This is a sample of what I got this season between the two best sale times which were right after Christmas in January and the Summer Clearance which was today. Don't worry the toys are not all for my kids! (We plan on donating 2/3 at Christmas time).
When "Extreme Couponing" was popular I was too busy to find coupons. But I learned a lot of lessons from that show and from other money saving websites. The lessons that has helped me most mainly was about cycling. Walmart, K-Mart, and Target all have cycles. It is sort of a game of chicken. They start marking down and they will keep marking down. The trick is to buy before what I really wants sells out but still getting it at the lowest price possible. This is an outline of how the stores cycle through old merchandise.
Each has a preliminary sales price and after normally a two week period the stores will double sale something. Target goes from 30% to 60% and than to 80%. There is also a coveted 90% clearance for Holiday stuff but honestly that just disappears in like 5 minutes. I've only nailed this sale once. Saturday and Thursday tend be mark down days. For holiday sales they adjust prices every 3 days so day after is 50% and than by day 7 it is normally 75% off. For departments like toys and housewares the patience required is more. It normally double discounted only 2 wks after it has initially been discounted.
My Target finally did their 75% to 80% on toys. They held off for three weeks this time on certain items to do it all at once today. These are the days I get everything for the holidays. In January I was in Albuquerque and hit their 75% day scoring some Thomas Train sets worth $80 and $55 for $25 and $18. This will be our boy's big gifts. On the other hand I bought Rachel's Strawberry Shortcake Cafe at only 30% off because I learned the hard way last year girls toys tend not to last on clearance long and since she likes less stocked things like My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake there is just less inventory and it goes fast. Dora and Thomas are always more plentiful than Smurfs b/c they are more popular.
They are random. Unlike Target and K-Mart that isolate their sale section Walmart first clearances their things right in with everything else. It takes to have eagle eyes. Their discounts are steep though and they often don't ever double mark down. My favorite part with them is they have random sale sections. Each store gets them and they are normally in the garden area. It is like having to dig through massive piles of crap but you find great things. Rachel is getting an Ariel light & music bath Barbie worth $25 on sale for $5. We got Dance Star Mickey last year and Dora We Did It for under $20 when both sold during the holidays for $75 and $50. This is a great place if you don't mind digging.
K-Mart is ridiculously priced for everything and I don't like their quality in genral but I do like their sales! For Rachel I scored her big gifts there. In our town they put a sign that says "Whole Store is On Sale" and they mean it. This is when I grab sheets, swim stuff, towels, and toys. The deal is they have a clearance price and than it is 50% off the clearance price. So if the sales price is $5 for a decent towel I'm paying $2.50. Jewelry is pretty solid. I like to get Rachel her gold studs for her ears their since we go through a few pairs a year. Post-Christmas is my favorite. A wreath is a wreath and they often go 80% on things like that.
I have unique body type and so the best clothes I buy are more unusual shops. I always look like a kid playing dress up at Kohls so I look at stores like Anne Taylor, Abercrombie, Down East Basics, etc are where I get my stuff. Of course those places are WAY OVER PRICED so as I mentioned the other day is to buy out of season. This is where signing up for online notification comes in handy. I get spammed each day but every now and again I get that golden email: take 50% off all clothes already discounted and receive free shipping. That is when I buy! The bad part is I have to be prepared to wait a year to wear. I buy my Summer in the winter and winter in the Summer. Yesterday I bought a bathing suit online. It will probably come right before labor day. It's a bikini. I plan to be in good shape next year to wear it.
Chris gets his stuff at Penney's and Dillards. Penney's is awesome for Father's Day. They have these really great sales on Stafford no iron button down shirts and since we don't own an iron that is important. For his shoes I go to Ross b/c he loves Doc Martins. For my shoes I find Marshalls to be awesome. I like brands like Born and Clarks which are really orthopedic. After Christmas and just after Labor day Dillards slashes all their prices. That is when I get Chris' other clothing. I get nice brands for usually 60-70% off.
For Chris' shoes I go to Ross b/c he loves Doc Martins. For my shoes I find Marshalls to be awesome. I like brands like Born and Clarks which are really orthopedic. Dillards clearances their women's shoes are great though, I've gotten Dansko shoes going for $110 for $20 during that time. Children's shoes are where I go to Kohls. Kohls has great priced and good quality kids shoes. I always wait for their $10 off any $20 purchase coupons that are often in the newspaper.
We get the kids stuff at Children's Place mostly with a little Gymboree outlet. I hate when I buy things from other places and it looks just faded and cheap after a couple of washings. Children's Place, and Gymboree always have online coupons weekly and there are some that are great. You combine those with the already discounted merchandise and you start getting $20 for $5 (this is why Rachel has a ton of dresses).
I love the outlet malls. If you leave your kids at home, and bring your coupons you leave with great finds. You really have tear apart the sale sections and just hunt. I like both of these stores because they bring in Fall stuff in July so I can buy Summer stuff super clearances by June. The trick is I come in once and get a crap load of stuff. Their emails notify me when all of the stuff is being clearances and than the double clearances. Often double clearance comes like on a Monday and than they put it back to single clearance.
So this is my secret to sales shopping. Hope it helps. Best wishes, unless I'm shopping against you.