The Big Red Phenomenon
It’s time to talk about the “Target” phenomenon. You know the one…you go into a Target store to pickup mouthwash, cereal and a birthday card, but leave having unintentionally spent much more than those pantry purchases cost. You take a deep breath when the cashier tells you how much you’ve spent. The euphoria you experienced when you placed those things into your cart is only slightly more than enough to outweigh the regret that also seeps in.
You win mini arguments with yourself, justifying each unplanned purchase on your way out to the car. You tell yourself you’ll do better next time. That those little items you forgot you needed suddenly rushed back to you as you perused those beautifully lit red aisles. Then, days, weeks, or months later, you drive back to Target and you do it all again.
I’m part of the madness
I am not purporting to know the sequence of your own Target experience, but am chronicling mine. Two weekends ago I walked into Target to buy, you guessed it–mouthwash, cereal and a birthday card. I left having spent $87 and wrestling with myself. It’s not that those $87 are going to do me in. It was that I am pretty sure I do that EVERY SINGLE TIME I go to Target to buy things. What is with this? Can I truly not control myself? I don’t make unplanned purchases when I go to Lowe’s or even at the slippery slope that is Lululemon. Is Target some type of Kryptonite, at which I am a reckless version of myself?
The answer, I knew quickly: sort of. I am a controlled person. I can intentionally choose to spend money or not spend money. We all can. But when I go to Target, my grocery list, clothing budget, what I wish my home looked like, and other necessary household items like cleaning products all intersect. I do not make good decisions when trying to take all these budgets into account.
Backed by SCIENCE
Places like Target force us to make simultaneous tradeoffs with limited mental capacity. There are several terms that scholars have coined over the years like the “paradox of choice” and “decision fatigue”. The former seems to have taken on more water in the last decade than the latter, but still, useful to examine. The idea is that that having too many choices is actually debilitating and that making a series of decisions may cause good decision-making ability further along in time to decline.
I am pretty sure people would need to look no further than the aisles of a Target store to hold that these are at least somewhat true.
Think about it like this, how much did those items really cost if you didn’t need the rest of the stuff you bought? Isn’t the whole point of going to somewhere like Target who touts “value” as their brand, to not spend $87 unnecessary dollars on a couple of pantry items. Where are the savings there?
What your therapist might tell you
When it comes down to it, Target offers us the chance to indulge our dreams and aspirations for our homes, our health and that general feeling like we’ve got our lives together. Target neatly packages those aspirations and stocks them on shelves. We know that change comes from a place that’s deeper than matching dishes and patio furniture, but we buy it anyway. Life does not change because of a purchase, it doesn’t even change with resolve or planning; it takes work and follow-through of the things we say we want to do to create the life we want to live.
What I’m trying to tell you…
Let’s stop getting robbed at Target and start to establish rules for our purchases. We can adhere a plan and make rational decisions not to shop mindlessly. Now, I’m not saying you can’t shop at Target, but I am saying you might need to keep yourself in check in some new ways when there.
I’ve talked about mindful spending in a previous post. I hear people throw around the phrase”things they never even know they needed” too often when talking about Target. I want to turn that around and instead think of it as “things you know you don’t need but talk yourself into buying”, often at Target. I would hate for people to keep busting their savings goals or their budgets (if you have one!) because of a Target run every week. Think about it, if $200-$300 is the amount you go over a budget or intend to save, but don’t each month, it could be attributed to a couple of ‘Target-run’ unintended purchases. That can add up to a lot of money over the years.
Spending mindfully is much better for yourself and your wallet, but it might require a little education. That’s what I want to talk about next!
Take on the big red bullseye:
Here are some ways that you can quit getting robbed at Target. Breaking the journey down section by section.
The walk in…
First off, this lady’s got a hilarious Target post, so I know this is not a new struggle. I am pretty sure that she is right in the observation that they pump Target with the same oxygen as they do in casinos. Anyway, you walk in and the first thing you see is neat little rows with brightly lit cosmetics. Then you smell popcorn and Pizza Hut and hot soft pretzels and Starbucks. Then you see the carts…think back to your intent. Why did you come here? How many things are you planning to buy? Then determine large cart, basket, or no cart.
The clothing section…
Stop buying clothes at Target. Here are a few reasons:
- If you came in to buy mouthwash, cereal, and birthday cards, you should not also be purchasing clothing just because you decided to browse the 50% off clothing section in that same store. If, however, you say “but I planned to look at everything in the store!”, read on.
- Clothes are not really “cheaper” than actual clothing stores despite the fact that you’re shopping at a “value” model store where things like furniture, dishes and bedding might be cheaper than going to a traditional furniture or home goods store.
- In my experience, clothing usually don’t wash or wear well. I’m not sure what it is exactly, but the quality of fabric that’s used for most of their lines is not the greatest.
- If you buy business/dress clothing at Target, despite not being your typical cheap pair of sandals, you will likely be shopping again for business/dress clothes 6 months later due to them loosing their shape or an unraveled seam.
- The tailoring and cut of most of their clothes are loosely based off of popular cuts in fashion right now, but in an effort to be able to produce 900,000 skirts instead of 600,000, some quality sewing/tailoring labor has been sacrificed. And now it doesn’t fit quite right.
The sad leftover jewelry party…
Don’t let that 70% off sign make you go home with jewelry you don’t LOVE. It’s not a bargain if you don’t wear it. For some reason the “clearance jewelry” at the end of the aisle used to be a big draw for me. Over time, though, I noticed that those pieces turned out to be the ones that I wore the least and they ended up in a donation box. After buying slightly more expensive and better quality jewelry, I realized that when you carefully choose the pieces you buy instead of letting a sale sign choose you, they’re more fun to wear.
The “your house is hideous” aisle…
They really do have some adorable stuff here, but is it stuff you really want to come to? They’ve got mass-produced quirk on point, but the charm that comes with finding quirky things yourself in a memorable place means those things might not appeal to you a year or two from now.
I’m not sure who thinks ram-lamps and aluminum bar stools are practical for soon-to-be college kids’ dorms, but Target takes us to a new level of style here. I kid you not, this had a “dorm 2016” sign beside it.
Another temptation many of us face at Target is the ability to get a better version of something we already have. I’ll hear my significant other, let’s call him “Babe” (yes, like the pig!), say to me “don’t you already have one of those?”. To which I’ll snark back, but not one that is ____ or does ______. First blank was a makeup bag with a place for brushes, second one was a phone case that doubles as a wallet. Yes, yes, we already have one of these items in our possession, but look how much better this one will work? We kid ourselves on how much utility can be gained from only marginally-increased convenience and just end up with multiple items that all function about the same. Food will still taste the same even if its served on beautiful minimalist matching white plates. And despite what you think, you can resist that adorable french-bulldog cookie jar (when was the last time you baked cookies anyway?!).
Technology is continuously on an upward slope, and so are all the nuances of the products that Target sells. Coffee cups used to all be pretty ugly, BPA-ridden plastic and you can get one today that insulates, is leak-free, and balances your checkbook for you. An opportunity to buy something like this will come around again, so I’d suggest not making an impulse purchase. If you find that you leave the store and can return a week or two later, still believing you need something, then fine. But otherwise, you don’t have the budget that Yonce has.
When did office supplies get so shiny? Apparently the interior design business is slow because Nate Berkus has a line for Target. Who doesn’t need a pair of gold scissors and matching jax/bulldog paperweights in their home office?
Okay, I admit, they’re gorgeous. But you don’t want to be spending half your take-home pay on this stuff. You’ll be no more organized than you were before. I know people who spend a small fortune on this type of stuff and people who keep their crap in 10 cent paper folders who are equally organized. A trendy, fun-to-look-at, gorgeous as it may be line of things that hold paper do not an organized home-make.
Lastly, the end-caps
I am pretty sure Target did some mad research on how to get people to buy things they don’t need, and then invented the “end-cap”. The end-caps are catch-alls for items that don’t fit any other section in the store, are things they can’t sell so they put on clearance and hope you fall into the “it’s so cheap it’s practically free” mentality and add it to your bill, or just clever little ways to group many things you don’t need into things you don’t need that kind of go together.
Do not give in to the pressure that is the end-cap! Another illusion to make you think this “togetherness” of things will look good in your home or a last-ditch effort to get you to buy something for 15% off the original price. Buying things BECAUSE they are on sale is never a good idea. You can talk yourself into buying it much more easily than if you were paying full price for everything. Fight the urge!
Someone obviously knew the trouble these things and called them for what they are:
So there it is. From the mouth of an ex-Target over-spender. Life is big and beautiful without the things that Target may make you think you need. Let’s quick letting the big red bullseye trip-up our financial goals and start saving that money for great things to come. If Target runs are the difference between you successfully and unsuccessfully staying within the amount of money you want to be spending each month, kick them in the butt with the strategies I detailed in this post!
Take care and let me know if you can relate to this 🙂 at firstname.lastname@example.org
All the Best,
#personalfinance #money #millennial #capital #target