I’m trying to include a picture with every post from now on, and when I found this photo of the crazy Target lady from those commercials a few years back I knew I had to use it. I went to Target this morning, picked up everything on my list (super boring household items like toilet paper, cotton balls, and handsoap), and went home. During my walk home from the subway, I came to realize that my new approach to shopping in general was perfectly embodied during the 60 minutes I spent at Target.
I made the effort to shop further away to save money. I could have bought everything I needed three blocks away at Key Foods, the neighborhood chain grocery store. Instead, I trudged a half-mile through the dirty snow and waited for the subway to get to Target, two subways stops away. Granted, I had the luxury of time on my side since it was Sunday morning and I had nothing pressing to do later. But you can’t always save time and money – it’s usually one or the other. I estimated that I saved $1-2 dollars for every item I bought at Target compared to grocery store/Duane Reade prices, so the hassle of getting to Target at least resulted in $20-30 in savings. Dennis and I are experimenting with a similar approach when it comes to grocery shopping. We went to Trader Joe’s yesterday morning, which is five subway stops away. The pricing on staples like bread, pasta, cheese, butter, etc. is unbeatable. $2.50 for a loaf of whole wheat bread at TJ’s vs. $4 at Key Foods? $3 for string cheese vs. $5? We’ll see how long our giant haul lasts us, but I have a feeling that it will soon become worth it to make the trek twice a month.
I made a list and stuck to it. I purchased everything I needed, which is rare because I usually have a weakness for those $1 or $2 items that always seem to make their way into my shopping basket. The list kept me focused and since the things I needed were all household items, I was able to stick to one section of the store and keep my blinders on.
I comparison shopped. Normally, I’ll grab the first thing I see that’s on sale, assuming that the other brands won’t beat the sale price by that much. For example, a 64-load jug of Tide laundry detergent was on sale for $11.99. I wandered down the aisle and the other brands were very similarly priced. I almost gave up and grabbed the Tide when I saw the Target brand for $9.99. I put that into my cart and about 10 minutes later, when I found myself in the clearance section cleverly tucked away in an isolated corner of the store, I saw another Target brand on sale for $8.99 PLUS a $1 off coupon. I saved $4 by comparison shopping! Again, I had time on my side so this strategy might not always be appropriate. I’m also glad that I went early on a Sunday morning when the aisles were relatively empty because I’m pretty sure I looked like a crazy person, stalking back and forth down the aisles and staring intently at prices.
I told myself to wait till later. The clearance section is my new favorite section of Target and after I found the laundry detergent, I saw loads of other things that I could definitely use, but didn’t need quite yet: shampoo, 2-for-1 body wash, face wash, shaving cream. I’m still working on using up everything I have in the apartment and I reminded myself that the clearance section will always be there. Similarly, I used to always click on the emails from my favorite stores (J. Crew, Banana Republic, Gap) that had tantalizing subject lines like “Check out our new arrivals!” Of course everything is amazing and I want. it. NOW! but 1) the items are all full-priced and 2) it’s too damn cold out still to wear anything that’s not made of wool or fleece. So I remind myself to wait until later when the weather warms up, I’ve had time to go through my existing wardrobe and determine what I really need, and the items go on sale. Win, win, win.
I made a deal with myself. I did find myself staring longingly at a cute pair of pajama shorts on my way to the cash register. “But they’re only $12!” I tried to reason to myself. I really really wanted them. But I have a drawer full of assorted pajama shorts, pants, and tops, which could probably use some clearing out. I told myself that once I clear out that drawer and get rid of a few items, I can go back and get them. To be honest, I will probably forget about these new PJs by tomorrow but if I follow up on my end of the deal, then the next time I go to Target I will treat myself.
Applying these strategies has kept me in check and motivated me to find ways to be an even smarter shopper. What are yours?