How To NOT Spend $100 At Target

We’ve all been there. Go in looking for a gallon of milk, come out with picture frames, a Blu-Ray player, and a futon.

Go in looking for an HDMI cable, come out with two new hoodies, a pair of jeans, and underwear.

Go in expecting to buy one small item, come out with tons of stuff. And, oh yes, you get home and realize you forgot the gallon of milk and HDMI cable.

We’ve all been there. I’m talking about the closest thing on Earth to Santa’s workshop, Target.

You know the places where you can buy things on the cheap called Dollar Stores? Target is what I like to call a $100 Dollar Store. You walk into the Bullseyed abyss with the intention of making a quick stop for something that costs only a few dollars, and before you know it you’re parting the Red Sea with savings. I mean, the deals are just so good! How can you resist?!

New knife set? Why, yes.

Floor mats for the bathroom? Don’t mind if I do.

Sweatpants? Well it’s starting to get cold out so it really would be stupid to not buy.

Target’s vast selection and floor layout is so perfectly planned that you can’t help but splurge on it all, and you don’t even realize what happened until you leave the checkout line, do a double take on the receipt, and think, “what the f*** just happened?” It’s like a drug. You trip, not realizing what you’re doing, then come crashing down from the high.

I think I have the anti-drug to kick the addiction.

The problem with going in for pencils and leaving with a flatscreen TV is we set the spend threshold so low, that once we clear it by a few dollars we get to the point of, “F*** it, I’ve come this far, might as well continue.” In psychology it’s known as the foot-in-door phenomenon. You’ve already committed a little, so you’re more likely to commit to something further.

Here’s my proposed solution: Next time you go to Target, think bigger than what you actually intend to buy. Let’s be realistic, you might just want a 10-pack of Bic pens, but you’re not going to buy just a 10-pack of Bic pens. Instead, go to Target and think to yourself, “I’m going to spend $50 here.” Now you have a higher breaking point. You can grab your little items and still do a bit of binging, but because $50 is your limit, you’ll toe that line much more closely than the $3.87 barrier. If you start to exceed $50, you’ll consider putting back the first season of Cheers (Special Blu Ray Director’s Cut). Since it takes so much more to get one foot in the door, you’ll be less likely to put in two.

You may still spend much more than initially wanted, but in theory you’ll save $50 in the process. Target could very well become a $50 store. I’d like to think over time you could begin lowering your threshold to $25 and so forth until you get down to just the one purchase, but I’m not an idiot--It’s Target, ain’t no chance in hell that will happen.

This is only a proposed solution; I have not tested it nor confirmed it. Next time you plan your Target trip, try this method and let me know if it works. I have a feeling it will help.

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Rajiv Nathan is the co-founder of Idea Lemon with a background in digital and mobile strategy. He is passionately curious, a people-meeter and lives  by the motto, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take."