We Avoid The Target Trap At All Costs

I recently heard that there is something contagious (and perfectly acceptable) sweeping across the world of consumerism these days. It’s called the Target Trap. Apparently, it starts by taking an unnecessary (or necessary depending on what you need to buy) to the closest Target store and not being able to leave until you spend $100 or MORE on STUFF. Have you heard of this epidemic? Have you fallen prey to this epidemic? This contagious spending disease has no immediate cure other than a change in behavior and some education. But good news – curing oneself IS possible. And after one person is cured, thereΒ  is hope for their closest friends and relatives.

The Trappings of Unnecessary Stuff


Just sayin’

It’s no surprise to our readers that we avoid buying unnecessary stuff. In fact, not only do we NOT buy unnecessary stuff, we also cut out buying stuff that other people would deem absolutely necessary. Read all about STUFF we just stopped buying here. We even cut the cord a few years back in one of our first towards reasonable frugality.

Trust me, I’m not picking on Target. You can swap out any big store name for the bulls eye. Think: Walmart, Kmart, or Amazon. Yes, I realize you don’t actually GO to Amazon. But I also realize that people get trigger-happy with their smartphones and wind up blowing little bits of imaginary moneyΒ (it’s not real money if it’s just linked to a button on your phone, right?) here and there on things that pop into their heads throughout the day. If this sounds like you, you might want to consider implementing a 24, 48, or 72-hour rule that says, once you identify some item that you need, you must wait a specified amount of time and see if you still desire/need said item. Chances are, you won’t feel as excited about it a few hours later.

“But I Enjoy Going To Target”

So what if your argument for dropping hundreds of dollars at a big-box store on stuff is that you like going to those stores?

NEWSFLASH: You can still go to Insert Store Name Here if you stick to your list when you’re there.

Oftentimes, a trip consists of running in for 1 or 2 items and leaving with those items and additional STUFF…Stuff like toiletries, random groceries, clothes, and a tech gadget! But wait, you only stopped to pick up some paper towels. So what should’ve cost you 5 bucks, ended up costing you 150 bucks. Damn.

Do you have any idea how much that can cost you over the long-term? Let’s do a simple calculation. Let’s say you drop $150 each month on stuff you mostly don’t need at Target. That adds up to $1,800 EVERY YEAR! And that’s just the cash you’re dropping. If you invested that $150 with a return of about 7% for 10 years, you’d end up with $26,610.47. I’m guessing you might choose to have an extra $26k sitting around in 10 years over STUFF you bought on a whim at Target when you only stopped in to pick up some paper towels. And that’s just a 10-year period. Try that calculation over 20 years, or 30 years, or a lifetime. If you feel inclined to plug in some numbers of your own and see how much richer you could be if you changed a few habits, check out this calculator.

How To Avoid The Target Trap Epidemic


Me enjoying our honeymoon

Thankfully, Mr. MMM and I have a system that allows us to avoid the Target epidemic. That is, wait for it, WE JUST DON’T GO. That’s not to say we NEVER go to a big-box store. We do. But when we do go, it’s a rare event and we stick to our list. Always.


Mr. MMM and I both grew up in lower-middle class families that were a little different. His parents worked their butts off to achieve zero debt status and didn’t spend frivolously on anything. Ever. My parents also worked their butts off to avoid big debt; however, they were okay with reasonable debt and monthly payments. One parent out of 3 was a spender. That spender was my mom. She always made sure the bills were paid, but after that, it was a free-for-all shopping spree. Every. Month. Fortunately, Target wasn’t around when I was a little kid but, not to worry, my mom found plenty of other chain stores to walk into and blow through cash on stuff we didn’t need to impress people we didn’t care about. I have witnessed this my entire life.

As an adult, I started out like my mom. And then I got myself into a few precarious situations and ended up supporting myself, my daughter, my mother, and two homes, on one salary. Read all about my decade-long disaster here. It’ll probably make you feel great about your current situation πŸ™‚ Yes, it was a decent salary, but it was still under 6-figures. Because I lived that way for the better part of a decade, I was forced to stop spending unnecessarily on stuff I didn’t need.

Now my situation is a little different, having Mr. MMM in my corner and all. However, we have adopted his parents mindset of no debt and no payments, I stopped spending like my mom, and we added our own little twist of building wealth. This is us. And within a few years, we’ll have the ability to walk away from our W-2 jobs for good. That is the power of NOT dropping hundreds of dollars on STUFF at Target.



We’d love to hear what you have to say on this topic. Have you managed to avoid the Target epidemic? Or are you working your butt off to stop dropping hundreds when you visit big, All-In-One stores?

cats and beer 3

Mad Money Cat & A Beer

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jacq Feb 7, 2017, 7:38 am

    I have too much stuff so I avoid stores that aren’t grocery stores. I’ve compared prices and the food section of target is usually more expensive.
    I did go to target at Christmas for stocking stuffers. They had travel sizes of the lotion my dad uses & my sister’s face wash. I did ‘impulse buy’ kitchen sponges. I had a gift card so I spent $0 out of pocket. I have gotten out of shopping so I was really baffled what I would spend the gift card on, turns out…mostly other people. πŸ™‚
    I am planning to shop this week for a ‘want’ clothing item, but with a gift card.
    I fully support the just don’t go and then you won’t spend money technique.

    • Mad Money Monster Feb 7, 2017, 11:06 am

      I hear you. It’s hard for me to comprehend going out to stores like Target to just “shop” without specific items in mind…but I hear a lot of people do it. Nice work on using the gift card! I ask for gift cards and certificates to restaurants for presents. It allows me to indulge my love for eating out πŸ˜›

  • freedom40guy Jan 29, 2017, 10:09 am

    So true! I can’t get out of that stupid place without dropping at least a Benjamin. We follow the same approach as you most of the time though – just don’t go!

  • Living simply in Aus 🌻 Jan 26, 2017, 8:20 pm

    In Aus it’s Kmart. They have dropped prices so low and boomed their homewares section. It’s veeeeery easy to drop a lot of money when it’s $5 here and $10 there. Parents get lured in for the $3 kids tshirts then walk out with bags of other stuff. That’s why I try to stick to the op shops πŸ™‚

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 27, 2017, 9:40 am

      Yes! See! We also have Kmart here – it’s actually the one that’s closest to my house. It seems to be a dying store here, though. Target is the big flashy one that sucks the money out of most pockets. It’s definitely hard to resist! Good job on your part for not falling into the trap! πŸ™‚

  • Just Us Jan 25, 2017, 12:19 pm

    I lucked out in the genetic crap-shoot of biology… I inherited the male gene of Shopping Aversion, skipping entirely the Shopping For Entertainment gene!
    I find shopping a form of punishment! Not a sporting event or form of entertainment.
    I had my debit card flagged one time for leaving Costco with only $62 in dog food. And I have also walked out of Costco with only $35 in men’s chones… LOL!

    That said – don’t let me walk through Home Depot without a list, budget, and a partner who can keep me on-task! πŸ˜‰

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 25, 2017, 12:32 pm

      That’s awesome! I think my genetic make-up may be changing over the years. I used to like shopping for fun – now I avoid it like the plague.

      Although I do love home improvement stuff and will willingly drop tons of cash on making our house better, I still hate having to go into the store. πŸ™‚

  • Florence Kerns Jan 24, 2017, 10:38 pm

    I am a total victim of the Target Trap. My girlfriend has made fun of me for it on more than one occasion. And even worse? I work RIGHT ABOVE a Target store.

    Honestly, to stop myself, I had to just not go in. After a period of simply not entering a Target, I’m now able to enter one and leave with only the items on my list. As long as I don’t go in too often πŸ˜‰

    It also helps that I take public transit – I don’t want to have to carry around a bunch of stuff on my way home from work!

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 25, 2017, 6:36 am

      I can tell you that you are not alone. Everyone I talk to about going to Target tells me they can’t leave without dropping a ton of cash. I has even happened to me before. I went for one thing and ended up walking around and stuffing my cart full of $200+ worth of crap I didn’t really need. Think: new bedding, a decoration, a pair of shoes. Ugh. That was a few years ago and I have decided the best way to avoid it is to just not go. We rely heavily on Amazon these days, but when I buy something on Amazon I can easily stick to my list. πŸ™‚

  • Full Time Finance Jan 23, 2017, 7:03 pm

    This is the first I’ve heard of the target trap. Typically fo in with a specific purpose. If we buy anything else it’s usually something we already have on the list but have been delaying for a sale, not something bought on a whim in other words. Given our society though and the layout of these stores for impulse purposes I’m not suprised.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 24, 2017, 6:10 am

      It’s crazy, isn’t it? I’ve talked to so many people who tell me they can’t get “out of the store” without spending at least $100. That is insane! Good for you for sticking to your guns and only buying your list. You’re in the minority. πŸ™‚

  • Smart Provisions Jan 23, 2017, 1:51 pm

    Haha, Target. I’ve avoided it by budgeting and making sure I don’t buy what I don’t need.

    I also have a Target 5% RedBird Card to get 5% off on store purchases. While I don’t use it much, I encourage my friends to so we can reap the benefits.

  • Penny (@picksuppennies) Jan 23, 2017, 10:47 am

    Oh, Target. I get the best deals on household items there. And now I just close my eyes and scoot my cart past the dollar bins.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 23, 2017, 11:49 am

      That’s an awesome method! You have to or you’ll fall prey to the trap πŸ˜‰

  • Ernie Jan 23, 2017, 8:23 am

    This song seems appropriate for your post πŸ™‚ https://www.youneedabudget.com/ynab-mixtape-2017/target-trouble/

  • The Green Swan Jan 23, 2017, 7:53 am

    I hadn’t heard of the Target Trap before but I can totally picture how it plays out for its victims. But me… No way! We occasionally get groceries and toiletry items from Wal-Mart but we stick to the list. And rarely do we go into Target or any other big box store. I always feel like buying things from the big box is a rip off anyway and I would much rather price shop online first!

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 23, 2017, 11:48 am

      Well, I’d love to think I coined the term πŸ˜‰ But make no mistake, it IS real. At least it’s real in my circle outside of the PF community. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people who say they can’t get out of Target without spending at least $100. Yikes! I completely agree that you must stick to the list if you’re going to enter one of these stores. We also tend to shop mostly online for things we need. That cuts down on the temptation.

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