Target (NYSE:TGT) offers so many good deals that it's logical to assume it offers a decent price on everything it sells. That's generally a fair assumption, but still, the department store is not the right place to buy certain items.
It's not that Target is gouging customers selectively, or even that the chain is not competitive. It's a case of there being a few categories where the retailer gets beat by competitors. Even when the retailer has a higher price, in most cases, its pricing is not bad enough to deter people from buying if they are already loading up a cart in the store.
Still, if you're being very careful with every dollar, there are some things you simply should not buy at Target.
Amazon is usually cheaper on books
Target carries a relatively limited selection of books, DVDs, and CDs, but in most cases, the physical retailer is not the best place to buy these items. For example, the current best-seller Grey by EL James costs $11.97 at Target, while Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) sells it for $9.83. The same is true for Stephen King's latest Mr. Mercedes, with Amazon selling the hardcover for $16.60, while Target charges $19.49.
That's not to say Amazon is cheaper on every book, but it has a lower price on most, and the same thing holds true for CDs and DVDs. The online retailer also offers digital versions of books, music, and movies, which are generally cheaper, while Target only sells physical copies.
Gift wrap and seasonal holiday items
While there are many items you would not want to buy from a dollar store because they might be nearing their expiration date, gift wrap and other seasonal items are not on that list. Santa, for example, does not change his look from year to year, so last year's gift wrap works just fine when the holiday rolls around again.
"Dollar stores are hands-down the best place to purchase seasonal items," Meghan Heffernan, the communications director for Savings.com, told MarketWatch. "Dollar stores typically carry all your wrapping needs (paper, boxes of holiday cards, ribbons, gift boxes, gift tags, etc. of course all for $1)."
Target stocks all of these items and generally has a better selection if you need something very specific, but it's almost certainly going to cost you more.
Avoid the furniture
Target sells furniture, sometimes at attractive prices, but generally, you're better off shopping at IKEA to meet your low-cost furniture needs.
"You can get comparable quality and cheaper stuff from IKEA, and IKEA's merchandise is a bit more stylish," Kathryn Finney of Budget Fashionista told CBS News back in 2010, and my personal experience has borne that out.
It has also been my experience that IKEA offers notably better quality and lower prices on items like bookcases and nightstands. The megafurniture retailer also has a much broader selection given the massive size of its stores.
Baby formula is cheaper elsewhere
Baby formula can be startlingly expensive, and Target is a pretty good place to shop for it, but it's not the best place. That honor usually falls to Costco (NASDAQ:COST), which sells a three-pack of its 40-oz. Kirkland Signature Infant Formula w/ Prebiotics & Iron for $53.99, or about $0.45 an ounce. Target sells its house brand Up & Up Infant Formula Premium in a six-pack of 40-oz. containers for $140.94, which translates to a little over $0.58 per ounce.
The numbers vary a little based on different sizes and volumes, but in most cases, Costco has Target beat.
Skip the house-brand coffee
While most of the items on this list are price-related, Consumer Reports suggests people avoid Target's house-brand coffee for another reason altogether.
"Though we like Target-exclusive coffeemakers, we can't say the same for its coffee. Market Pantry Classic Roast is second from the bottom in our current ratings of 26 blended coffees," the consumer reviews website said in an October 2014 article. "It lacks complexity and leaves behind a bitter taste."
The consumer advocates suggest that Whole Foods Market's Allegro Organic Continental Blend makes a better cup of coffee because of its "fairly complex, bold flavors with nice fruit and chocolate notes." Of course, it's also dramatically more expensive, but bad coffee at a cheap price is not really a deal, is it?