Shopaholics Step Away from the Clearance Aisle - picture of shirts with sale tags

Shopaholics, Step Away from the Clearance Aisle

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Anyone who knows me is already aware that I loathe shopping for basically anything. Shopping for clothes, for example, is enough to turn me into one big ball of stress. Too many choices! Meanwhile, shopping for shoes, electronics, and housewares just pisses me off.

Since I don’t like crowds, stores, or spending money – and shopping includes all three – I basically avoid it like the plague.

But since I have kids, I have to go out and buy stuff sometimes. And one trend I’ve noticed in several stores recently is a new, random “clearance aisle.” At my local Walmart, they actually have four aisles dedicated to cast-offs and unwanted crap they can’t seem to unload.

Let’s face it: Most of the clearance aisle and mark down section is just plain junk – ugly and outdated products, stuff that was absurdly overpriced to begin with, and widgets no one in the world needs.

4 Reasons to Step Away from the Clearance Aisle

beebsUnfortunately, the hefty mark downs found in the clearance aisle can give people the false impression they’re getting a good deal. This Justin Bieber perfume I found on clearance near the dairy aisle at Meijer, for example. Sure, it’s 50 percent off, but do you really want cologne that must smell like Axe Body Spray, spray tan, and Skittles?

No, you don’t, and you definitely don’t want to pay $16 for it. Amiright?

Fact: Most stuff in your store’s clearance aisle is a waste of money. If you want to keep more dollars in your pocket, here are 4 reasons to avoid that aisle altogether:

If it’s not on your list, you don’t need it.

The best way to save money on everything is to only buy what you really need. Most of the time, that means hitting the grocery store with a comprehensive list and only visiting stores when you have an item to buy in mind. If you happen to wander over to the clearance aisle, you’re just asking for trouble. Remember, if you really needed something, it would be on your list already.

Clearance stuff is usually old and crusty.

If you want to see what I mean, take a stroll through the Walmart clearance aisle. What you’ll find is a mishmash of useless crap that is just plain gross. At my local store, I’ve seen everything from condoms to expired food on clearance. Yuck. By the time items make their way to the clearance aisle, they can be pretty old and funky. At the very least, you should check labels to make sure any item you buy isn’t expired or outdated.

It might not even be a good deal.

Let’s talk about that Justin Bieber cologne again, shall we? It’s sixteen freaking dollars! Why???? Remember, just because something is on clearance doesn’t mean it’s a good deal at all. Buying something at 50 percent off means nothing if you didn’t need it in the first place.

Looking for bargains can be a huge time sink.

While I’m all about saving money, I have gotten pretty protective of my time as well. I love to save a few bucks on stuff I needed to buy anyway, but not usually at the expense of family time. Just like yard sale shopping, clearance shopping can be a time sink if you’re insistent on finding those once-in-a-lifetime deals. It might be fun for a while, but it might also keep you from the things that really matter in life.

Skipping the Clearance Aisle for Good

We all work hard for the dollars we earn, so why do we insist on wasting them? By digging through the clearance aisle time after time, we’re wasting our time and money on things we probably don’t need.

In contrast, skipping the clearance aisle says we’ve decided our dollars are best used elsewhere. By avoiding it, we’re taking control and refusing to buy kitsch that clutters up our homes and complicates our lives. By stepping away from the clearance section, we’re saying no to all the Justin Bieber colognes of the world – and their kin.

Our time – and our money – is worth more than that.

Do you shop in the clearance aisle at your favorite store? What three things do you think Justin Bieber cologne might smell like?

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32 Comments

  1. While I agree that if you shouldn’t be buying anything, you should avoid the clearance aisle period, I disagree that all people should avoid the clearance aisle.

    When I clothes shop at a store like Target or Kohl’s, I only look in the clearance section. It takes more time, but since I’m looking for plain, simple shirts/skirts/pants/etc, I generally can at least find 1-2 items I need for drastically off cost. I also shop at thrift stores too though, so I don’t mind the hunt.

    Also, clearance food items at the grocery store can be great deals. Just check the dates. There’s a whole industry of food stores now that exist to sell close-to-expired food for cheap–for people who are lower income, that can mean the difference between eating another ramen for dinner or having a decent frozen meal with good protein. At my local Aldi, there’s a great clearnace section where we can score deals on the random… like a 2 pound bag of frozen french fries for 99 cents, or bottles of fancy bloddy mary mix for 99 cents too. Again, it takes a hunt, but when you find a good deal for something you truly use, it’s a good deal!

    1. Hey, clothes are a different story. If you can stand sorting through the many (many) racks, there are great deals! I’m a little skeptical about clearance food, but maybe. What I’m mainly talking about in this post are the giant miscellaneous clearance sections at stores like Walmart. It’s mostly junk!

  2. I wouldn’t even know where to begin with the smell of Justin Bieber….

    I feel this same way about people who are chronic yard sale shoppers/hoarders. I think the thrill of the “bargain” is worse than crack for those who get caught up in the moment.

    1. Probably. I do my share of garage sale shopping, but I try to be intentional. I just can’t go as often as I once did. I bet I only went twice this year. I try to go if someone advertises girls clothes that would fit my kids!

  3. One reason I actually stay away from the clearance aisle is that I think it takes a lot more time to find something I’m looking for. I don’t have time for that kind of shopping!

    1. I don’t either. And if my kids are with me, I’m trying to get out of the store as quickly as possible!

  4. Ha! At the most recent school dance, I was amazed by the fact that Bieber seems to have fallen into favor again with 12-year-olds. Clearance can be dangerous, especially at stores like Target. 15% off isn’t clearance…that’s more expensive than when it was a “regular” item on sale!

    1. Yeah, I see that all the time. The “clearance” stuff at Walmart is still expensive!

  5. I used to browse clearance but gave it up for the reasons you mentioned. If I do need something in particular, like a clothing item, I will check the clearance first, especially since I try to buy off-season. I avoid stores altogether now, too, by shopping on Amazon, Craigslist, and just not buying stuff unless I absolutely need it.

    1. I go to Meijer if I need nonfood items and Kroger for groceries! Other than that, I try not to go.

  6. Haha, you’re right about the junk stuff. Quite frankly, I think almost everything is junk unless I can eat it or wear it (and sometimes even then). I don’t know why clearance triggers this “free pass” for overconsumption in so many people. Those marketers know what they’re doing.

    1. Yep, they certainly do! It’s like Kohl’s where everything is 30-60 percent off, but it was all overpriced to begin with.

  7. The other day at Wal-Mart we got a 2 pack of weed eater line for about $1.50 and a weedeater battery for $5 (regular I think $40). 🙂

    1. Oh, they also have had half price food in the past. I got a bag of $7 or $8 coffee for 25 cents. They had Keebler cookies for 25 cents. I am good about buying stuff I don’t need though. 🙂

      1. If you have the patience to dig through it, good for you! It stresses me out. The ratio of decent stuff to awful stuff has to be like 99 to 1.

        1. On the food, you don’t have to wade through it.They bring it on special carts to the front of the store. They haven’t done that for a while though. However, I guess it’s not a good idea when you buy 6 to 8 packages of Keebler cookies for 25 cents and don’t have much self control, when you have cookie monsters that live at your house. lol

  8. I have mixed feelings about clearance. Yes, there’s a lot of overpriced stuff you would never buy at some places. And then there’s seasonal stuff that can be a good deal, if you know you are going to use it.

    For instance, we go through about one inflatable pool a year. My daughter will play in them every day from from late April through September. The best time to pick one up is late July/early August. This year, we didn’t pick one up, and sure enough, ours died right before Labor Day weekend after we had missed our chance to pay 1/2 price.

    1. But you’re being intentional – that’s the difference. Buying stuff off-season on clearance is smart! You have something you need and are actively looking to save on it.

  9. I couldn’t agree more… I can’t stand shopping. The only time I visit Wal-Mart or any store that is not a grocery store is for the occasional toiletry purchase or to load up my Bluebird card in preparation for an upcoming trip… And the clearance aisle is only ever manageable after holidays when a few legitimate items are on sale.

  10. “Sure, it’s 50 percent off, but do you really want cologne that must smell like Axe Body Spray, masturbation, and Skittles?” LOL!!!! I feel the same way you do about shopping. I don’t mind clothes clearance racks, but quite honestly, I never find anything because they seem to be 3 sizes to huge. Or just not appealing in another way. On very, very rare occasions I might find something I actually need. Hmm, I think Bieber cologne might smell like two-day-old beer breath, dog poo, and selfies. Whatever the hell that means! 🙂

  11. LMAO! “do you really want cologne that must smell like Axe Body Spray, masturbation, and Skittles?” I just spit out my drink. That line alone is enough to keep me away from the clearance aisle for a long time.

  12. Man the price optimizers for big box retailers must be geniuses 🙂

    But seriously, the so-called scarcity factor is huge in instigating buying behavior. Have you ever watched a furniture store have a close out clearance for 18 months? People go nuts when they think they can’t have “it” anymore.

  13. I just don’t have the time for browsing through clearance anymore. I used to go straight there to stock up on clothes for my son. Eventually, I realized it was just a waste of time and I was buying stuff that may/may not even fit him in a particular season.

  14. I used to love the clearance aisle in the grocery store.. $24 steak reduced to 12 or buffalo mozzarella reduced from $5.99 to $1.99. We were the only ones who ever bought the mozzarella and we used to stalk the Krogers and buy them all.. 🙂 . Clothes etc..don’t care..but those two things?..yep!

  15. Holly,

    If only I had read your article yesterday, it would have reminded me about clearance items being a total waste of time.

    Yesterday, I had the misfortune of stumbling across a Shutterfly deal for Christmas cards. 10 free cards! I was excited. So I spent time creating a cute Christmas card to send out to my family. However, when I got to checkout, it ended up being $40 for 10 cards. The supposedly “free” cards only took off $1.90. So, of course, I did not end up with my Christmas cards I spent so much time constructing.

    So, I learned my lesson the hard way, and I’d say, don’t only avoid clearance aisles, but also avoid online promotions that seem too good to be true.

  16. The clearance isle at Walmart is always awful! But I still love clearance clothes shopping – though I agree that it is totally different. Target and Kohls are my favorite clearance areas.

  17. Haha YES! I never shop clearance, unless it was something I already had on my list and it just happened to pleasantly be marked at a clearance price ;). Not only is it a waste of time in most cases, but totally entices you to buy stuff you really didn’t need to begin with. It’s not a great “deal” if you never needed it in the first place!! Loved this!

  18. I can’t even begin to imagine what Justin Bieber smells like and I shudder to think about it. Thanks for that – Holly! Retailers have done an amazing job creating an almost psychologic need to respond to the words “sale” or “clearance”. Nobody likes to miss out! I like clearance racks at my favorite stores or at least that actually have things I might want. 🙂 Otherwise I don’t pay much attention. Like you said, they are often the things nobody wanted (so why do I?) and I don’t have the patience to look.

  19. I love clearance aisles, but I agree that 90% of the items are complete junk.
    Justin Bieber cologne smells like sizzurp, baby powder, and tree-shaped car air fresheners.

  20. Not to mention random clearance aisles are time wasters! I really only set in stores for specific items. If I can buy online I do- for kiddo anyway.

  21. LMAO, I’m not aware of any straight or gay men (or boys) who are into Justin Bieber. I guess they must of sold some to girls who gave it to their boyfriends. And wouldn’t that royally piss you off if you got a present named after your girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s crush.
    I think it must smell like tears, depression and arrogance – assuming you can smell those. You can just tell he’s got a lot of mental issues. It’s easy to rip on him but I do hope he grows up someday, I just seriously of doubt it. King of 12 year old girls – who hopefully have all moved on from their obsession of him by now. I think that experience would screw anybody up though.

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