Holiday Head’s Up: How to Not Fall in the Black Hole of Target

5 survival tips for your next Target run.

While most people go to Target for grocery shopping or an extra shirt, my friends and I always manage to find something other than laundry and a box of tissues to buy. That cute skirt, five new liquid lipsticks, a candle that smells like oranges? Maybe not so necessary. I go to school in the middle of nowhere. And by the middle of nowhere, I mean we are literally twenty minutes from civilization. This means that there isn’t much to do besides play in cornfields and walk in the woods. So it never fails: when we aren’t studying like crazy or enjoying the great outdoors, we always load up the car, and end up at Target. That being said, a Target trip is never just a Target trip for the necessities.

As a broke college student, these trips can be as time consuming as they are expensive.

Because there’s not much to do on campus, my friends and I usually end up hanging out at Target almost every weekend,  making my bank account shudder. What was expected to be a 30 minute in and out trip turns out to be a few hours and costs upwards of 70 bucks. Our personal record is four hours. No joke. Combine this with the fact that we also go out to eat to escape the specials at the dining hall, going out always comes with a hefty price tag.

Shopping at Target

Because I go to Target so often, I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t spend all my money there. I’ve also learned the value of my money, which before college, I never had to think too much about. Between books and school supplies, I put out a lot money out for school, so lipsticks, candles, and cute shirts add up quick. If you feel this struggle, I’ve got you covered.

Here’s how to make a trip to Target that doesn’t break the bank and take up a half of your day:
1. Make a list

Good old fashioned list making always keeps me on track. Get out a note pad and sit down BEFORE you leave and write down what you need to buy. You’re much more likely to only write down the important things – and thinking about what you need will help you weed out all the things you think you need but you really don’t. Also, it’s easier to make decisions about what you need when you’re not around other people. Friends are great, but sometimes not the best influences when it comes to spending money.

2. Cross off items as you pick them up

If you go through your list and keep referring to it while you’re shopping, you’ll be less likely to wander off and pick up those random odds and ends that hike up your total.

3. Download Cartwheel

Cartwheel is Target’s couponing app – it’s free on the App store. You can save up to 50% on your items just by scanning the barcode at the register. Even if it’s only a few dollars, it’s still putting some extra cash in your wallet.

4. Set a time limit

Before you enter the store, make a game plan. Is this a quick pick up or a full out shopping trip? Do you have somewhere to be in the next few hours? Gather your friends and set a timer, so you don’t lose track of time. Target is pretty much an endless void – it’s too easy to walk around the makeup aisle 200 times.

Makeup at target

5. Physically sort out your items before you get to check out

What helps me the most at the end of a Target trip – especially one that fills my cart – is for me to actually pick out each item one by one and remind myself if it’s on the list or not. Sometimes in passing, I’ll throw something in the cart that I didn’t even remember picking up or wanting in the first place. Not only does this take down your total, but it saves the hassle and embarrassment of taking ten items out of your cart and asking your cashier not to include them.

And if you still end up spending half of the day in target and most of your savings, no judgment here. It’s easy to get caught up in the home décor and unique shades of lipstick. I still do it sometimes – and saving takes practice. Take it in steps, and I hope you save a few dollars the next time you take a Target trip.


Dani Bowes is a nineteen year old living in Maryland. She has a passion...