Here's Why I End Up Overspending at Target -- Even Though I Barely Ever Go to the Store

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  • I only shop in a physical Target store a few times a year.
  • Making most of my Target purchases online actually doesn't serve me well from a budgeting standpoint.
  • There's a lot of items to choose from, and the minimum spend is $35 to get free shipping from, meaning I spend more than I intend to. 

Sometimes, shopping online can make you even more susceptible to impulse buying.

There's a joke that it's impossible to make a shopping trip to Target without spending at least $100. And when I think about it, I usually end up spending $100 at a minimum during my Target runs.

But there's a reason for that. I happen to live in what I call a Target dead zone. I don't have any Target stores particularly close by, so when I do go to Target, it tends to be a larger stock-up. 

Usually, I'll have a list of Target food items my family likes, and I'll also buy clothing for my kids. So it's easy to see why I might end up with a credit card tab of over $100 without even falling victim to impulse buys.

But even though I'm pretty good about not overspending at Target in stores, I have a tendency to overspend there when I shop online. And it's a pattern I'm hoping to break.

The problem with too much selection

I happen to find shopping at Target online a bit overwhelming. There are just so many different categories to choose from that I sometimes find myself getting lost in those cyber-aisles, so to speak. And that's just one reason I tend to overspend when I shop at Target online.

Sometimes, I'll be looking for a gift, so I'll click on the "toys" category to see what's there. Only that category will have numerous subcategories that I'll end up browsing through, and in the course of doing that, I might think, "Hmm, there are some good deals here, maybe I should get something for my kids even though I'm only supposed to be shopping for a birthday gift for one of their friends."

That's just one trap I tend to fall into when shopping at Target online. The other is that you need to spend $35 to snag free shipping. Sometimes, though, I just want a $10 or $15 item. But then I'll inevitably look around trying to fill my cart with extra items to meet that $35 minimum. 

Sometimes, I'll build a cart that costs exactly $35, which I consider a win. But other times, in doing that extra shopping, I'll wind up with, say, $60 worth of purchases. 

Finally, when I shop at Target in person, I tend to want to get in and get out. I don't really enjoy in-person shopping so much unless it's a gourmet food store (which, let's face it, Target is not, though they do make a mean trail mix). But when I shop online, I tend to be more relaxed and in less of a hurry. That, too, has led me to overspend. 

Breaking the cycle

At this point, I know I tend to fall into certain traps by shopping online at Target. So unless I have a list of things that will easily help me meet that $35 free shipping minimum, I'll buy what I need elsewhere, even if it costs me a touch more. 

In fact, recently, I bought a gift on Amazon for $18 that Target had for $16. Did I want to spend the $2 extra? No. But because I'm a Prime member, I was able to buy that $18 item and score free two-day shipping. I didn't have to worry about filling a cart -- and spending extra to get there. 

All told, I'm tired of falling into the trap of spending more money than planned at Target. And I'm hoping that adjusting my approach to my online orders will help me avoid it. 

But to be clear, I still don't expect my in-person Target runs to cost less than $100 a pop. And that, I'm okay with.

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