purchase receipt.
Dollar stores are the cheapest places to get batteries, hands down. An eight-pack of 16 AA Sunbeam batteries costs a dollar at Dollar Tree -- beating an Energizer Max 20-battery pack for $13.79 at Target or a Costco store-brand 48-battery pack for $12.99.
8. Athletic Gear and Underwear
Unless you need Nike or similarly expensive brand athletic shoes, sneakers were cheapest at Walmart, with Danskin (famous for dancewear) athletic shoes for children and adults running from as low as $3 on clearance to an average $11. These were much cheaper than Costco's Fila shoes at $19.99 or Target's Champion shoes, running $19.99 to $34.99.
Woroch doesn't like Target for fitness gear like yoga mats and weights, saying, "I found better deals on similar quality goods at discount retailers like Homegoods and Ross."
Walmart's $7.96 for multipacks of women's panties beat Target's $9.59 for Hanes brand. No Boundaries bras at $6.96 at Walmart were $6 cheaper than the Target Hanes wire-free sports bras at $12.99 -- and the Walmart bra came with a pair of matching boyshorts. Men's underwear at Target ($12.99 for a seven-pack) and Walmart were similarly priced, and both were a better deal than Costco's Kirkland four-pack for the same price.
9. Books and Movies
Amazon is the champion, and it regularly offers daily deals in both categories, especially in its e-book versions for bestsellers. For instance, New York Times bestseller "The Girl on the Train" ran $18.36 at Target.com and $16.17 on Amazon with a Kindle version at $8.99. The paperback version of "American Sniper" was $8.99 at Target.com and $6.07 on Amazon, with the Kindle version $4. Amazon also offers the easy choice of buying used copies, and there are plenty of book sites on the web. Movies can also be checked on price comparison sites simply by typing in the title. Of course, almost any book available at Target can be read for free from your local library -- if you are willing to wait.
10. Toiletries and Prescriptions
Walmart beat Target and Costco on its store-brand version of Head & Shoulders green apple 23.7-ounce shampoo for $3.48, compared to $4.29 at Target and $7.49 at Costco for the 40-ounce Head & Shoulders shampoo. Dollar Tree had them all beat for name-brand toothbrushes, full-size deodorants, shampoos and toothpastes for $1. Unless you need higher-priced cosmetics and grooming items, you can do better at dollar stores with basic grooming items.
Consumer Reports gave Target high marks for its store-brand sunscreen and its store-brand, generic, over-the-counter drugs. Woroch would direct you to Costco for your prescriptions.