Tuesday, September 17, 2013

the completely normal persons guide to saving money at target

ok. so remember this post a while ago where i mentioned that i wanted to start a regular feature of totally normal ways to save money? well, i started outlining posts and its kind of turing into a WAY bigger thing than i had intended and its going to need a LOT more work before its ready. however, because i did promise some totally normal money saving tips, and i have been told that my money saving posts are enjoyable, i thought id start where every woman in america spends all of her free time and money:


yeah. i went there. and no, im not sorry. please dont try and tell me that you never go to target for "just one thing" and come home with a full cart because we ALL know that youre lying. because we ALL do it. 

when alice was first born, the only time she really slept was if we were out and about. we lived about two blocks from target at the time, so i would find every opportunity i could to go walk up and down EVERY aisle at target so i could get some peace and quiet. while this was really great news in the alice-getting-a-nap department, this was before i learned to be all thrifty, and it was wreaking literal havoc on our bank account.

but times have changed, ive grown up a lot, we no longer live in a depressing town where target is literally the only fun place to go, and over time ive learned to make most our target receipts look something like this (pardon the instagram filter):

once things got all settled after moving back to california, and we had caught up on replacing all the stuff that got lost/broken/discarded over the move, i had gotten our target spending down to a really not all that bad $35-$40 every week or so. i was pretty happy with that, but over the past few months, ive actually managed to trim that down to an even better $60-80 trip ONCE EVERY THREE WEEKS. im not kidding. and yes, that includes diapers. 

how did i pull this off? obviously im one of those insane extreme couponing ladies, right? well, im sorry to disappoint you, but i actually did this by combining a whole bunch of little, totally easy, normal things that anyone can do with just a few extra minutes. ive boiled it down to 10 simple steps, because ten seemed like a nice number. and here they are, in no particular order:

1. get a redcard. no seriously, GET A REDCARD (no, targets not paying me for this, its really THAT important). if you dont know what a redcard is, its a credit (or debit, if you have terrible credit like we do) card that automatically takes 5% off ALL your target purchases. PLUS you get free shipping at target.com. 5% may not sound like a lot, but over the course of the year it really adds up (our redcard savings last year was somewhere around $85), and that free shipping REALLY comes in handy, when, say, you need a new $60 bedframe that for reasons unbeknownst to mankind costs $30 to ship. 

2. bring your bags. target takes 5 cents of your purchase for every reusable bag you bring. i know that sounds totally insignificant, but if you take a second and be completely honest with yourself about how frequently you go to target and how many bags you use per trip, those nickels can add up pretty quickly. 

3. up & up everything. generally speaking, targets store brands, up & up, market pantry, archer farms, etc. are fantastic, which you cant really say about a lot of generics, AND are usually significantly cheaper than their comparable name brand product (especially the fruit snacks. we go through a lot of fruit snacks). in fact there are some things, like their paper towels, that i actually prefer quality-wise over the name brand. also, the store brands often have printable coupons and cartwheel offers (ill get to that in a second)

4. check out their groceries. im guessing most of you shop at target for like, household and toiletry stuff, rather than groceries, right? well if your local target sells groceries (not all of them do), check out the prices on all your staples, because sometimes (though definitely not all the time), they have much better prices than the grocery stores. for example, market pantry butter at our store is about $2.50 a pound regular price, the vons store brand butter is $2.99 on sale. same thing with whipping cream, $2 a target, $3.79 at vons. it definitely wont hurt to double check. 

5. get the cartwheel app. this ones kind of new, but if you have a smartphone or ipad or whatever, download the cartwheel app, RIGHT NOW. the way the app works is that you can select a certain number of additional discounts (things like 5% off diapers, or 20% off cheese), and generate a barcode that the cashier scans like a coupon. it just takes a few minutes to check the app for the things on my list (you are making a list, right?), and it usually saves us a few extra bucks. 

6. check for printable coupons. even if you dont do newspaper/manufacturer coupons (which arent exactly the easiest way to save money and totally deserve a completely separate post) target always has tons of printable store coupons, many of which are for the already fantastically-priced store brands. also, if theres something you really need a lot of, you can print each coupon twice from the same computer (so if you have multiple computers, you can print alot of coupons). 

7. know the coupon policy. those last two reminded me, you can totally stack up your coupon/cartwheel/redcard discounts to save a LOT of money. targets coupon policy (you can read the whole thing here) basically boils down to this:
for each item you can use:
 1 manufacturers coupon
1 target store coupon
1 cartwheel offer
and your redcard discount
and sometimes, if youre lucky, you can find an item that has all three discounts and get it for almost nothing. or nothing. or make a profit on it (true story, i once got some soup that was on sale for $2 for -15 cents). 

ok, so weve talked about all the ways that target can help you save money at target, which is nice and all, but now were going to talk about how you can help you save money at target:

8. make a plan. and by that i mean make a list. and a budget. and stick to it. you know what? dont even go into any aisles that dont contain something on your list. i know that seems almost too simple, but it can make a big difference if youre a disorganized, emotional shopper like myself. oh and while were on that subject, you know that thing they say about not going grocery shopping while hungry? dont go to target because youre bored, sad, lonely, or for any other reason other than because you need to buy something from target. just dont. 

9. beware the clearance racks/endcaps. and this is where everyone stops listening because i am obviously insane. i mean, its clearance, so its cheap, so im saving money, right? well, im a FIRM believer that no matter how cheap it is (and lets be honest here, target only marks stuff down 15% at first), if you dont need it, its not saving you money. so unless a new dress or lipstick is on your list and in your target budget for that trip, just dont even go there. but if it is, and you can find what you need for 30% off, than thats fantastic. its not that clearance is bad, its just, kind of dangerous i guess. 

10. stretch out your trips. i saved this one for last because its actually the #1 biggest contributor to the reduction of our target spending. why? because, like i mentioned before, im kind of an impulsive, emotional shopper, and just about every shopping trip involves some chips or ice cream or nail polish that i just picked up without really thinking. so the less frequently i go to the store, the less i spend on that kind of thing. see, i used to go to target about once a week to buy whatever i needed just for that upcoming week, but recently ive switched to re-stocking everything thats going to run out within the next month (obviously this took some serious observation of our habits) in one trip, and dont go back until were almost out of something absolutely non-negotiable (usually diapers). so while each individual trip costs more, ive cut my overall spending almost in half, with the added bonus of having TONS of extra free time. 

so thats it. my totally normal persons guide to saving money at target. is there anything i missed? please let me know if you have any other tricks up your sleeve!

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