Put these strategies to use when you're shopping at this popular big-box retailer. By Cameron Huddleston, Former Online Editor August 22, 2014 I’m convinced that many of the residents of the small city where I live go to Target when they have nothing better to do (which, in a small city, is most of the time). And I frequently see friends post on Facebook that they went to Target -- or Tar-zhay, as some like to say -- to buy one thing but left with 20. So even though the big-box retailer’s sales and profits were down last year, there still are plenty of people spending a lot of money at Target stores.SEE ALSO: 6 Ways to Beat Amazon's Prices If you’re a fan of the chain’s inexpensive-but-trendy products or like being able to buy food, toiletries, clothing, electronics and furniture all in one spot, there are several strategies you can use to spend less and save more the next time you shop at Target. As a bonus, you'll have even more opportunities to save now that Target plans to keep its stores open later. Prepare before you go. If you take 20 minutes before you head to the store to plan your trip, you can save a lot of money, says Christy Palmer, founder of the All Things Target blog. You can see what’s on sale by checking Target’s weekly ad on its Web site. Target.com also has printable coupons. And All Things Target has a weekly list of the best deals in the store (as well as online deals). Once you’ve checked what’s on sale and know what else you need, make a list and stick to it. It's very easy to get to Target and see something you just have to have, Palmer says. Before you know it, your cart is full of items you didn't plan on purchasing. Planning really is one of the biggest keys when it comes to saving money, she says. Use Target’s app. The retailer’s free Cartwheel app is a favorite among money-saving pros, including consumer expert Andrea Woroch and The Centsible Life blog founder Kelly Whalen, because it’s an easy way to save money when shopping at Target. Start by creating an account, which just requires your name and an e-mail address. You can scan the barcodes of items as you add them to your physical shopping cart at Target, and those with special Cartwheel offers will be added to your Cartwheel app. When you check out, simply show your Cartwheel barcode to the cashier to have savings applied to your purchase. The app allows you to save on top of store and manufacturer coupons. You also can use the app to browse product categories to see what's on sale at Target. Advertisement Shop early in the week. Target’s weekly sales start Sunday and run through Saturday. So you’ll have a better chance of finding sale items listed in the weekly ad still in stock if you shop early in the week, Palmer says. Stock up on necessities when they go on sale -- especially if there’s a manufacturer’s coupon or Cartwheel discount you can use to get an even lower price. Look for yellow price-cut tags. These tags are on shelves by products that are marked down longer than a week, Palmer says, and, therefore, might not be listed in the weekly ad. Be on the lookout for them as you head up and down the aisles so you don't miss an opportunity to save. Check for clearance items and learn the clearance cycles. Items on clearance typically are at the end of aisles or on racks marked “clearance.” Clothing, home decor, bedding and bath items change with the seasons, Palmer says, so look for deep discounts at the end of each season. Holiday items usually are marked down 50% the day after the holiday, then 70% a few days or a week later. After that, they will get marked down to 90% off, Palmer says. You’ll know how much of a discount you’re getting by checking the upper-right-hand corner of the clearance sticker, where you’ll see a small number such as a 15, 30, 50, 75 or 90, says Kyle James of Rather-Be-Shopping.com. These numbers indicate the markdown percentage from the original price. If the number is low and that item still is plentiful, wait a few weeks for a better markdown, he says. Most Target stores follow a schedule for marking down clearance items in each department. For example, clearance prices are lowered on books, electronics, accessories, kids clothing and baby items on Mondays, Palmer says. On Tuesdays, women’s clothing and pet items on clearance are marked down more. You can refer to the clearance markdown schedule on All Things Target to figure out which days are best for finding deals in the retailer’s various departments. Advertisement Check the dollar spot. Target stores usually have a small section near the front designated as the “dollar spot” -- or $1 and $3 spot. This is a great place to find inexpensive toys, note pads, craft supplies, party favors and stocking stuffers. Even these items get marked down, so you’ll find some things for 50 cents or less, making them an even better deal than dollar-store purchases, Palmer says. Keep your eyes open for gift-card offers. Sometimes Target offers store gift cards (typically worth $5) if you purchase a certain number of a particular product or type of product, such as four beauty items. If a gift card is available, it will be advertised on the shelf by the product. If it’s an item you normally buy, you can score savings by buying enough to get a Target gift card. Look for mobile coupons. Target now is offering mobile coupons you can get by using your phone to text specific codes. Signs with texting instructions appear on shelves with products for which discounts are available. Take advantage of price adjustments and price matching. If you buy something at full price and it goes on sale within a week, Target will refund you the difference if you bring your receipt to the customer service counter. Of if you’re shopping in a Target store and use an app such as RedLaser to find out if another retailer is selling an item for a lower price, Target will match the competitor’s price if the item is identical. (See the policy). Advertisement Consider the Target debit card. The REDcard links directly to your checking account, works like a debit card and has no annual fee. When you use it to make purchases at Target, you automatically save 5%. And you get free shipping when you use it to make purchases on Target.com. Plus, REDcard holders get 30 extra days for most returns.