I have become a fan of Target lately. At first, I only shopped for baby products (e.g., diapers, baby food, toddler clothes and shoes) at Target. It makes sense to shop there for those things–it is a one-stop shop for all of them, and products are priced fairly. However, when I examined my budget sheet recently, I noticed that my cumulative purchases at Target added up to a sizable amount, and nearly all my household expenditures were purchases at Target. Indeed, I have been filling my shopping cart with not only boxes of diapers but personal care products, cookware, snacks, and miscellaneous items, sometimes even knickknacks that are not on my shopping list. This is alarming for a seasoned and disciplined shopper like me, because I am usually very careful with how I spend and follow my shopping list dutifully.
Alarmed yet intrigued, I was set on finding out what marketing gimmicks Target has employed to attract business, aka its sneaky tricks which I have fallen for. It turned out that I am not the only person who loves shopping at Target. Known as the “Target Effect” on the internet, shoppers have shared their near addiction to shopping at Target. They rave about Target for various reasons, including its organized and spacious store layout, its inviting and happy atmosphere, its trendy and chic clothing lines, and its omni-channel delivery options (i.e., traditional delivery, in-store and curbside pickup, and same-day delivery through Shipt). Moreover, I believe that an additional allure of Target lies in how the retail chain has built fun into seeking deals.
If you don’t find shopping a chore and derive joy from not paying full-price, you should read on. What follows are five well-tested tips you can take advantage of to scoop better deals and save more money on your Target purchases.
How to Shop Right at Target
Sign up for a RedCard
Target’s RedCard features benefits, such as no annual fee, a 5% discount on every purchase including clearance items and gift cards, free 2-day shipping, 30 additional days for returns and exchanges, and more. Though I normally would say “no” to store issued cards because most of them will do more harm than good to my credit score, the Target RedCard is an exception. Specifically, Target allows customers to choose between a debit and a credit version of the RedCard. The RedCard debit card will allow you to enjoy all its benefits without generating “hard pulls” in your credit history. Additionally, debit card users can withdraw up to $40 at checkout, saving you a trip to the bank teller or ATM machine.
Target offers welcome bonuses every now and then. If you are not in a rush to make any big purchases, a compelling card-opening bonus is definitely worth waiting for, especially because Target does not allow more than one account per person. For example, Target offered $40 off $40 of Target purchases for every newly approved Target RedCard application last November through most of December. But an offer like this rarely comes around; if you don’t want to hold your breath for it, apply when you can receive any signup bonus. It is better than nothing!
Judging by the fact that the RedCard credit card does not come with additional benefits, I suggest that you go with the debit option. Linked to your existing checking account, it withdraws money from your checking account to cover your Target expenses. As long as you have sufficient funds in your checking account, you don’t need to worry about paying off your balance. If you decide that the credit option is better for you considering its four flexible payment options (e.g., online, by phone, in store, and by mail), be sure to pay off your full balance every billing cycle on time to avoid incurring interest or late payment fees on your unpaid balance as the credit card has an APR (annual percentage rate) as high as 24.15%, which will wipe out any savings earned from your RedCard discount.
Buy Discounted Target Gift Cards
Target gift cards are pre-paid cards that can be linked to your Target account. On the first Sunday of every December, Target runs a promotion that offers a 10% discount on Target gift card purchases. Each account holder is allowed to buy up to $300 worth of gift card(s), though Target capped the limit to $500 last year due to Covid-19. In other words, you save $30 when you buy $300 worth of gift card(s). Note that the Target RedCard does not save you another 5% if you have one because its 5% discount does not apply to gift card purchases. Nonetheless, you can still save 5% when you use your Discover It Cash Back Credit Card. Discover’s cash back calendar has remained unchanged over the past few years, giving back 5% on qualifying purchases from online e-commerce merchants including Target.com, so presumably little change will happen in the near future.
Because I shop for all my kid’s stuff at Target, I usually buy gift cards up to the maximum value permitted. Rumors have it that you can easily bypass the limit on total card value by shopping in store, though I don’t recommend that you hoard gift cards beyond your needs because they are not safe and they encourage overspending. Review your past expenses, calculate roughly how much you plan to spend at Target in a select period, and go with a conservative amount when ordering those gift cards.
Nonetheless, if you have a growing family, it won’t be a bad idea to get a gift card or two when they are on sale. For those of you who don’t spend on children, you can use them to cover your expenses on Christmas presents later in the month; or, you can simply keep them handy because you never know when the next gifting occasion will come up. So, mark your calendar for the next Target gift card sale, and get ready to spend and save.
Use the Target App
Advertised as “your shopping & saving sidekick,” the Target app has truly unlocked the potential of mobile shopping for its loyal base. The app shares common features of mobile shopping apps of other retail giants like Walmart and allows you to:
- browse and search Target’s entire selection;
- streamline your run with store maps and aisle locations;
- scan item barcodes for product information, reviews, and available offers;
- access the Weekly Ad, latest deals and promos online and offline;
- manage account information and payment options to enable fast checkouts;
- save receipts of past purchases to allow for easy returns or exchanges;
- facilitate curbside pickup using in-app communication technology.
Most importantly, the app allows you to access your Target Circle offers in one place. Target Circle is a loyalty program where you can earn 1% in Target Circle earnings rewards every time you make an eligible purchase with non-RedCard payment. You can apply Target Circle earnings to cover your expenditures at checkout. At times, when you join Target Circle for the first time, you will receive a discount, which is stackable with other deals of the week.
The Target app can also help you score occasional, personalized Target Circle bonuses, such as 5% off a future purchase during the month of your birthday. Often times, Target Circle bonuses give you the opportunity to earn extra Target Circle earnings rewards by making qualifying purchases at Target, in-store or online. For example, the offer below promises to give back $15 when your total Target purchase comes in at $75 or more.
Research and poll results have shown that the majority of Gen Z and Millennials use their phones to shop. There is no doubt that mobile shopping is here to stay. If you have yet to jump on the bandwagon, you should probably start with the Target app. It is a must-have for any budget-savvy shopper.
Create a Gift Registry
If you have a major life event coming up, create a Target gift registry to earn additional savings on the items you need. Are you expecting? Sign up for a baby registry, and you’ll receive a welcome kit with $120 worth of free samples and coupons. You will also receive a 15% discount on anything left on your registry. Expenses during a baby’s first year add up fast and you’ll have to dig deep into your pockets. So, I wouldn’t say no to the 15% discount. Target does not limit whatever you’d like to put on your baby registry, so be sure to add what you and your baby may need or want. The wedding registry and the college registry work quite similarly with slight variations.
Wait for Holiday Clearance
Everyone is excited to stock up on holiday cheer, but it can be quite expensive to buy your seasonal decor when the holiday is right around the corner. Instead, wait until the holiday ends and haul away sale items so that you are ready for the next year. Target almost always lowers its prices to clean out excess merchandise after each holiday. If you don’t feel like getting that Easter basket or Christmas ornament at full price, you should wait for the festivities to cool off in the store.
Target puts out clearance items on its clearance webpage on a regular basis. App users can easily access all information about clearance items by clicking on “Shop by category” in the App. In store, clearance items are usually displayed at the end of the aisle, otherwise known as the end caps. If you don’t find shopping too time-consuming and bothersome, it can be fun to hunt around the store for items marked at clearance rates. Each store holds the final say over what items go to the clearance pile and their markdowns. For example, I once happened on to a toddler sweater for only 3 bucks when its marketed price online was 10-ish dollars.
Target plays its game so well that it got us all hooked. Its inviting and bubbly environment, organized interior displays, quality store-brand products, and game-like promotional strategies make shopping there a giddy experience.
Target gets you to spend on stuff you do not have on your shopping list. It is a place where you “discover” your needs. As you walk down the aisles, you notice things that you now believe you could not live without. In addition, you are convinced that you will miss out if you don’t make a move right away because those stackable coupons or discounts are too good to pass up.
If you find overspending at Target a relatable experience, you should try out the five tips above. I hope that you will save more when you shop at Target next time. If you have other pro tips you’d like to share, please be sure to leave a comment to keep the conversation going! Thank you!