My Easy 3-Step Plan That Stopped My Impulse Shopping at Target

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

Shopping at Target is so ingrained in my family culture that my siblings still laugh at the years — from 1994 to 1999 — that our mom only referred to the big-box store as Tar-jay. My single mom, working two jobs, only bought her household supplies at Target, and I (correctly) assumed it was because they had the best prices.

When I became a mom myself, Target became a weird safe haven where I could “escape” with an iced coffee for some alone time while also grabbing paper towels, diapers, sponges — plus three new nail polishes, cute tabletop items, and a bunch of other stuff I didn’t actually need. I frequented Target for household supplies and I always ended up buying more than I had on my list. Like, way more. (I know I’m not the only one who has this problem. It’s a known trope!)

When I sat down, recently, to give my budget a serious check-up, I realized that the easiest way for me to break my Target spending habits was simple: I just needed to stay out of the store. I was spending so much money on impulse buys, and this was the only way I could actually cut back.

And so here’s my three-step plan for getting the Target goods I need — and none of the stuff I don’t.

1. I got a Red Card.

Target has its own card, which you can use as a credit card or link to a bank account and use like a debit card. Signing up takes all of 10 minutes, but you’ll need a check for the debit-style card. How did this help me stay out of Target? The Red Card saves you five percent on all purchases and gets you free shipping online. And although it’s a little Big Brother-like, the Red Card also tracks your frequent purchases and sends you coupons for things you buy often.

2. I started ordering my regular supplies online.

Once I had my Red Card, I sat down to do some serious price comparisons. I looked at Amazon, Thrive Market, and Grove Collaborative because they carry similar products. More often than not, my regular purchases were less expensive through with my Red Card and the free shipping.

3. I got subscriptions for the stuff I use regularly.

Subscribe & Save may be a perk for Amazon Prime members, but has a similar subscription service. Having tried both, Target — which has a lower purchasing minimum and ships in one bundle (saving packaging) — was the winner for my family.

And for what its worth, I can still shop the home goods and clothing sections online, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on the newest Opalhouse or Hearth & Hand items if I truly need them.

What do you do in order to save money at Target?