For every woman who’s ever spent $100 at Target and had her husband say “WHAT did you BUY?!”

My husband doesn’t mind doing the Targeting, but because of the logistics it usually falls to me, and has for most of the past ten years. I’ve long been accustomed to the phenomenon that is The Target Run: I’ll pop in for aluminum foil and bobby pins, only to emerge a full hour later, with three bags of odds and ends that I know I need but surely can’t add up to the $84 I just paid, even though I’ve gone over the receipt three times and can’t find a mistake.

Recently we ran out of plastic wrap and dog food and dish soap all at once on a Saturday afternoon (Poor planning? Yep, but that’s another post for another day) and my husband volunteered to make the trip to Tar-jay.

An hour later, he returned with three bags full and said, “I just dropped $100 bucks and I don’t even feel like I bought anything.”

I stuffed my urge to scrutinize the receipt: we’re both frugal people–we’re not prone to impulse buys–and besides, I know how the Target run goes.

Ryan Gosling Goes Targeting

Exactly,” I say. But my mind flashes back to a hundred conversations I’ve had before, all with married girlfriends–probably because this is the kind of thing you talk about at preschool playdates–and each has had the same shape:

Husband: What did you get at Target today? 

Wife: Oh, you know, just lightbulbs, ziplocs, eye makeup remover. Stuff like that. Can you believe it cost $100?

Husband: What did you buy?? Why is everything so expensive?? How did it cost so much??! 

But his questions aren’t questions at all; they’re accusations. Because really, until you experience firsthand the phenomenon that is The Target Run, it’s hard to understand how the bunch-of-nothing adds up to three figures.

I’d like to prescribe a weekend stock-up run to these spouses so they can see for themselves how diapers, two pairs of tights, and a box of cornstarch add up to big bucks–even without grabbing the Altoids and a new magazine in the checkout line.

I’m an over-empathizer. (It’s a strength; it’s a sickness.) I’m decent at imagining what it’s like to be in my husband’s shoes but there’s nothing like actually doing to make that lightbulb over my head pop. Trading roles in the Big Things has been surprisingly great for our relationship. It turns out, it’s worthwhile to trade places with the little things every once in a while, too.

I suspect we’re not alone.

photo credit

Can you relate to the phenomenon that is The Target Run?


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  1. Katie says:

    SO TRUE about Target. Though my husband is worse than I am about having shopping trips add up to more than expected in general, Target is my special nemesis. And that’s by design (Target’s design). Notice how you have to go to the back of the aisle past all the full-priced merchandise to get to the clearance items? And how the grocery and pharmacy sections are toward the back of the stores so you have to pass several other departments to get to them? And the lighting and colors are all carefully chosen to get you in a spending mood. I notice my WalMart trips rarely end up so expansive (and expensive), because WalMart just doesn’t put effort into creating that exciting Shopping Adventure! mood.

    But your larger point is a good one. Now I’m thinking about what sorts of little things we could trade occasionally to better understand each other’s situations.

    • Anne says:

      Your’e so right. My pharmacy is right by the front, but diapers and school supplies are waaaaay in the back.

      Also, it’s so bright! And clean! And shiny!

  2. This has less to do with my husband than with my own post-shopping guilt.”Gosh, I just went in for 2 items and spent 100.00.” The problem with Target is that you can get everything there! As I’m going down the aisles I say, “Oh, we need that,” or “I should stock up on that,” or “That’s a great price for… You’ve been there for sure.
    Money advisers suggest making a list or a budget before walking into places like Target and Walmart. It also helps to have carry a list and avoid distraction.
    Why do you think Target has such large carts?

    • Anne says:

      Hahaha! Now that you mention it, I need a petite Trader Joe’s cart at Target and a Target cart at Trader Joe’s! Then I could fit all my groceries in the cart at TJ’s but not come home with too many extras from Target. 🙂

  3. Tara says:

    I’m a Target lover as well and I used to frequently ask myself the same thing! Sadly there are no Targets in the UK but when I head back to the States in a month…it’s a must stop on the list!

  4. Jeannie says:

    Our city’s first Target opens next week — it’s replacing our old Canadian stalwart Zellers — so my husband and I will have to do some experimenting! Actually I have a feeling your discussion is applicable to more than just Target, considering I just went to Canadian Tire to get a faucet and came home with a faucet, a bath mat, and some dish cloths. (But the faucet was on sale! ……..)

  5. Tim says:

    My wife and I do Target Runs together and separately. When she goes, she always cruises through the $1 bins at the entrance. For me, I check endcaps for snacks. Often we don’t pick up the bargains, but you never know what’s going to jump off the shelf and into the cart.

    Last week a woman came into my courtroom for jury duty. She said she worked at Target and I asked, “Are you one of those people I can ask where you’ve got the Pringles at a buck a can? I love you people!” She said that was her job, and that I should make sure to go to the Target she works at because (she assured me) they’re even friendlier than most. Target people are friendly.

  6. Jillian Kay says:

    Well, at least you go to Target and spend $100 and come back with the toilet paper. Me, I go, spend $100 and forget the toilet paper than have to go back. 🙂 My husband is the same though, so we just try to avoid Target.

  7. Amy says:

    I quit going to Target because of this. I buy my toiletries free or almost free at cvs, my paper products at the grocery store when it’s on sale and only go to Walmart for one or two things. They aren’t as good at selling me things so I get out quickly. It honestly had saved me so much money and guilt.

  8. HopefulLeigh says:

    This is why I don’t allow myself to browse or wander the aisles at Target. I go straight to wherever the needed items are and nothing else. It’s not always easy but it’s easier than experiencing receipt whiplash!

  9. This is funny timing because I just only now came back from Target, and I hadn’t been in eons. I did spend over $100, but I think only one thing in my cart was a unnecessary purchase (gladiator sandals for my 12 year old). The rest was undies and undershirts and flour and cold medicine and such.

    If I’d allowed myself to go into the home aisle or browse through the clothes, though, I’d probably have been in trouble!

  10. Seriously. I went to Target last weekend solely to find a bathing suit for my husband and came out with all sorts of things. Neat things, possibly justifiable, but still. The nice thing about having a spender for a husband (I’m a saver) is that he never guilts me for Target runs. Mine is all self-imposed guilt!

  11. Shana Norris says:

    And then there is what my husband and I only half-jokingly call the Target Toll: the $ racks. I “have” to go through them (I mean, how can you not) when you enter the store and I rarely leave without at least one thing I just have to have because, hey, it’s on the $ rack, so it’s gotta be a good deal, right?

  12. Molly says:

    I work right down the road from a Target, and it’s a dangerous location. It’s better now that my kids are out of diapers, and I don’t o go every week. But I am proud that today I actually went into the store and didn’t spend anything. I saw a cute quilt for my daughter at on clearance for $32, but at that price I was worried about quality. I went to the store, and it was a nice quilt, but still full price: $90 — no thanks! I was tempted to pick up a few other things, but got out before I did any damage. (I did order the quilt online when I got home.)

  13. Esther L. says:

    We’ve so been there! I try desperately to have a list on hand and only cash. That’s about the only way I can get in and out of Target without going overboard.

  14. Angie says:

    My husband and I have both accepted that we can’t get out of Target for less than $100. The worst part is that Target is practically at the end of our street! When they closed it for a few months to turn it into a SuperTarget our household spending dropped dramatically – and bounced right back up when it reopened 🙁

    • Anne says:

      That happened to us, too! They closed our Target for 6 months to remodel it and I was forced to break myself of the weekly habit. It’s been reopened for over a year, and I still don’t go nearly as much as I did. But I will say our spending has mostly rebounded. 🙂

  15. Goodness, yes! “The Target Run” is a real thing, as you have shown here. My husband actually does understand, as he’s been a victim of it also. As much as we say it frustrates us, we still go back because, you know, it’s TARGET and it’s awesome. I’m a fan of their home décor stuff, so I can’t stay away.

  16. Tell your husband to shop in Europe a couple times. Stuff costs about the same number amount here in the Netherlands (or sometimes more) but in euros instead of dollars, so everything is 1.31x the cost (or more). On trips home to the States, my husband goes to Target now and we’re both like, “OH MY GOSH, I can’t believe how much great stuff you got for only $100!”

  17. I am a paragon of virtue in stores like Target — in with the list, out with my desired items only. However, my husband is an impulse buyer. It’s funny because he’s cheap, but I guess everything at Target falls in the “cheap” category in the grand scheme of things. Once we stopped in to get two things. I ran off to get mine, he ran off to get his. I started hunting for him — and found him with a cart piled to the brim. This happens at Costco too, btw.

  18. Kaycee Fisher says:

    Yes, yes and yes. My fave story in regards to this is/was the day I went to Target with a list of F O U R items. $100 dollars later, while I was checking out, I showed said list to both the cashier and the woman behind me, both of whom roared with laughter and commented that it was far more common than I knew.

  19. Carolyn Bellinger says:

    I have a trick for target, I only take the amount of cash I need to buy the items I’m going in for. I can’t spend $100 if I only have $20 in my pocket to pick up foil and ziplock baggies. It also forces me to consider whether or not the impulse purchases are worth a second trip.

  20. kimberly says:

    Were you standing in my kitchen last week when I got back from Target?
    “I thought you were just getting diapers?”
    Me, too Sweetheart. Me, too.
    And it was almost $200.

    In my defense, Target is two hours away. It was the first time I’d been alone at Target since last year. I did pick up school supplies, kotex, little girl socks and underwear and things I just can’t get anywhere else. It stinks.
    And I did buy a Starbucks, the first since Christmas. Am I frugal? Very.

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  22. Kim says:

    This is one of the many reasons I stopped shopping at Wal-Mart. Wal-mart is not the same, but it’s closer for us. Target is a lot more dangerous because they have cooler stuff.

    That said, my husband and I never left Wal-mart for less than $50. Toothpaste and some gum . . . .$50.

  23. Winter says:

    Luckily Target is about an hours drive away, so I am limited to my trips. However I use to love to go when I lived around the block. Although I have Target tastes, my budget tends to be more Walmart-y so I usually didn’t walk out spending $100 or more. But I did love getting the really good bargains (like $3 packages of pork chops), and I loved how bright, clean and practically empty the store was. Unlike Walmart (where I worked for 12 years). Now that I no longer work there, I dread going and only go if I have to. Hope they open a Target in my town soon! LOL

    • Anne says:

      I get what you’re saying! They closed “my” Target—the one closest to my house—for seven months or so for remodeling. It was a blessing and a curse having it closed!

  24. Sarah says:

    Never been to target as I live in the UK, but there are some stores where that happens to me. My cousin (she and her family moved from the UK to VA when she was 5) did work at Target though while at college which she loved!

  25. Julie says:

    I’ve happily discovered that Target has “subscribe and save!” I now get my necessities delivered prior to running out. My Target runs are less frequent and just for fun.

  26. Jamie says:

    I’ve always said if Target, Ikea, and Costco ever merge I will just hand over my bank account and give up. It’s all so CHEAP and such a GREAT DEAL…until all of it ends up in my cart and on my bill!!! Haha!

    • Jamie says:

      Plus there is a documentary about how Target became Target…I think it’s called ‘Target: Inside the Bullseye.’ There is a fascinating portion about how Target started to snag high end designers for their fashion & home line (which was a complete faux pas for such designers at the time) and turn the tides of where people shopped for clothing and household goods. Now saying, ‘I found it at Target!’ is one of the highest praises someone can give in response to a compliment on a neat bag, cute cardigan, or perfect throw pillow.

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