I love T.J.Maxx and HomeGoods and Marshalls—the whole lot of them. I’d go as far to call myself a Maxxinista and will head to these discount retailers multiple times a week to check out the new inventory and snag a good deal before anyone else. A $200 Free People sweater for only $50? Count me in.
But if you shop at these stores too, you need to be smart if you want to get more value out of these discounted items and avoid things that aren't really worth it. As a shopping expert and deal hunter, I know how essential it is to actually vet a product and not just buy something just because it’s at a low price, and nowhere is that more true than at stores like Marshalls and Home Goods and of course T.J.Maxx.
The TJX Companies, the parent company of these stores, is able to get these brand name products for 20 to 60 percent off through purchasing overstocked inventory and by frequently restocking their stores, according to the T.J.Maxx site. But when you're shopping at discount stores like these, you should always inspect everything for signs of damage, make sure they haven’t been used before, and research the brands you're buying, so you don’t end up wasting your money.
That being said, there are some things you should be especially cautious about at T.J.Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods. From janky cooking products to already-opened makeup, here are seven things to avoid the next time you’re shopping these stores online or in person.
Makeup is seriously hit or miss at T.J.Maxx and Marshalls for a couple reasons. First, since the products are the overstock inventory from distributors, you’re likely to be shopping unpopular shades or products from holidays or limited collections that didn’t sell out, meaning you’re less likely to find a shade you actually want. The biggest issue with the in-store makeup and beauty selection is that the products on the shelves may have already been turned into a sample by other customers (gross!). However, getting these products from their online site definitely removes that risk, so buy away if you see something you love. And the final issue is that, because there are no dedicated samples, you might take a gamble with a sealed product and wind up with a shade that’s definitely not your color.
2. Perfume and cologne
Similarly to makeup, all of the perfume and cologne sold at T.J.Maxx and Marshalls should be sealed, and there are generally no sample bottles. So there’s really no way to actually sniff the scents available—and you don’t want to accidentally buy something that smells horrendous. That’s not to say you shouldn’t keep your eye out for your favorite scents or brands, but just be careful about picking perfume or cologne at random. If you really want to find a new smell you’ll love, we love Sephora's vast selection and the fact you can spritz on samples to your heart’s content.
3. Yoga mats
One of my coworkers claims you should never buy yoga mats at T.J.Maxx or HomeGoods. Although they may be discounted, he said the ones he’s purchased always wind up being too thin and leave you slipping around. That's not to say that all yoga mats at these stores are terrible, but you should do some research on brands before buying one. If you’re a true yogi who’s trying to zen into vinyasa, then you don’t want to gamble when choosing a yoga mat. For a more long-term investment in a mat that'll last, Lululemon makes our favorite yoga mat. It’s a bit more expensive than anything you’ll find at T.J.Maxx, but believe us, it’s worth the investment.
If you'd rather not splurge, but still want a reliable yoga mat, this one from AmazonBasics is the best affordable yoga mat we’ve ever tested. It’s great for beginners and will keep you from slipping and sliding when getting into your flow.
Unfortunately, some of the linens stocked at HomeGoods include synthetic fibers, which may be inexpensive but aren’t as comfortable, which is why you should read labels carefully instead of just buying for a pretty pattern. It’s honestly better to opt for sheets or other bedding with a high thread count and high-grade cotton that will breathe and survive multiple washings. But if you want natural fibers, it's going to cost you. Brooklinen makes the best sheets we've ever tested, but they cost $150. Still we think these absurdly soft sheets are worth it for the price
While HomeGoods may have some hidden gems and big brand names in their furniture department, we recommend being cautious when shopping for investment pieces like dressers or a set of dining chairs. These items may seem like a good deal, but a bunch of products can come into stock from failed product inspection. So be careful or you may end up with a sticky drawer or wobbly, uneven legs, which is unfortunate if you bought something you were intending to keep around for a while. Plus, with limited inventory it can be difficult to find matching sets in stores or similar styles in other locations.
If you're really worried about something being wobbly or having to return it, Wayfair's a great online retailer to find cheaper options and has accommodating customer service and a great return policy. There are also thousands of reviews on pieces you can read through as well, so you can be sure you’re getting a good product. Wayfair is also always running sales on different products, so it's pretty easy to score a deal there, too.
6. Hair products
As with makeup and beauty products, you always risk hair care products being opened and tampered with by other customers. Plus, certain products can cost just as much—or even more—than they do online, so you might be spending more and going home with a “used” product. Personally, I’ve also found myself wasting money on random hair products that looked good in the bottles, but ended up not working well and then go unused. Instead, we recommend sticking to your tried and true or testing out new products with samples from Sephora or travel sizes, so you can save money without wasting product.
If you want to be confident about using a new product, we recommend reading reviews from reliable editorial sources—like Reviewed! For example, after weeks of testing a variety of dry shampoos on different hair types, we found that Dove made the best overall.
7. Cheap kitchen supplies
I would be especially cautious when choosing cheaper kitchen supplies like measuring spoons, knives, and mixing bowls from unknown brands at HomeGoods. Now, I’m not saying all of these kinds of products at these stores are bad, just don’t buy the cheapest ones. Either they will break on you or you’ll find that they don’t work as well as they should, so you'll just have to buy better ones anyway. Basically, just because there's a good price on a not-so-good product, does not make it a good deal—which is why it's essential to do research on brands before you buy them.
Years ago, I got a set of plastic measuring spoons at HomeGoods when I was in a pickle and almost immediately regretted it. They were relatively inexpensive, but they were too wide to fit into my spice jars and some of the spoons have already snapped on me. Although I only made this mistake once, I still should have invested in quality measuring cups and spoons that will last a while and will honestly look better than a set of cheap plastic ones. Our favorite measuring spoons are these ones from Cuisipro, which are not only relatively inexpensive but are high quality, too.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.