Consider this familiar scenario: you need to make a Target run for just a few household items. Three hours later you’re at the checkout, cart packed, and your final total is way over what you planned to spend. It’s the Target Effect, and it afflicts shoppers all over the country, which is understandable since

Target influences the consumer spending in a variety of subtle ways. The first step to overcoming your overspending is to be aware of these surprising triggers that let you get carried away. Read on to learn 6 Surprising Reasons You Spend More at Target

6 Surprising Reasons You Spend More at Target

The Target Dollar Spot

This is where it all begins. Right after you’ve decided whether you need a cart or a basket, you notice the awesome deals in the dollar bins (which is a misnomer — many items are $2, $3 or $4). Those decorative throw pillows are not on your list, but they’re only a couple bucks!

You’re already off to a great savings start and ready to do more shopping. However, you’re actually off to a great splurging start and your final bill will be way higher than it should be. Dollar “deals” add up and no matter how much you think you’re saving, and buying something you didn’t plan to is never a good deal.

Price perception, sales, and coupons

Target is known as a discount retailer, so customers already expect low prices. Add the REDcard, the Cartwheel app and special deals like free gift cards with qualifying purchases, and it’s tough to avoid the siren song of a good deal.

All of these incentives not only keep you coming back, they keep you spending. After all, if furniture is 25% off with the Cartwheel app, why wouldn’t you buy that attractive nightstand or ottoman? The key is to only use discounts for what you need and create a list of those items to keep you from straying. In fact, a TimeTrade survey (PDF) from 2014 found that 85% of shoppers spend more than they intended when they visit a store without a precise list or budget.

6 Surprising Reasons You Spend More at Target

Atmosphere (and Starbucks) 

Have you seen those memes about new moms whose only “vacation” is their trip to Target? Or perhaps you’ve seen patrons strolling through aisles with their Starbucks in hand (or in the convenient cart cup holders) as if they’re casually walking down the pier. Target purposefully provides an inviting atmosphere that caters to shoppers of all kinds.

So many departments and deals! Such nice displays! Coffee! Target creates a fun, well-lit atmosphere that you want to spend time in, and they know the longer you linger, the more you’ll spend. One creative way to combat this is to shop online; you avoid the stimuli and can still take advantage of savings when you visit coupon sherpa for promo codes or use browser extensions to automatically find deals for you.


Hunger can’t slow down Target shoppers; that’s what the Pizza Hut and popcorn are for. When you might otherwise be motivated by a rumbling tummy to get your things and get out, Target (and other stores) cater to your cravings with cafeterias. After all, you can stay much longer if you end up just having your lunch there. Awesomely Luvvie comically explains how a typical Target shopping trip usually turns into an all-day outing, thanks in part to the food!

6 Surprising Reasons You Spend More at Target

The color red

Target’s corporate color may seem innocuous, but it’s intended to make you spend more. Studies have suggested that red promotes more sales because the color stimulates us to take action and get excited. Red is also associated with value, whereas colors like black and gold tend to be associated with luxury and expense.

Target’s clever color-scheming helps to promote the sale atmosphere, thus leading you to want to spend. If you think you’re getting a great deal on everything, you’re more likely to buy everything there than shop around for better prices.

Related money saving posts that you need to check out!!

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Store layout and product placement

Ever wonder if there’s a science behind a store’s layout? David Loranger, an assistant professor of fashion merchandising management at Philadelphia University, told Philadelphia Magazine in 2016 that Target uses focus groups and demographic data to cater to customers. “They look at who you are tangibly…psychographically…and mix their product, price, place, and promotion in various combinations that resonate with who you are as a person,” he said.

Have you ever went to Target for a few items and walked out with a cart full of things you didn't intend to buy? I think everyone has been there. Target and other store use sneaky little tricks to make you spend more money. Click over to find out what they are and how to avoid them to save money #savemoney

For example, if you’re headed back towards the toiletries or grocery section, you likely pass by the accessories department, overflowing with fashionable scarves, totes, and sunglasses. Target knows you’ll be tempted by these items and places them at eye level to catch your attention. During back to school season, supply list essentials are usually in the back past the toys section. Coincidence? Absolutely not.

So, the next time you’re at Target and you feel the pull of the dollar bin or find yourself enamored by the home goods section, stay the course. Stick to your list and make note of the items that catch your eye, along with their respective prices. If you find you’re still thinking about these items a few days after your trip, review your budget and see if you can make room for them. Otherwise, you might find time and distance is all you needed for those desires to disappear!

Kendal Perez is a Savings Expert for Coupon Sherpa, a popular source for online, in-store and grocery coupons. Her advice has been featured in Bankrate, GOBankingRates, NBC News, US News & World Report, People StyleWatch and Woman’s Day. Kendal also blogs at Hassle-Free Savings and can be found on Twitter @HassleFreeSaver

Thank you so much, Kendal, for this very informative post!!